By Joe Fernandez, Malaysiakini
Comments by Sarawak Headhunter in red.
Green activist, lawyer and ex-Baram MP Harrison Ngau Laing, 49, worries that PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) Sarawak suffers from “the curse of the PBDS Syndrome”.
He denies that he is being a wet blanket and predicts that “time will sadly prove me right unless a miracle happens on the ground to save PKR from itself”.
He has, in recent days, warned party adviser Anwar Ibrahim directly and indirectly against “following in the tragic footsteps of Leo Moggie Anak Irok”, the first and only president of PBDS which was eventually de-registered following a prolonged leadership tussle allegedly “bankrolled by moneybags”. PBDS stands for Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak.
Laing, who joined PKR officially in December last year after a two-year courtship, following a long spell in the political wilderness, acknowledges that there are important differences between both parties. However, he said this may, as yet, tip the odds in favour of PKR “but we don’t want another Perak here…there are many disturbing similarities as well with PBDS”.
“It is clear that there is strong sentiment on the ground for political change in Sarawak because voters are sick and tired of Taib Mahmud who refuses to go away despite his ill-health. They would also like to see the back of Alfred Jabu and George Chan but Chan has at least pledged to quit anyway unlike the other two,” is Laing’s reading of the current situation in Sarawak.
Jabu still harbours hope of being the next Chief Minister after Taib or at least the first Iban Governor. He has made approaches to Pak Blah and has also been engaged in secret talks with Najib behind Taib's back. Pak Blah as usual doesn't know what to do and for the time being at least Najib is still playing safe. Don't forget, Najib's sister-in-law (his brother's wife) is Tun Rahman's daughter, Khadijah.
Taib of course still harbours hope that his son Siliman will be able to take over from him, but most if not all senior PBB members have either kept silent or are actively opposing this (behind the scenes of course) and each have their own plots and schemes. So far no one has been stupid enough to take up Taib's offer to warm the seat for Siliman.
“But that’s about as far as it goes. There are few signs, as yet, that the current anti-BN public sentiment will translate into regime change as expected by PKR even if Jabu is not replaced, as speculated, by senior PBB vice-president Douglas Uggah.”
Unfortunately, PKR does not as yet have any candidate of leadership potential for the state. Anwar cannot do much with the line up that is presently there, while arguably most would probably make the state assemblymen grade, but is there anyone in PKR at the moment who can take Taib head on as leader of PKR Sarawak? Gabriel Adit? Jawah Gerang? Nicholas Bawin? Dominique Ng? Wan Zainal? Even Harrison Ngau himself?
Is anyone of them a strategist who can think and act for the state as a whole? This is where it will make a difference.
This is not really the time to debate all this in the open, but since it is already out in the open, then let's discuss it as positively as possible.
Unfortunately Anwar seems to have taken a position of ignoring these issues, which does not augur well for PKR or Pakatan's chances in Sarawak.
These issues must be tackled well and early enough to create the desired impact on the Sarawak political scene and to give PKR and Pakatan Rakyat a fighting chance to overthrow the BN in the next state elections.
‘Living on hope and wishful thinking’
“PKR in Sarawak seems set to suffer the same fate as PBDS, wresting defeat from the jaws of victory. There’s so much living on hope and wishful thinking. They just sit around attending sponsored party dinner functions, waiting for some nice things to happen to them one day. This is the PBDS Syndrome…the Dayak curse.”
Laing’s assessment on the ground is uncharacteristically bleak for an incurable optimist and idealist.
He believes that PKR’s dream of adding Sarawak to its booty of war will not materialise in the immediate future, despite the “little boy“ (Anwar) telling the emperor (Taib) that he has no clothes, “unless the winds of change blow from within the party itself so it can manifest itself at the ballot box”.
Sarawak Headhunter agrees with this assessment.
Change must begin with discarding the current top-down approach, reiterates Laing, loosening the grip of the Kuching Mafia on the party, keeping moneybags at bay, democratisation and meaningful decentralisation. It is agreed that Anwar is perhaps “the most energetic politician in Malaysia” but he cannot continue to be “a one-man political entertainment show”.
“At present, the messengers are carrying only good tidings to the king (Anwar) and the result has been a kind of euphoria which has induced a tendency to be complacent and rest on one’s laurels,” said Laing.
“There is a dire need to reduce the influence of political has-beens, sore losers, sour grapes, those with a self-serving agenda and others with no record of serving the public. All of them need to be put in their proper places if they want to be in PKR.
