By Clare Rewcastle Brown
COMMENT In an act of crazy stupidity, Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has responded to growing condemnation of his family’s illegitimate wealth by claiming that others in Sarawak are poor because they “do not have it up here” (tapping his head)!
What he meant is that, unlike his own “clever” children, most Sarawakians are too stupid to make money.
But, surely it is he who is stupid to say such things? We can already see from his actions how Taib holds his people in disdain.
He has stolen from them and provided only a pittance to the desperately poor Dayaks in his richly resourced state.
But, even the most monstrous dictators usually avoid going on record admitting such disdain!
Taib made his remarks in a recent recorded interview, in which he attempted to deal with the growing slew of revelations about his family’s wealth.
That interview was then posted on his own official website.
The plan had been to stage questions from a tame reporter so that the chief minister could counter the allegations that his family have been “creaming off” the wealth of Malaysia’s richest state
However, he immediately responded with an enormous lie. He claimed that he and his family had always avoided doing businesses inside Sarawak in order to avoid being “hounded” by accusations that “I used my influence to enrich myself”.
In fact, anyone who knows anything about Sarawak knows that the opposite is true.
All the members of Taib’s family are up to their eyes in business in Sarawak, benefiting and enriching themselves from state contracts, plantations and timber concessions handed to them by Taib himself.
Indeed, just last week the DAP revealed that 90 acres of prime state land, worth some RM225 million, had been sold for just RM2.5 million to a company, Shoreline Development Sdn Bhd, which is owned by his own four children, his uncle and his timber crony, Samling.
This scandal broke just days after the state government had announced it could only afford to allocate a paltry RM3.47 million to alleviate the suffering of the hardcore poor in Malaysia’s richest state.
Even the stupidest Sarawakian could work out that if Taib had tendered those 90 acres in an honest manner, then that sum could have been increased immediately to over RM225 million!
Instead, he gave that profit to his already fabulously wealthy children!
Loading insult onto injury
Showing the dangerous effects of an old age and complacency, Taib nevertheless blundered on in this interview and compounded his lies to reveal just how self-deluded he has become.
He explained that by doing business outside the country, clever people like himself and his children can easily make themselves rich.
“Anyone who is clever can make themselves rich over 30 years” he claimed.
It was then that he went on to make his biggest blunder when he said “But, if you haven’t got it up here (tap tap on his head), then I am afraid we cannot help you!”
What a disgraceful insult to the poor in his state! By such a statement, he has laid the blame for poverty on his people themselves.
He has also made clear that he thinks there is “nothing we can do” to help such stupid people!
So, no wonder BN was only prepared to allocate RM3.47 million to all those hardcore poor.
The chief minister thinks there is nothing one can do to help such stupid Dayaks. In his view it is better to give the money to his “clever” family instead!
The truth is out
The worst part of this disgraceful episode is that this is clearly the genuine opinion that is held by Taib and all the spongers supported by his regime.
Privileged and thoughtless people in Sarawak can often be heard guffawing that if you help the Dayaks, they will “just spend their money on alcohol and cars they can’t afford to run!”
Likewise, Taib thinks he and his family are a race apart of superior intellect, who deserve to be enriched and pampered through his abuse of political power.
(In fact, most of his family members are a poorly educated lot who have done virtually nothing to deserve their wealth.)
Yet the fact that Taib made such a grotesque misjudgement is an indication of his growing weakness under increasing pressure.
In previous times, he would not have bothered to answer questions about his corruption. Now he cannot avoid them.
What this whole episode has done is emphasised just how isolated and weakened he has become.
Rather than expose himself to questions from genuine journalists, who would have pounced on his slip-up, he relied on the cosy company of a subservient interviewer and so the blunder was missed.
It is up there for all to see.
Likewise, in the State Legislative Assembly, Taib has been relying on old and useless tactics by his tame Speaker Asfia Awang Nassar, who has been struggling to silence outraged YBs and to get all mention of their questions expunged from the official records.
But, in the Internet era, such outdated techniques have only lent more weight to the criticisms and have dreadfully backfired.
This information can no longer be suppressed and the chief minister seems not to know how to cope with the changing circumstances.
More to come
There is much more about to come out about Taib’s raids on Sarawak’s resources on behalf of his own family.
Ludicrous excuses about their “cleverness” and the stupidity of others are not going to get him off the hook.
Also, his lies about “not doing business in Sarawak” will come back to haunt him as the names of hundreds of companies linked to Taib start coming to light over the coming days.
He needs a better strategy – and quick.
Clare Rewcastle Brown is the founder-editor of SarawakReport and an FMT columnist.