Thursday, February 20, 2014

Taib Mahmud should not be governor until anti-graft body clears him, say critics

BY V. ANBALAGAN AND DESMOND DAVIDSON
FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Opposition parties in Sarawak and an academic have joined the chorus that outgoing Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud (pic) should be cleared of all the graft allegations levelled against him before he is appointed as the next head of state.
They said the post, although largely ceremonial in nature, was a symbol of unity to the people of Sarawak and it is wrong to seek refuge in that position, which is said to offer immunity against prosecution.
Their objection centres around Taib's tainted image.
They want the current Governor Tun Abang Mohammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng's term of office extended until Taib was cleared.
However, speculation is rife that Taib, 78, would assume office as the seventh Yang di-Pertua of Sarawak on March 1.
He is expected to receive his instrument of appointment from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim.
Taib announced last week that he would be stepping down at the end of the month and  will be succeeded by Tan Sri Adenan Satem, his former brother-in-law.
Constitutonal law expert Abdul Aziz Bari said the King would appoint the head of Sarawak after consulting the chief minister.
"The Prime Minister has no role here and the King need not seek his advice. Instead, the King can draw strength by consulting other members of the Conference of Rulers," said Abdul Aziz, now a lecturer at  Universiti Selangor's Social Science Faculty.
He said only an individual who could bring honour to the position should be appointed and retired politicians should not be considered for the post in Sabah, Sarawak, Malacca and Penang where there were no Malay Rulers.
Aziz said in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, the appointments are vital because the heads of states there are the last bastion to defend the rights of the states.
"The approval of the Sabah and Sarawak governors are required should there be amendments to the Federal Constitution that affected the rights of these states," he added.
PKR Sarawak vice-chairman See Chee How suggested the King and the Conference of Rulers extend Salahuddin's term until the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) make their graft investigations on Taib public.
See said the extension of Salahuddin's term ideally should be for another three to six months so MACC could conclude their investigations.
"Nobody doubts Taib's capability and strength to undertake the official functions and role as the governor.
"Sarawakians would prefer that he be cleared of those allegations before he assumes the office of the head of state.
"The MACC had on numerous occasions made public statements on the investigations into reports lodged against the chief minister and the findings are still wanting," he added.
PKR's coalition partner the DAP said any MACC probe "looked more like a political ploy by Putrajaya to force the resignation of Taib rather than to genuinely investigate the allegations of corruption".
State chairman Chong Chien Jen said while DAP stood firm that all investigations must be carried out fairly, effectively and efficiently to bring the culprits to book, it should not be used as a tool to achieve other ulterior or political motives.
Chong said the  MACC should make a public statement on the status and outcome , "if there is one" – on its investigation.
"Until that happens, Taib is an unsuitable candidate. The fact that MACC had set up a special multi-agency task force to investigate the allegations against him speaks volume.
"Therefore, Taib is a suspect of corruption and his appointment will put Sarawak in disrepute and shame. Therefore, it is absolutely not proper for the other Rulers to accept such a nomination," Chong added.
Attempts to get response from MACC chief  Commissioner Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamad drew a blank.
An extensive study by the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) estimated Taib to be worth US$15 billion (RM46 billion) while 20 of his family members are worth a collective US$21 billion (RM64 billion).
A secret investigation by international NGO Global Witness had also implicated Taib in corruption, land seizure and tax evasion.
"He is alleged to have committed these offences through his iron grip on logging licences and oil palm estates in Sarawak," said the NGO, who added that the outgoing chief minister was also responsible for numerous human rights violation.
Last week, a group of 55 Malaysian non-governmental organisations and the youth wings of four opposition political parties launched an online petition appealing to the Agong to block Taib's appointment. – February 20, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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