Again Sarawak Headhunter has to agree with this. In fact Sarawak Headhunter has pointed some of this out in his "Letter to Malaysiakini On Sarawak Landmines" entitled "Hidden blowpipes for the unwary Malayans".
As the Sarawak Headhunter did warn, without going so far as calling them the Kuching Mafia (which in fact they are), "If PKR falls into the trap of listening too much to the Kuching Malays and even the Kuching Chinese and Dayaks for that matter, they will never be able to capture Sarawak or get anything positive done".
Sarawak Headhunter will name some names and they include Hapsah Harun and Dominique Ng, both of whom as Harrison Ngau says below "are no great loss to the BN". At a certain level their actions have been greatly damaging to the party and the reason why the party has not been able to attract candidates of better calibre, especially from the crucial central rural belt of Sarawak.
Sarawak Headhunter will only single out the two main culprits for the time being, otherwise PKR might find itself entirely without a line-up (not entirely of course, but almost).
The very first Liaison Head of PKR Sarawak (KeADILan) at that time (around 1999), Yusuf Abdul Rahman, was actively and effectively sabotaged by the Kuching Mafia of PKR led by these two culprits, just because he happened to be a Melanau and related to Taib and Tun Rahman.
Laing has brought up his take on Sarawak at the national leadership level but the reply from Anwar was telling. He wants the party to be inclusive, “not exclusive”, an ideal with which Laing agrees but the question is “who should be calling the shots in the party (PKR), certainly not those who are no great loss to the BN”.
Skeletons in the cupboard
Laing, who won his only term as MP (1990 – 1995) as an independent against the combined might of the BN and came late to law as a distance learner in the process, opines that the ex-PBDS – the figure given is 90,000 – and BN influx into PKR is largely led by discredited politicians who will be rejected by the people.
He defines “discredited people” as those who have no record of service to the people despite being given the opportunity to serve, have skeletons in the cupboard, are not wanted by the BN itself and may not be above horse-trading with PBB even when the chips are not down.
“Why is Nicholas Bawin – PKR Batang Ai - going around telling people that there is not even one sincere leader among the Dayaks? He’s right but he should also include himself - ‘that’s right’, fumes ‘we are not perfect’ James Masing and ex-radical Wildfred Nissom of PRS - among them,” said Laing who considers himself among the few leaders to emerge from the grassroots and survived to fight another day.
“Nicholas Bawin is a very naïve man, a colourless character, with an old longhouse brain who doesn’t understand politics. He doesn’t impress, inspire or motivate people.”
Sarawak Headhunter begs to differ here. Perhaps Harrison Ngau may have been influenced somewhat by Nicholas Bawin's detractors within PKR itself, including none other than the two culprits (and others who need not be mentioned) who are ganging up on him.
Laing readily dismisses the collective Dayak political leadership as not only insincere, as alleged by Bawin, but “largely a creation of the powers that be that have thrust them on the people and hounded genuine grassroots leaders out of existence”.
The ruling elite prefer those who are vulnerable, to lead the Dayaks, so that they can be easily threatened, blackmailed and intimidated into submission, charges Laing.
“This kind of politics started with Abdul Rahman Yakub – who preceded his nephew Taib as chief minister - and the moneybags linked to SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party).”
True. However Taib managed to elevate it to an unprecedented and dangerous level. and used it to obscenely enrich himself, his family, henchmen and cronies while ignoring and even exploiting the plight of the impoverished rural population. Notwithstanding a fractured and disorganized opposition, this kind of politics may still bite him back, but the opposition should not just engage in such wishful thinking.
As one example, Laing points out that Taib callously replaced the only Bidayuh member in the Federal Cabinet with his son, Sulaiman, after the general elections last year “because the Bidayuh are led by vulnerable leaders in the BN”.
Taib’s cousin sister – returned unopposed despite being unknown — and brother are also in the Sarawak state assembly as first time representatives.
The cousin of course is one of Tun Rahman's daughters, Norah, and she is an MP, not state assembly representative.
‘Huge government projects’
As another example, Laing claims that PBDS was actually sponsored by moneybags linked to PBB (Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) to split SNAP (Sarawak National Party), and “was destroyed dutifully by Masing and Sng Chee Hwa, at PBB’s behest, when Daniel Tajem Anak Miri took over from Moggie”.
“Sng is now back again, like a bad smell that follows us everywhere, sponsoring all the PKR dinner functions so far in Kuching, Bintulu, Sibu and Miri while his son, Larry Sng, enjoys Taib’s patronage and remains an Assistant Minister. This is despite him not being in any political party.”
