Sunday, March 30, 2008

Being well connected goes a long way in Malaysia

From 5 years ago - Has anything changed in Sarawak?


In some parts of Malaysia, business and politics are inextricably linked, writes Michael Backman.

The Sarawak State Government gave two road construction contracts worth a combined $M79.86 million ($A32.59 million) to the Malaysian company CMS Group last week. Last month, it gave CMS an even bigger contract, worth at least $M1332 million over 15 years, to maintain all of Sarawak's roads. The group's most recent annual report says it is the largest and fastest-growing conglomerate in the state.

As well it might. It is, you might say, well connected. CMS Group chairman is Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib. His younger brother Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib is deputy chairman. Their father is Abdul Taib Mahmud. He is the Chief Minister of Sarawak and has been since 1981.

The Chief Minister's brother Onn bin Mahmud also sits on the board of CMS. Not only is Abdul Taib Mahmud Chief Minister, he's also the Resource Management and Planning Minister. That means he's also the Forestry Minister. And that's lucky because another brother, Mohd Tufail bin Mahmud, is co-owner of Sanyan Group, one of Sarawak's biggest timber companies. Sanyan Group recently completed the 22-storey Wisma Sanyan in the Sarawak town of Sibu. There is an office space glut in Sibu but, fortunately, the Sarawak Government took up eight floors.

One of Abdul Taib's biggest supporters is the Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister George Chan. Chan's daughter is married to Abdul Taib's son Sulaiman Abdul Rahman.

Sarawak is one of the richest states in Malaysia. It earns about $M6 billion a year from timber and timber products. It earns that again from crude oil, and double that from natural gas. It is one of the world's major pepper exporters too. Even this earns almost $M200 million annually.

CMS Group originally was a monopoly cement producer established to feed the building boom then under way in both states. In 1989, the Sabah Government sold its stake and the Sarawak Government decided that the company should list on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. Abdul Taib's family emerged as its controlling shareholders.

The cement company was transformed into a conglomerate as a result of a host of government contracts.

CMS now encompasses more than 40 subsidiaries that operate in banking, securities and derivatives, cement and construction materials, steel, construction and road maintenance, property development, and services. Other recent government contracts include CMS's appointment in mid-1997 as joint developer of a $US1.5 billion ($A2.4 billion) low-cost housing project in Kuching.

In 2001, Malaysia's Federal Government awarded CMS a $M581 million contract to build a 178 kilometre road in the state. In January this year, CMS was given a five-year contract to supply roofing materials to a state-owned company for the construction of almost 11,000 low-cost housing units. CMS also has a $M150 million government contract to ease tidal flooding along the Sarawak River, a $M47 million government contract to upgrade a local airport, and other contracts to build hospitals.

Abdul Taib has a special place in Malaysian politics. His party is a component of Prime Minister Mahathir's ruling coalition and, come election time, Abdul Taib consistently delivers all or most of Sarawak's seats in the national Parliament to Mahathir's coalition.

In 2001, the Federal Government allowed CMS Group's banking unit Bank Utama to acquire RHB Bank to become one of Malaysia's 10 core banks. A past chairman of Bank Utama is Mahathir's Agriculture Minister, Effendi Norwawi. He also serves as vice-president of Abdul Taib's United Sarawak Bumiputera Party.

Last year, CMS missed out on a contract to build Sarawak's $M9 billion Bakun Dam. But it was not a total miss. The main component of any large dam is concrete, for which CMS has a near monopoly in Sarawak.

© The Age (Australia)


Anonymous said...

No, nothing has changed. If anything, things have got worse. We can't wait till 2010/11 for things to change hopefully for the better. If certain reports about defections from Sarawak and Sabah are true, we can at least start to make a move now.

Anonymous said...

The report from the Age is almost 5 years old,... now we only see it in your blog. feel sad.

Anonymous said...

Good job! AL TUGAUW.i'll introduce your blog to the sarawakian.& also printed your articles from M-Today to pass it to my Dayak friends,b'cos most of them don't have computer.tq

Al Tugauw said...

I will be posting old but relevant articles and reports here. Some, including myself may only now just have come across them. Things have not changed much for Sarawak in terms of the attitude of its politicians, and we need to be reminded how much things need to change and if our politicians don't change then it is time to change them!

In future articles I will try to focus on the ways and means each of us can do our part to bring about meaningful change and reform of our whole system of government, at least as far as Sarawak is concerned.

We need to reach as many Sarawakians as we can, especially those in the rural areas who may not realize what their leaders are up to and how much of the State's resources have been squandered, mismanaged and siphoned off by them.

This is not going to be an easy task and we don't have much time until the next elections due in 2011.

The internet and even education has not reached far and wide enough into the interior of Sarawak as it has in Malaya, and we still need to pass the word through alternative means, especially jungle telex (word of mouth)!

The battlecry of "Agi' idup agi' ngelaban!" must mean more than just words to us and we have to go against those of our leaders and their cronies who are holding us back in the 20th Century.

Scott said...

May I recommend the 13th poster from top for your amusement.

Malaysian Politics Motivational Posters

Anonymous said...

Dear Al Tugauw,

Your effort and fight is not alone, we are out there to spread the news. Sarawak resource should be shared by ALL Sarawakians.

2010/2011 - Judgement day!

From: A Simple Chinese Sarawakian

Anonymous said...

to AL Tugauw...

...this is my blog address:-

...sama-samalah kita tok m'perjuangkan nasid Sarawak!

Anonymous said...

Cancer is a non-curable disease.

But then, as usual, crooks are meant to escape justice.

Ask Pol Pot.

Anonymous said...

It is sad for us, the rakyat, to see and experience all that is happening around ust;
But happiness goes to one of the richest crooked families on this face of the earth;
Now that there are more and more crooked ministers in Taib's cabinet - one of them is his deputy, Alfred Jabu. In his early days as a minister , he wasted the rakyat's money to fly in helicopters, where as his rakyat move by roads and streams. Now that Jabu is the wealthiest Iban in Sarawak - he owns a helicopter himself. How many chopper owners are there beside Taib and Jabu, does anyone know? Ting PackKing (a businessman who used to collaborate with Tun M) owns one. Sng Chee Hwa (a PBDS/PRS ex president, who now is a father in law to Ting PackKing's daughter) owns one... just to name a few. These crooks are linked to one another.
Now that, pls think of ways to 'make a change' on our pooooor villagers in the remote areas of Sarawak, who simply placed an 'X' on BN candidates. News and manifestos via the net never reach them. They opened their eyes n ears to RTM n TV3 tvs or radios.