Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tun Abdul Taib has strong command of essentials of politics

Going through some of the articles on  views of  the late YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia and Father of Malaysia, on the leadership of the Governor, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, who served as the fourth Chief Minister from March 16, 1981 to February 28, 2014, it is obvious that the late Tunku started to train his eyes on Abdul Taib as a young State Cabinet Minister of the first post  Independent Sarawak since 1963.

Abdul Taib, a young lawyer, was appointed the Minister of Communication and Works in a six-member State Cabinet, when Sarawak  was granted internal  self - government by Britain on July 22, 1963 after more 200 years of rule by the White Rajah and the Whitehall.  

The late Tunku was very open about his warm relationship with Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, who he considered as one of his best friends. Then, he thoroughly believed that Abdul  Taib was the best man as the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

The Tunku said Tan Sri Abdul Taib is an ardent believer in a joint political front for Sarawak and has worked hard for the welfare of the people. However, like every political leader, he is not free from political jealousies even within his own party. Many have criticized his leadership style and administration but his party is well supported by the people. 

Even SUPP, with its long history in the opposition, accepted the leadership of Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib very well. For a long time, SUPP formed a strong unit with PBB as the backbone of the State Government and Barisan Nasional.

The Tunku recalled when Sarawak became Independent in Malaysia in 60s  there were many political parties bickering among them. At that time Abdul Taib was the secretary general of Barisan Rakyat Jati Sarawak (BERJASA) formed in 1962. He felt that his party should merge with Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS), a Malay party formed in 1960, in order to strengthen the position of the Malays.

Abdul Taib  worked together with the President of PANAS, Abang Ikhwan Zaini and in 1967, the two parties merged to form Parti Bumiputra. Other parties soon joined them and they made up the Sarawak Alliance, which after the 1970 elections, formed the government.

Then in 1972 Pesaka, the Iban dominated party, decided to merge with Parti Bumiputra and in 1973 Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) was formed.  The PBB and SUPP formed the Coalition government, headed by Dato Haji Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, the first in Malaysia, after the 1970 elections. Both coalition parties joined Barisan Nasional in 1974.

The Tunku said Sarawak National Party (SNAP) joined the coalition in 1976 but in the 80s the party split into two factions and a new party called Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) was formed . PBDS wanted to join the Coalition but SNAP opposed it.

However, Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who was then the Chief Minister of Sarawak, felt that Dayaks should not be left out of the mainstream development and by means of a special formula, which he drew to help them, the PBDS gained entry to Barisan Nasional in  December 1983.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, in an interview for the Coffeetable book:  “Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, visionary builder of Modern Sarawak”  observes that Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib has a very strong command of the essentials of politics in Sarawak. He managed to get strong support especially from the natives whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims; whether they’re Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus, Orang Ulu and others. 

He says it is worthwhile listening to Pehin Sri Abdul Taib rather than do something else not in accord with his perception of things. He has a complete grasp of the situation.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed says Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s greatest contribution to Malaysia, Sarawak in particular, is his ability to get the people, comprising  of different tribes and origins, to work together in the common pursuit for progress and development. It is not an easy thing to keep the people, comprising of about 30 ethnic groups together.

Even, the Chinese, who have always been very independent-minded accept his leadership.  Although some tried to pull away, they could never make any significant split to withdraw support from Barisan Nasional being led by Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s  primary concern, since he took over the helm of the State government on March 26,1981, was to pull Sarawak out of the backwater of development into its mainstream.  He was preoccupied with the idea that Sarawak must run faster than other states in order to catch up with their progress and advancement.  

Then the rate of poverty was about 60 per cent and unemployment among the people especially youth in villages and longhouses were very high.  The demographic pattern of the State was about 80% rural and 20% urban. The situation gave rise to an explosive feeling of dissatisfaction against the government, which was being percieved as pursuing politics of favoritism. 

Consequently, instigating racial and communal feelings was the best weapon to win support, though a highly divisive support, in any elections.    

He believed the new way forward was to mobilize the people and orientate them towards development. Besides, conscientious efforts must be made to motivate youth to have more confidence in themselves and reinvigorate members of the civil service and synergise their services with the demands of development. It was indeed a tall order. 

