Sunday, October 31, 2010

How Taib Conspired With Malaya In the Colonization Of Sarawak

Empowering Through History - Conclusion

By Bunga Pakma
On 16 September 1963, all the elements were in place for the unfolding of a political story which, whatever its outcome would be, was certain to go through strange and wrenching twists of plot. Some of these elements were clear to see, others hidden.

It must have crossed many observers’ minds that the component states that made up this new “Malaysia” were an odd quartet. Malaya was a patchwork of small states, most of them feudal régimes headed by Malay kinglets. Singapore was a commercial city-state, predominantly Chinese with a strong British cast, but wholly business. Sarawak—Britain’s last pukka colony—had been ruled by a white family for 100 years, and Sabah had emerged from the strange position of being run by a Limited Company.

Each partner-to-be in the Malaysian enterprise joined with vastly differing experiences and expectations. The only thing they had in common was that each territory was home to a bewildering variety of peoples, languages and cultures, and none of these people had ever known anything except authoritarian rule. Upon what did they believe they were to agree?

As we have seen, Malaysia was a marriage of convenience, particularly for the convenience of the Malayan élite and the British. Love had no place in the arrangement, and inevitably members would be fighting as to who “wore the pants” in the foursome. KL took a traditional Islamic view of the federation. KL was the husband, and he took three wives. Singapore disputed KL’s position and demanded to be treated as an equal partner. KL booted Singapore out of Malaysia.

That left Semenanjung and Sabah and Sarawak. KL was hardly as noble as D’Artagnan, and the principle that governed Federal/East M’sian relations was not “One for all and all for one.” The mere notion of treating others as equal partners is as repugnant to the Malay élite as a ham sandwich.

My main source for today’s piece is Michael Leigh’s The Rising Moon: Political Change in Sarawak, published by Sydney University Press 1974. Much has happened since then, but Leigh’s study remains quite fresh. The pattern of Sarawak/Semenanjung relations Leigh demonstrates at the very beginning of Malaysia remains intact today.

The Peninsular élite—and that includes the Tunku—may not have consciously thought the word “colonize” in connection with Sarawak, but their actions declared that this was their aim. Sarawak’s first chief minister, Stephen Kalong Ningkan, explicitly voiced his concerns at Peninsular neo-colonialism. Ningkan was a Sarawak patriot and a tough fighter. He had most Sarawakians behind him. Alas, he was nourishing a viper in his bosom.

A young Melanau man named Abdul Taib bin Mahmud had taken a degree in Law at the University of Adelaide in 1960 and was thus one of the very few natives qualified for government service. He, together with his uncle Abdul Rahman bin Ya’kub, was a founder-member of the party Barisan Ra’ayat Jati Sarawak. Leigh comments:
“…[BARJASA] served to underline and help perpetuate the most basic cleavage within the Malay community, one which had disrupted personal relationships from the time of Cession. The chairman… the highest ranking Sibu Malay…had clashed bitterly with the Datu Bandar…” (30)

BARJASA, then, was created to further personal jealousies and ambitions, not issues. BARJASA was a component of the Alliance (modeled on that of Malaya) formed in 1962. BARJASA had close ties with and received much support from their Peninsular counterparts.

Taib did not stand for election next year. Nonetheless, his party won 20% of seats in the Council Negri and he was appointed to the first cabinet as Minister of Communications and Works. His uncle Ya’kub (sic) went to KL as Deputy Minister and worked directly with Razak.

Ningkan faced crisis after crisis in his few years as chief minister. The Tunku had no patience with Ningkan’s insistence on Sarawak’s states rights (including the retention of English), and was irritated by the squabbling among Sarawak Malay leaders.

There is a gap in the narrative as Leigh tells it. In June 1966 twenty-one Alliance members of the Council Negri signed a petition stating they had lost confidence in Kalong Ningkan and demanded his removal. This was presented to the Tunku, and the Tunku dismissed Ningkan.