“The father-in-law (Larry’s) continues to get huge government projects,” notes Laing. “I have warned Anwar about the presence of Sng Snr. He merely said he knows and started preaching again about being inclusive.
True. Anwar is being too naive here. Being inclusive is fine but doesn't he realise the danger of accomodating enemies within PKR?
“Why is Sng Snr. going around handing out money directly to lower line PKR leaders? I have complained about this. This is a guy who gives money to both sides after obtaining it from government projects.”
Sng Snr. is one of the most dangerous persons in Sarawak as far as PKR is concerned. Ask the Ibans/Dayaks of PBDS how many of them he used to obtain at least S$200 million of financing from a Singapore bank which only he had access to and utilised and which the bank later tried to pursue them individually for between S$10 million and $20 million each.
Laing wants Sng to donate directly to the party, “if he is sincere”, and not “go around buying up people on the ground” and “then run to the government (in the past) with a big bill to reimburse himself many times over with projects which he can sell. This is stealing from the people”.
That is Sng's modus operandi. He is a gambler with very good connections to both the Federal and State BN. Who knows what deals he has made with the BN to sabotage PKR?
However, moneybags and “dubious characters” plaguing PKR in Sarawak are not the least of the party’s problems.
Laing wants some way to be found to integrate, into PKR, the thousands of para-legal trainees from the grassroots who have been turned out over the last ten years by community activists linked to Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Sadia (Sarawak Dayak Iban Association) and Brimas (Borneo Resources Institute).
“This is where the future of PKR in Sarawak and Dayak politics lies,” said Laing.
Sarawak Headhunter (or rather his friend) says it again, and this time direct to PKR: Form the Sarawak NCR Foundation immediately!
This will not only give these community activists something positive to do about Native Customary Rights but also about developing (in a sustainable, responsible and transparent manner) NCR land for the benefit of the natives rather than just the rich companies connected to Taib, his family, henchmen and cronies.
The setting up of the Sarawak NCR Foundation will also show how it can be done properly and directly challenge Taib's methods and modus operandi regarding NCR land development, which is now carried out without consulting the NCR landowners and more often than not without even informing them. Because Taib's regime treats them as squatters or trespassers on state land, they often only realise that their land has been approved for development when the plantation companies' bulldozers start moving in and clearing their gardens and destroying their homes, with the help of the police and gangsters.
The setting up of the Sarawak NCR Foundation by PKR will constitute a big dilemma for Taib. PKR will in one fell swoop show how concerned it is about the customary rights of the natives and also show the practical solution to their problems.
If Taib refuses to allow the development of NCR land from the ground up, ALL natives and Sarawakians will see him for the hypocrite that he is and the battle for Sarawak will already be half won.
If he allows it, then PKR should be able to prove that it can deliver development to the natives even while still in opposition, what more if it was the government. After all, PKR already has an experienced plantation developer in the person of Khalid Ibrahim, the MB of Selangor.
Imagine the mutually beneficial joint ventures that could be set up between Selangor State agencies and the Sarawak natives through the Sarawak NCR Foundation.
“If we lose these people, BN will continue to rule even if they lose the next state election. Too much is at stake for PBB. They are already bragging that they know who to buy should PKR take over the state government and we have a situation like that in Perak.”
If the BN is completely wiped out in the state, they will not be in any position to buy anyone. At the very least they are acknowledging that there is a possibility that PKR (or rather Pakatan Rakyat) may be able to take over the state government by a narrow margin. It is up to PKR to lead the way and convince the people to give Pakatan Rakyat a big margin of victory, possibly even a two third majority.
“Why did Perak happen? It’s because the wrong kind of people were fielded by PKR i.e. people vulnerable to threats and blackmail and lacking in commitment to sincerely serve the people.
“Sarawak could easily turn into another Perak especially when the governor is firmly in the PBB camp…and the Rahman-Taib political dynasty has strong lobbyists in Kuala Lumpur with unlimited funds.”
The governor can be convinced otherwise - he is not a blind loyalist to Taib or Rahman. How does the Sarawak Headhunter know this? Sarawak Headhunter will reveal only when the time and circumstances are right.
No matter how strong Taib's (not so much Rahman's) lobbyists in Kuala Lumpur, ultimately it is up to the people of Sarawak to decide, not Taib or Rahman or these lobbyists and certainly not the BN Malayans.
Taib may yet find himself at the receiving end of the Sarawak Headhunter's Curse - that he and his family, henchmen and cronies shall never enjoy the wealth that they have stolen from Sarawak and its people and that they will suffer for all their wrongdoings against Sarawakians.