Clearly,  both the Tunku and Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who were both very influential people in the political life of Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, must have taken note of his early speeches relating to a “ joint political front for Sarawak”. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, who was the President of PBB and Chairman of Barisan Nasional Sarawak, during the sittings of the State Legislative Assembly said on DUN Nov. 13, 1986: “Whether we like it or not our lives have been so intertwined by our inter - dependent on each other in various fields, be they in economics, politics and other fields. We have got to make a success of this co-operation. Nothing else is a better alternative in the way we look to our future”.

He believed what ever political views the people entertain, political leaders in particular, must not prevent them from agreeing, as a matter of principle, on the question of development for the people. Unfortunately, politics had gone quite far that some opposition leaders thought that they should continue to harp on development issues to suit their political agenda and score political points on the ground. 

 “It is time for the people to stop with these petty politics and instead work together in matters of development for the overall progress and prosperity of the people.  Those persisting with petty practices in order to score political points will only have themselves to blame if they cannot deliver the goods that they have promised to their constituents. This is the reality of the future.”

In winding a debate duing the sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on DUN May 26, 1988, he said : “Our policies are meant for all people, all sections of the community. This country does not have to be trapped in wrangling between races and groups as we have ample of wealth to be shared by all. It is the problem of how to distribute it. Our politics should not be based on how to deny others and grab as much as possible for ourselves but rather on how to realise the potentials of this country.” 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib believed that politics in Sarawak, like those in the rest of the country, must be based on sincere desire to achieve something to fulfill independence with good economic growth and development that can bring positive changes to the people.  

He has been pursuing this line of politics in the form of the politics of development  as any other forms of politics, those with a lot of rhetoric or worse empty talks in particular, do not bring any benefits, development benefits in particular to the people, state and country.  Only the politics of pragmatism can bring about a transformation that brings improvement and the betterment of life for the people.   

Therefore, conscientious efforts must be made to reduce politicking among the people because, in any political fights, it is the people who get confused the most, their line of thinking and attitude will be distracted. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, in his speech during a sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on May 18, 1990 said: “Two things, I have been able to learn: Racial and extreme religious practices and politics that tend to divide the people must be fought by all people. These two things cannot be compromised as the development of the future cannot afford to accommodate negative elements”.

He  gave this reminder during a sitting of the State Legislative Assembly on May 18, 1991:  “This government, being led by me, is obliged to fight against any form of racialism or religious extremism because they are like cancer that saps our energy. We want to put maximum efforts behind our developmental drive. Our development program, which is new and innovative in concept, if successfully implemented, can give maximum impact to the people.

“We must fight against conservative forces or correct any misunderstandings, natural or induced, on the ground. We must introduce new concept of development, which entails new ways of doing things, because we have a commitment to bring the people of Sarawak to the mainstream of development.

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, in responding to debate that appeared to be bordering on communalism and other sensitive issues, said on May 25, 1993:  “This country has no majority from any particular groups of people.  Therefore, we should avoid arguing that certain groups can become a majority or certain groups should dominate and there should be politics of dominance of one group over the other groups.”

Admittedly, it is an attractive way of trying to wrestle power but does not provide a guarantee to a smooth development of the future as development must be able to increase the size of wealth and develop a good distribution machinery for the people to benefit from it. 

Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s mammoth task, since he took over the helm of the state government on March 26, 1981  was to propel, reshape and develop Sarawak, with the land surface almost the size of peninsular Malaysia, still under-developed and had small population of 1.5 million people, in order to catch up with the progress and advancement of other states.  

However, his problem was compounded by the fact that the small population was scattered in 5,000 pockets of settlements over a wide area. Besides, the State inherited a very poor network of roads. Then, the villages and longhouses were distant apart with the distance of anything between three to 100 miles apart.
Essentially, he must make make conscientious efforts to bring about 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups together  in the common struggle to nurture goodwill and harmony among them as the cornerstone of progress and advancement of Sarawak towards the year 2020 and beyond. Basically, the political situation must be made healthier, stronger and more stable. 

More importantly, he wished to see that justice to all must serve as the prevailing means of serving the people, state and country. The common struggle must be motivated by the desire to preserve the unity and solidarity of the people and ensure that no community should be left out of the mainstream of development.

Sarawak Monitor
22 October 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tun Abdul Taib was a leader ahead of his time

Sarawak, in the 60s and 70s was under developed and the economy was largely based on agriculture, forestry and mining. Then the economic activities were largely low value added; they could barely meet the basic needs of the rakyat.

The incidence of poverty was approximately 50.0% and the average monthly income per house hold was about RM580. The access to basic infrastructure and social impeded the expansion of economic activities.