Ningkan, says Leigh, believed that his accusers had been flown to KL in order to sign the paper there. What is left unclear to me is: 1) What was the efficient cause for such a drastic step? (I say “drastic” because a vote of no confidence must constitutionally be put to the Council in session; a piece of paper is not a vote.) 2) Who organized the petition? Leigh implies that Taib was the man who brought these signatures to the Tunku (105). Can we infer that Taib was the principle mover behind the plot to oust Ningkan?

With plenty of help from KL, a new Sarawak government was formed under Tawi Sli, Dayak, but a more compliant fellow, in July. Taib promptly created a new ministry for himself. This new Ministry of Development and Forestry “cut across the lines of responsibility in a number of departments,” in other words, Taib could make decisions on his own without consulting any other ministry. That’s power.

The Supreme Court declared Ningkan’s dismissal unconstitutional. Acting PM Razak rushed to Kuching and tried to arrange a quick no-confidence vote. Ningkan managed to block that, so Razak declared a state of emergency. My, how easy. Then Razak changed the Federal constitution, and sacked Ningkan for good. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Ya’kub and Taib rebranded themselves as Party Bumiputra in 1968. Voting in the General Election started 10 May 1969, and we all know what happened then. Parliamentary democracy was cancelled for a year. Elections were re-run in June 1970. Early next month PM Razak flew to Kuching and cut a deal that put Ya’kub (sic) in as Chief Minister.

So this Melanau family at last succeeded in founding a dynasty. After this Accession, nothing has changed politically for forty years. In 1981 the CM changed. We did note that some unpleasantness was taking place in the family.

As Gibbon says, history is the record of the “crimes, follies, and disasters of mankind.”  Let me recap the lessons of Sarawak history as I see them under these three heads.

The signal disasters Sarawak suffered in the 20th century were two. A weak, irresponsible, unimaginative and vain rajah came to power. He neglected to care for what was entrusted to him and he refused to let anyone take up that trust. Then when the Japanese were defeated, Sarawak became the spoils of an imperialistic power. Her fate was taken from her hands, and Sarawak became a little piece in the great, big important game of the Cold War.

Things without number come under the class of follies. If the British thought they were establishing democracy here, they were quite mistaken. The British could never quit the habits of behaving as if superior, of ordering people around and wanting to have everything their

They rushed out of Sarawak in unseemly haste after having prepared a régime that would stay attached to British interests (i.e. not Communist), but with no clear plan for the welfare of Sarawak’s people. George Bush is a recent example of the same unconcern.

The Brits essentially left Sarawak naked and defenseless against the first opportunist to come along. So now we consider crimes. That first opportunist was Malaya. The Malay élite feels only contempt for Others (especially brown people who are not Muslims) and they reasoned that Sarawak’s resources should go to real human beings who deserve them.

It was not going to be easy for KL to colonize Sarawak without a partner in crime, an insider. Ya’kub (sic) and Taib presented themselves at the first opportunity. From a young age Taib shaped his career to one end, the acquisition of absolute authority over Sarawak and its resources. Unlike many cunning men, he achieved his plan. In the devil’s arts of creating and using division, distrust, hate, and greed, he is a master. As for the art of deception, I don’t know. Many of us have smelled him from long ago, and didn’t like what they smellt, but Taib certainly can gull a mark. In the process Taib has beggared us, destroyed many, many lives and rendered this beautiful state a waste land.

All we can do now is vote. What is passed has been done. We make the future for ourselves.

See also:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 and

Part 4.

Taib's Regime Still In Denial Mode - Insists Drying Up of Balui Not Due To Bakun

Bakun Damned: Where have all the water gone? « Hornbill Unleashed

Spears versus bulldozers in Borneo - Focus - Al Jazeera English

Spears versus bulldozers in Borneo - Focus - Al Jazeera English

In exchange for Federal Power & 95% Petroleum Revenue, UMNO Allows Taib To Go On Asset-Stripping Orgy

Sarawak Voters and 'Orang Malaya'
Pak Bui

The paradox of Sarawak’s upcoming election campaign lies in the dependency of PBB on Umno and Umno on PBB, or indeed on any subordinate Sarawakian BN party that can deliver thirtysomething parliamentary seats to keep Umno in power.

