By Mariam Mokhtar
Just like King Midas, Sarawak’s Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, is beginning to realise that all the money in the world cannot buy happiness nor guarantee the continuation of his political dynasty. Taib once pinned his political hopes on his second son, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib. But a life of fast cars and fast women soon put paid to that.
Taib’s life is now moving at a furious pace. At no other point in his life has he needed to tap on his wile, cunning and experience. He is about to announce the date of the state elections and he needs to present his final selection of candidates. He has to appease the various warmongers, and he has to keep track and pre-empt any moves from the baying pack from within his own party – the dissenters who may have surreptitiously teamed up with Putrajaya.
Then, of course there is the young wife to keep amused.
But Taib’s most important task is to nominate a successor to continue the “Taib political dynasty” the “guardian of the family fortune”.
Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib should have been selected to contest in Sadong Jaya, or some other ‘easy’ seat of Taib’s choice.
Then came the bombshell.
All would have gone down well or so Taib thought. He did not expect his daughter-in-law, Shahnaz A. Majid to apply for a divorce from Mahmud and RM400mil in settlement at this critical juncture.
For Taib, all the personal details that were exposed coulnd’t have come at a worse time.
Shahnaz, 48, claimed that she and Mahmud had not had an intimate relationship for over 10 years. She also said that Mahmud had caused her physical and mental torture.
Shahnaz’s application for divorce at precisely this point in time was a clear calculated manouevre and a personal coup.
Taib was at his most vulnerable. He has been under a prolonged attack by Radio Free Sarawak, Sarawak Report and various other sites. They allege him to be guilty of corruption on a monumental scale. They blame him for his failure to prevent Sarawak’s environmental disaster.
All the while, Mahmud’s only foray into politics is just the simple rough and tumble of office politics. Even then, he experienced very little as he is the deputy chairman of Sarawak’s largest business conglomerate, Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), which his family own.
CNS is also one of 49 Taib-linked companies across eight countries blacklisted by the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund which alleges that Taib’s wealth was derived from the injustices against the indigenous Sarawak people and the massive raping of the Borneo rainforest.
Shahnaz’s timing is perfect. Mahmud, and by association Taib, cannot deny they are billionaires. Neither can Taib claim he acquired his wealth from his modest Chief Minister’s salary. Shahnaz may be estranged from Taib’s family proper, but she was once working for CMS as its finance director. She should know Taib and Mahmud’s true family worth.
Shahnaz calculated that things may not go too well for Taib, in the state or GE. And Taib might find his overseas assets seized from investigations by various foreign governments, into his money-laundering. Shahnaz probably wants to act before the money and assets are seized.
It is also important because if Mahmud and Taib are brought to stand charges for money-laundering and corruption, Shahnaz quite rightly wants to disassociate herself from the criminals.
Their (Shahnaz and Mahmud) son is now 17 years old. After years of waiting, Shahnaz believes mother and son can be independent of Mahmud. Perhaps syariah laws have something to do with her move, and she can claim her righful share of Mahmud’s wealth, without threats of child custody.
The allegations of mental and physical torture will harm Taib’s reputation. Unhealthy conclusions will be made. Few will forget the press reports of Sulaiman beating his wife, Anisa Chan and attempting to strangle Avaa Vanja Ramli, the TV presenter whom he also punched, beat and kicked.
Where did the two boys get this nasty violent streak from? This must be a family trait because Taib’s youngest daughter suffers from the same affliction.
Didn’t she berate several senior editors all night and into the early hours of the following morning at the Sarawak Tribune? A journalist had written a disparaging piece about Taib.
So is Taib senior also responsible for violent behavior? In Sarawak, Taib can order a news blackout. It is alleged that he has done this several times before.
What of poor Ragad Waleed, Taib’s new wife? Has she heard whispers in the corridors of their Kuching home, talking about the streaks of violence in Taib’s family? Has she herself been at Taib’s mercy and suffered similar mental and physical abuse? Is she beginning to regret her decision to be wed to this modern day White haired Rajah of Sarawak?
And if Ragad has regrets, will she be like Anisa, who is being made to ‘hang on’ because her father George Chan, the deputy Chief minister of Sarawak has told her that it is politically expedient to do so?
And will Ragad do like Anisa, and demand as recompense, that several million shares in choice companies be set aside in her own name?
When George and Taib blessed the union of their children – Anisa and Sulaiman respectively – it was more a marriage of convenience to forge a new family dynasty and unite Taib for the Melanaus and George for the Chinese of Sarawak. Poor Ibans, they never got a look in.
But money has a way of stripping our souls bare. Taib and his family are finding out the hard way that money clouds peoples’ judgment and does not bring happiness. When the time comes and the Sarawak people are able to prosecute them for crimes against the state, who will come to their defence?
When their money is returned to the people, who will remain their true friends?
Even Taib’s sister, Raziah is with husband number three, Geneid. And Taib’s favourite niece, Raziah’s daughter, who is in her twenties, is also going through her third marriage, just like her mother. Mother and daughter may find some comfort in the cold stones they drape on their necks, ears, and wrist. But true meaningful relationships will always elude them.
Sex, scandal and subterfuge are never far away from the Taib family. They may wallow in material wealth and the green stuff, but can we really decide who the true victims of Taib’s billions are?
Are they Shahnaz, Anisa and Ragad? Or are they the Sarawak people? – MC