By Lee Way Loon
Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has again skirted the question all of Sarawak wants to know: when will he step down after 30 years of ruling the state.
Speaking at a 1Malaysia concert at Padang Merdeka in the state capital, Kuching, Taib called on the younger generation to support his “successor”, who he refused to name.
“I appeal to the younger generation, that the time will come. When I quit, in a few years, I hope the younger generation will support my successor,” he said.
The speech was made in front of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who had yesterday promised Sarawakians that Taib “will step down”, sparking speculation that Putrajaya was trying to hasten a transition plan.
But the opposition, which has made Taib enemy number one in its campaign, claims that Najib is incapable of ousting the powerful chief minister and that Taib will hang on to power.
The opposition has latched on to a growing disenchantment with the urban voters who are upset over the Taib family’s seemingly immense wealth, while much of Sarawak languishes in poverty.
Tonight also marked the first 24 hours of Najib’s six-day whirldwind tour, which comes at a time of urban opposition rally sizes increasing and ground reports from some rural areas indicating the opposition making inroads into the BN’s ‘fixed deposits’ in the state.
Taib hopes for a ‘close relationship’
In his very brief speech, Taib pledged that his successor would be someone with the ability to further develop Sarawak.
The concept of federalism, he said, meant that all quarters must be mature about politics, now that the “Federation of Malaysia” entered its 48th year.
He said he hoped that Sarawak, and the federal government, would maintain “close relationship”.
“The relationship should be as tight as possible. Malaysia will become developed country. Let’s work together to make Sarawak prosperous,” he said.
Taib was speaking during the middle of the 1Malaysia Night Concert, organised by Sarawak BN Youth that featured Taiwanese hearthrob Rain Lim, Taiwanese singing act Y2J, Dayang Nurfaizah and Annuar Zain.
About 3,000 youths were gathered at the field during Taib’s speech.
Najib spoke immediately after, reiterating what he said at the MBKS indoor stadium last night, urging the voters not to be taken in by the opposition’s clamour for “change”.
“What is the change? There must be a reason. If we want change, we shouldn’t change for the sake of change. We must change for the better. We can change through BN and enjoy more development.
“We can see how Sarawak has grown, I say ‘thank you’ to the state government under Taib’s leadership of Taib (and for maintaining) close relationship with the federal government,” Najib said.
“Don’t pawn your future. Think carefully,” the prime minister warned. – Mkini