Umno needs Sarawakian BN seats to stay in power, to keep raking in the money. RM40 billion for a Mass Rail Transit mega-project, RM5 billion for a 100-storey mega-tower in a congested part of KL, RM12.5 billion for PKFZ mega-blackhole, RM7.3 billion for the Bakun white elephant, the sums available for “leakage” are dizzying.

You can see in your mind’s eye, the smiling fat-cat licking his pink lips, at the thought of all the handbags he will buy for his scary wife. You can imagine the dazzle of diamonds encrusting the soles (sic) of her shoes.

In return for power at federal level, and 95% of oil royalties, Umno has left Taib and PBB to do anything they want in Sarawak – and Taib has obliged, indulging in a 30 year orgy of asset-stripping.

But here is the paradox: during the campaign, PBB will still preach that a vote for the DAP or PKR is a vote for ‘Orang Malaya’, for so-called ‘peninsular parties’. It is a tribute to Taib’s ability to divide and rule, and to keep so many Sarawakians poor and semi-literate, that many Sarawakians still believe him and will vote for BN.

And here is another paradox: some peninsular Malaysians, angry that Sarawakians and Sabahans voted overwhelmingly for BN in 2008, allowing BN to cling to power, call us “stupid” and “hopeless”.

They are happy to complain, but will not lift a finger to help remove Taib from power. And therefore they will not be surprised if they do not see the electoral result they hope for.

Showing concern for Sarawakians

There are notable exceptions among the ‘Orang Malaya’.

Suaram, the Center for Orang Asli Concerns, the Women’s Aid Organisation, the Women’s Centre for Change, the Bar Council and NGOs in the Penan Support Group have worked to highlight the suffering of Sarawakian girls raped by loggers.

The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Halls have launched a donation drive to build two pre-schools in Penan villages in middle Baram.

The resourceful Democracy4Now mavericks have traveled tirelessly to remote hamlets in Sarawak to register voters in an effort to empower them. Malaysian Election Observers Net (MEO-Net) have shown tenacity in trying to preserve the democratic potential of one man, one vote.

Journalists have turned the fickle attention of all Malaysians on injustice in Sarawak, at least for a while.

The state governments of Penang, under the DAP, and Selangor, under PKR, have also pooled funds to alleviate the hardship of Penans in middle and upper Baram, caused by the plague of loggers released by Taib.

All talk and no action

But there are still those bloggers and internet commentators who refuse to take concrete steps to support Sarawakians’ efforts to improve their government. These ‘Orang Malaya’ are all talk and no action. They sneer that Sarawakians are ignorant and ‘deserve the government’ we have, and ‘should not complain’ when the BN government vandalises our state.

It is true enough that many Sarawakians lack awareness, and many are easily bought over come voting time. It is also true, though, that Taib’s firm grip on the state for three decades has been made possible only by the overwhelming might of Umno and successive federal BN governments.

These BN governments have been voted into power in every single election since 1955, thanks to the perennial support of peninsular Malaysians. We remember how Mahathir, and even Abdullah Badawi, won landslide elections in the past.

But it is not too late for us Sarawakians to learn from the mistakes of our past, as well as those of peninsular Malaysians. We must start with working together to remove the dictatorship of Umno and PBB, and the tyranny of blinkered racial politics.

Pakatan Rakyat needs to invest in Sarawak, both politically and economically, and put its money where its mouth is.

All Malaysians must come together to work for justice in Sarawak, both during the state polls, as well as afterwards. Nation building does not only happen during general elections.

Pakatan Rakyat must promise, and deliver, transparent and equitable use of development funds in Sabah and Sarawak. There must be an end to the lopsided use of natural resources: oil royalties must be returned to these two poor states.

The current neo-colonial relationship between west and east brings dishonour and shame to all parties: peninsular Malaysians, Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Malaysians have turned their eyes away from the horror of corruption and poverty in Sabah and Sarawak for too long.