Obviously, connectivity and accessibility, considering the big size of the State and the scattered population in rural areas, were the biggest challenges being faced by the Government in undertaking development activities.

In 1980, Sarawak has only 15 Government hospitals and 165 doctors. Now, the situation has improved and the rakyat have better access to health services with 22 hospitals and 1,717 doctors. The quality of health services has also improved with better doctor to population ratio from one doctor serving 7,068 people in 1980 to one doctor serving 1,483 people in 2012.

The State’s road network has increased from about 5,000 kilometres in 1980 to 23,000 kilometres in 2013. The electricity coverage has also expanded from 34.0% in 1980 to 90.0% in 2013.

About 86.0% of the population has enjoyed treated water supply in 2013 as compared to 32.0% in 1980. Admittedly, there are still gaps in the provision of basic infrastructure between the urban and rural areas.

Sarawak, despite the slowdown in the global economy, continued to record positive economic growth at 4.2% in 2013; it is expected to grow at 5.0% this year. Sarawak is the third largest contributor to the Malaysian economy.

Reputable international and local rating agencies such as Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s have been giving good ratings to Sarawak’s good economic performance.

Moody’s Investors Services gives A3 Stable Outlook and Standard & Poor’s A- Stable Outlook. Undoubtedly, these are good ratings that help to enhance investors’ confidence in doing business in the State. 

The State’s real GDP has increased significantly from RM3.5 billion in 1980 to RM75.0 billion in 2013. Over the same period, the GDP Per Capita has increased manifolds from RM4,066 to RM41,115. This is well above the National GDP Per Capita of RM32,984. 

With rapid economic growth, the value of trade has increased tremendously from RM6.3 billion in 1980 to RM147.0 billion in 2013. The balance of trade remained positive and increased substantially from RM1.7 billion in 1980 to RM68.7 billion in 2013.

The rakyat are now able to enjoy better livelihoods with more new business and employment opportunities. As a result of rapid economic growth, more and more employment opportunities were created.  This can be seen in the increased numbers of job vacancies from 374 in 1980 to 68,646 in 2012.

Arguably, the unemployment rate was reduced from 5.8% in 1980 to 3.8% in 2013. The average monthly income per household has also increased from RM580 in 1980 to RM4,293 over the same period. Due to systematic and relentless Government intervention in poverty eradication, great success has been made.

Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Haji Satem in his recent speech during a mammoth rally and parade held in conjunction with the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud’s 78 official birthday, said the socio-economic landscape started to change with increases in development momentum when Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, then Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud,   took over the helm of the State leadership as the Chief Minister on March 26, 1981.

A total of 114 contingents, representing uniformed and non uniformed organisations including youth, cultural and welfare bodies, community associations, government departments, statutory bodies, Institutions of higher learning, Police and the Army, were mounted during the parade, the biggest ever held for any events.  

Under his leadership from March 26, 1981 to February 28, 2014, Sarawak achieved success by leaps and bounds in all aspects of development, be it physical, economic and social.  The progress made has benefitted the Rakyat be they in urban or rural areas.

Undoubtedly, the success of Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s Politics of Development has brought about political stability, rapid economic growth, prosperity, social harmony and unity among the various ethnic groups.

The implementation of Politics of Development, to address both the development issues and challenges, emphasises on the socio-economic equity and changing the mindset of the rakyat so that they could effectively participate in the process of development.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan, in paying a glowing tribute to Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib said his predecessor was a leader ahead of his time. For example, he made tireless efforts in preparing Sarawak to face greater challenges brought about by globalisation, trade liberalisation, ICT and k-economy.

He initiated the development of Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone for the setting up of high tech industries like the wafer fabrication plant and other sophisticated industrial plants in the zone. 

Undoubtedly, the development of Sama Jaya Free Industrial Zone, which has successfully attracted many young talented Sarawakians working abroad to return and serve the State, has positioned it in the forefront of high tech electronic industries.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan, who served in various capacities in the State Government being led by Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, said the State Government has always been pragmatic in introducing several new measures to accelerate economic growth and development. These included the economic diversification policy that had changed the structure of the State’s economy from primary sector based on commodities to higher value - added manufacturing and service sectors.

Indisputably, many achievements had been made including the success of attracting more private investment and creating more new business and employment opportunities for the rakyat over these years.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said the incidence of poverty has been reduced drastically from 47.8% in 1980 to 2.4% in 2012. Obviously, the Government is committed in addressing this issue through the continued implementation of the various poverty eradication programmes.

