I refer to a classic piece of spin doctoring on the recent Global Witness exposé by a blogger calling himself/herself The Benchmark entitled “Global Witness on Taib: Was it really a sting operation?” Click onhttp://thebenchmark0.blogspot.com/2013/03/global-witness-on-taib-was-it-really.html to read this rather lame attempt at shifting the blame.
The piece by The Benchmark desperately tries to deflect, distract and ‘turn the tables’ on Global Witness, which is why I call it a classic text-book case of Spin-Doctoring 101. In a nutshell, the writer is saying that the exposé is “a well crafted conspiracy against Taib by his own kin,” and supports his/her conspiracy theories by resurrecting the old and tired story of the Tun Rahman Yakub versus Taib Mahmud ‘feud’ of the 80s. Whether or not the ‘feud’ was real or simply a ‘sandiwara’ (shadow play) is beside the point. It was a very public spat, and Taib made a big show of withdrawing licences issued by his uncle to drive home the point that the fight was indeed genuine.
Then, after Taib had allegedly identified and neutered his enemies (per kindness of the dramas that unfolded at a certain Ming Court Hotel in Kuala Lumpur many years ago), consolidated his position and solidified his political strength, this happened:
A heart-warming and tearful reunion of uncle and nephew was carefully choreographed and publicised, and the dynasty was intact. Nevertheless, in a very recent video interview by Taib, he retorts, “Are you trying to frame me?” suggesting that hidden hands are now at work to undermine him. Classic Taib!
Before we fall into this trap of being distracted by the conspiracy theories being espoused by The Benchmark, let us first examine the facts before us, and deconstruct the arguments advocated by The Benchmark one by one.
Conspiracy Theory No. 1 put forward by The Benchmark is that the sisters Fatimah and Norlia are allegedly conspiring, with the help of Global Witness, against Taib. This proposal sounds eerily familiar and seems to be following the lead given by Taib in that same recent video interview. In Hollywood, this would most likely be the plot a screen-writer would weave. But in real life Sarawak (and sisters Norlia and Fatimah are no Oscar award winning actresses, mind you), this plot would be stretching fantasy to its limit.
Both sisters clearly said in the video exposé that their RM2 ringgit company, Ample Agro, owns the Provisional Licence to the piece of land in Julau which they were hoping to sell to the investor at RM4,000 per acre. Now if the relationship between Taib and the Tun Rahman side of the family is still indeed strained, then it begs one very important and crucial question – WHO issued the licence to Ample Agro in 2011 for a mere RM12,500 annual rent? See Exhibit A below, which is a print screen from the video:
Sure, there are procedures and committees in place to ensure provisional licences are issued according to government process, but certainly it would be incredible to suggest that the Chief Minister was completely unaware of this one licence, especially if it was being applied for by a side of his family that was supposedly having a strained relationship with him. Taib suggested in his video interview that the sisters were trying to be intermediaries and trying to push their familial connection with Taib as bait. My point is simple – the sisters’ company already owned the licence! They were not fishing. They had already caught the fish! What they were trying to do in the video was sell the fish! So who gave them the fish in the first place, and how much was it sold for? Peanuts? Groundnuts? Cashew nuts? Pistachio nuts? And how much were they offering Ample Agro for? RM4,000 per acre, which works out to a cool profit of USD$16 million (RM50 million). See Exhibit B below, which is a print screen from the video:
The next argument put forward by The Benchmark is that there is a sinister plot to derail Taib’s succession plan, and The Benchmark backs thisConspiracy Theory No. 2 with news that the Court of Appeal had recently dismissed Norlia’s other company’s case, also about….a provisional licence! This apparent lost by Norlia is subtly suggested as the reason behind her taking revenge. But….the Court of Appeal’s decision was only reported on the 6th of March this year! Just a week before the Global Witness story hit the news!
Could Global Witness, the sisters and their lawyers, and the RECODA Officer who pointed Global Witness in the direction of the sisters have orchestrated this whole earth-shattering reveal and worked furiously to come up with a polished and water-tight exposé in just under a week, motivated by revenge? Basically, The Benchmark writer is trying to deflect our attention by implying that the sisters are plotting (together with Daddy and other prominent sisters?) to oust cousin Taib, and this is supported by the timing of the Court of Appeal decision. Does this theory hold water?