Whenever I am troubled by this neglect, I am reminded of a short story by the great Chinese writer Lu Xun, called “New Year’s Sacrifice”. The story has been translated into English by Julia Lovell, in The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China.

In Lu Xun’s tale, a maidservant, known only as ‘Xianglin’s wife’, has been widowed twice. Therefore, she is considered to bring bad luck to those around her. She gains sympathy initially when she tells her fellow villagers, again and again, the story of how she lost her three year old son, how he had been taken and killed by wolves.

Part of the story is reproduced below:

Her story certainly had an impact on those who heard it. Men would walk awkwardly away, the smirk fading from their faces, while women exchanged their looks of contempt for sympathetic profusions of tears. Some old women – those who hadn’t heard her recitation about town – would seek her out specially to hear her tragic story. When she broke into sobs, their own tears, ready at the corners of their eyes, would also gush out; then, with a sigh, they would leave, perfectly satisfied and still discussing it animatedly among themselves.

Over and over she repeated it, gathering small groups of listeners about her. But soon everyone knew it too well – from memory – and even the town’s most devout lady Buddhists were left unmoved. The moment she began, her audiences felt only irritation.

‘I was so stupid –’

‘Yes, yes, you knew wolves came down into the villages when it snowed, because there was nothing to eat in the mountains,’ they would impatiently interrupt before stalking off.

She would stand there, mouth hanging stupidly open, watching as they distanced themselves, before moving on herself – as if she, too, were bored with her own tragedy.  -  Hornbill Unleashed

Old Warrior Salleh Smells More Opportunities For Some Change

Malaysian Mirror - Ex-Sarawak strongman Salleh set to join the fray

Sarawak Headhunter's comments:

Salleh was one of the multi-millionaires created by Rahman in the 70's, reputed to have cash assets of RM60 million at that time, which he declared as RM6 million when he was made Deputy Education Minister (earning him the sobriquet "The 6 Million Dollar Man").

A gambler by nature, he reportedly lost 1 million GBP in a London casino in 1 night in the mid 70's. He is well known to be very stingy, calculative and cunning amongst his own relatives, let alone with outsiders, notwithstanding "blood being thicker than water". In his case it is probably money being thicker than blood.

Sarawakians who know him better will take anything he says with more than a pinch of salt. He is really more for the politics of self-interest than change. Hopefully he can change himself before trying to change others, but Sarawak Headhunter doesn't put too much hope in that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oi, Taib Mahmud!

Oi, Taib Mahmud, this is what the poor Melanaus think of you!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Allah Has Spoken! Time To Hound Taib Out Of Sarawak!

This is probably the greatest "natural" disaster to hit Sarawak for as long as anyone can remember, and the root cause of it is none other than Taib, his family and their timber robber baron cronies' greed.

They certainly didn't expect this. What have environmentalists and concerned citizens been saying all this while? Taib and his cronies haven't been listening! They have been too busy raping the forests and the Penans and other natives as well and chasing them off their land while making BILLIONS for themselves! And they thought they could get away with it!

Well folks, the time has come! Allah has spoken and unleashed a "natural" disaster the likes of which has never before been seen in Sarawak! And the responsibility for this disaster is plain and clear for the whole world to see. The evidence has jammed up the Rejang river and threatens to cause greater damage as it moves inexorably downstream.

Taib and his timber robber barons as well as all those responsible for building the Bakun Dam should be roped to these timber logs and sent downstream with the deluge.

At the very least, now is the time to hound them all out of Sarawak! Give no quarter! Then go after them and all the rakyat's assets which they have stolen and hidden away overseas. Even that might not be enough to compensate for the damage caused by the calamity which is now unfolding before our very eyes.

Anyone still left supporting Taib and his cronies and the BN regime after this is certifiably insane and should be deprived of his right to vote or to hold any office. That includes you, Najib!

See also The Star "River disaster hits Sarawak" and Hornbill Unleashed "Log-jammed river disaster unfolding in Sarawak - Now in Sibu!".

Wednesday, October 6, 2010