Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Who will succeed Taib Mahmud and inherit Sarawak's riches

Written by Dana Kay, Malaysia Chronicle

KUCHING - Sarawakians think that Taib Mahmud may will be Chief Minister forever as he celebrated his 30th year as Chief Minister on March 26 this year. Many who wanted him to go were resigned to the fact that here is one man, who will stick like super-glue to the CM's chair no matter how you rant and rave that he has got to go.

With a new, young and beautiful wife on his arm, it certainly does not look like he is throwing in the towel as yet. But Taib is human just like everyone else and so too will have to meet his Maker one day. But until then he is the CM, like it or not. His announcement made many moons ago to either step down or groom a leader will always be words only.

If Taib really decides to step down, three or four years from now as he has promised to after winning the State election, who will be the fairest of all to take over? Will it be Adenan Satem, the prodigal son of PBB or Abang Johari Tun Openg, the PBB deputy president who is also known to be an UMNO-friendy Sarawakian or Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, Minister for Planning and Resources Management. Or will his own son, Mahmud Abdul Bekir stand in Samarahan, undergo grooming for a few years in the federal government and then 'return' to take over.


Adenan's return to active politics fuels speculation that he is the most likely candidate. Adenan was a state minister of land in the past and was once tipped to take over CM when the latter was sick. His ambition never materialised as he was placed in cold storage for being too ambitious.

Once married to one of the Taib's sisters, Adenan was recently placed as Special Minister in charge of land just before the Dewan sitting. Land is a thorny issue for Taib as he is frequently accused of stealing native land for himself and families.

Adenan is 67 and if choosen, will be there just to warm the seat for Bekir.

Abang Jo and Awang Tengah

Whoever it is, it is quite unlikely that Taib's successor will be Abang Johari although he is Taib's No. 2 and also holds two important portfolios in the state cabinet — Tourism and Heritage, and Housing and Urban Development. And the reason is because he is too UMNO friendly.

Since contesting for the PBB deputy president's post, Abang Jo has been looked on with distrust by Taib. It was feared amongst the Taib group that the minute Abang Jo took over, the flood-gates of Sarawak will be opened to UMNO, and PBB will have to play second fiddle to the big boss in UMNO.

Abang Jo, aged 60, has always been the obedient son of PBB. Whatever portfolio he was thrown in by CM, he will bow his head his head and work. He also has the respect of the Chinese community.

PBB senior vice-president and Second Minister of Planning and Resource Management Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, the youngest of the lot at 55 is another name that keeps popping up.

But talk within the PBB is that he is too subservient to Taib and too much of a 'yes' man. Indeed, he does not appear to have any ability to make decisions of his own and relies on other leaders to make them before he echoes what they say. But a source close to him claims that Tengah was never ambitious to be CM because he is smart eough to know that only Taib is the CM forever.

Dark horse

PKR state assemblyman See Chee How believed that there is a dark horse amongst the list of PBB leaders. And it is none other than first-term Balawai state assemblyman, Len Talif Salleh.

Len held many powerful posts in the state and statutory bodies before being 'asked' to contest as an 'ADUN'. He was CEO of Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Director of Sarawak Forestry department, (the powerful department that hands out timber licences) and Permanent Secretary of the Natural Resources. He was also once the general manager of the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC).

According to See, Len is a Melanau and that is a plus point for him. Len is also knowledgeable in land issues and that is something Taib wants to counter in the NCR court cases.

Nonetheless, be it Len or Adenan or Abang Jo or Tengah come next state election, PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian may without any fanfare just shift up quietly to sit in the No 1 chair in Sarawak. Impossible? Then, look at what happened in Penang, and Selangor and Kedah.

- Malaysia Chronicle

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