Let us look at the facts – Global Witness had obviously shot this film months back, and I arrive at this conclusion by the simple fact that Global Witness had put their allegations to all those featured in the video after shooting was completed, and all of them responded except for the sisters. Global Witness states this clearly at the end of the video, and Taib himself was already well aware of the existence of the Global Witness exposé even before it was aired on Al-Jazeera and appeared online last week. His lawyers in London have been busy:
Taib, the sisters and the lawyers were all well aware of the Global Witness exposé probably months back (or at the very least a few weeks back) even before it hit the news and made the headlines last week because they were all consulted and asked to answer the allegations. This may have been explosive news to us last week, but it certainly was not news to Taib, the lawyers and the sisters. The time frame makes all the difference! So, for this exposé to be a well-crafted scheme in the time frame the writer suggests is next to impossible, not even with the best Hollywood producers and directors involved working 24 hours for a whole week.
Commercial break: Check out the fabulous jewellery.
Now we come to our learnéd friends Messrs. Chong and Huang. Now why would these lawyers risk their respective reputations and rice bowls just to frame Taib? The Benchmark may argue that they were mere pawns in a diabolical chess game and totally unaware that they were lambs led unwittingly to the slaughter by the sisters. Which could be probable and in which case we pray that Messrs Chong and Huang initiate the appropriate legal proceedings against the sisters to clear their names. (But is there such a recourse provided in law?) What if the sisters were really not acting? Were the lawyers acting then? Highly unlikely, if you study the confidence and demeanor portrayed by both lawyers.
The final and pivotal dynamic that dismantles and demolishes The Benchmark’s two conspiracy theories is the fact that YB Datuk Norah Abdul Rahman, currently the Member of Parliament for Tanjong Manis and sister to both Fatimah and Norlia, AND part owner of Ample Agro as alleged in the video, has far too much to lose from this whole debacle. The timing of the exposé could not have come at a worse time for her – GE13 is but around the corner. Why rock the boat now? Why bite the hands that feed you?
Exhibit C - Happy Family:
To recapitulate and summarise: Taib is now pointing the finger back at the sisters and insinuating that a Machiavellian scheme is being forged to discredit him, while horribly forgetting that the licence had already been given to the company owned by the sisters in 2011. Is he spin-doctoring and trying to throw us off the scent? Will the licence be revoked and withdrawn from Ample Agro? What will become of Norah, Sisters & Co? Most despicable of all, is he now throwing them to the dogs in order to save his own skin and crying Ming Court II to get us all frenzied and fired up and chasing shadows instead?
The final nail in the coffin of the credibility of The Benchmark is the obviously wrong information on Justin Jinggut promoting himself as PKR Supremo in Sarawak. Seriously? The writer should really research his/her story before putting foot in mouth.
Let us be clear. The two real issues flagged by the Global Witness exposé are (i) land-grab and (ii) tax evasion, and no matter how much the spin-doctors try to spin, the damage has been done. The crux of the whole fiasco is that the indigenous peoples of Sarawak are now regarded by Norlia (and dare we assume the entire clan?) as simply squatters on their own lands and those who have disenfranchised them evade tax on the transaction of these lands on a massive scale.
The man whom the public is looking to for real answers now and not just flimsy regurgitated rhetoric is the Chief Minister of Sarawak. Will he man up and give us the answers or will he shift the blame, as what The Benchmark is trying desperately to do on his behalf? SQUATTER-GATE will be Taib's undoing, and he knows it too well, and that is why the next few days and weeks will be crucial - the peoples, mostly SQUATTERS (by definition of Datin Norlia Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub), of Sarawak are angry and even the Barisan Nasional supporters who are also SQUATTERS by definition are quietly angry.
Shahrizat has her cows, now Taib has his squatters. SQUATTER-GATE is the silver bullet that Sarawak has been waiting for to finish off the werewolves. Shoot accurately and aim for the heart.
(Or if you watch The Walking Dead, aim for the brain.)