He said the Government, with political stability, strong economic foundation and social harmony, had been able to plan and implement more development programmes including the provision of health and education services to the rakyat. 

 He said a lot of efforts have been made to improve the quality of education in the overall efforts to develop the human capital, which is one of the pillars in the country’s development in the State. Obviously, the efforts have produced encouraging results as manifested in the better teacher to student ratio in the secondary schools from 26 in 1980 to 14 in 2012. 

He believes Sarawakians, with the presence of 110 institutions of higher learning including technical colleges, are enjoying better access to tertiary education including opportunities to further their studies in the branch campus of foreign universities.

He said rural transformation will be one of the key thrusts of the State’s Eleventh Malaysia Plan. The State government under him remains committed to address the gap between urban and rural development. Hence, it will work closely with the Federal Government to ensure success in bridging the gap.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said his predecessor’s wisdom in realising the potentials of water, with Sarawak being blessed with many rivers and plenty of water, has brought about the systematic development of hydro dams to generate electricity to attract energy intensive industries.

This idea has led to the formulation and subsequent implementation of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy or SCORE, which is of a long - term development plan to propel Sarawak to become a developed and high income State by 2020.

He said SCORE continues to make good progress. More investors have expressed their interest to invest in SCORE.  The State has been successful in attracting many trigger projects such as aluminium smelting, ferro alloy, polysilicon, metallic silicon and chemical industries.

The development of trigger industries has better positioned Sarawak to attract supporting industries including local Small and Medium Industries. The establishment of both trigger and supporting industries augurs well with the plan to develop clusters for the respective industries.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan said 19 projects, which are expected to create more than 16,000 direct job opportunities, have been approved in SCORE with total investment of more than RM32.0 billion. Samalaju Industrial Park continues to be the main attraction.

He said 15 projects with a total investment of more than RM27.0 billion have been approved in the Park. The remaining four projects with investment worth more than RM5.0 billion are located each in Mukah, Tanjung Manis and Kidurong. This reflects the confidence of investors on SCORE as an attractive investment destination in the region.

 Datuk Patinggi Adenan assured the timely provision of social and basic infrastructure in Samalaju Industrial Park. The construction works related to Samalaju New Township, Hotel, Service Centre, Samalaju Port and other industrial infrastructures are progressing well.

He believed SCORE has provided Sarawak with the foundation for industrialisation for it to prosper in the years ahead. Therefore, the State government has decided to go along the path of industrialisation towards the year 2020 and beyond.

However, the establishment of trigger or even downstream industries demands the availability of technical and skilled manpower. Therefore, young people must take up technical training to meet such demands. 

 Sarawak Monitor 
16 October 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Concept of Malaysia accords special conditions for Sarawak, Sabah

Just after the Second World War there were different threats and events with the emergence of two big powers. The world slowly moved into opposite directions to become two poles with the Russia and China on one side and the victors of the Second World War namely Britain and other Western Allies being led by USA on the opposite pole. Both Russia and China were extremely leftist in their ideology and trying not to be dependent on the ex- colonial powers.

Britain and other colonial powers wanted to ensure that most of their dependent territories would be able to achieve some forms of self-government and contribute towards peace after the Second World War.  By then, the people had already learned hat the victors should not try to exploit the vanquished and punish them as they did with Germany because that would lead to another fight or war.

Generally, the world has learnt, after two world wars, to become more concerned about building a global peace.  For example, USA started to think of what to do with the Japan after its massive destruction and defeat. The Americans decided to nurse Japan so that it could become a respectable force in Asia.

A new government emerged through armed revolution led by the Communists against the archaic government, which had not been able to adjust itself to the changing situation.   The Communists tried to build a new country based on the ideology of equality and prosperity for ordinary men, which caught the imagination of the masses.   Next to China are Vietnam and Russia, which were very friendly to each other. 

The rest of the world watched the emergence of two camps of world powers with lots of anxiety and worries.  The USA, which considered itself the policeman of the World, was particularly very worried about the new geo-political landscape.  
As a consequence, South East Asia Treaty Organization or SEATO was formed with the objective to rally all the forces that were not with the communists and contain the spread of the domino forces throughout Asia. Then it was the motivating factor to look at the situation of the world in Asia at that time.   The Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah, then still British colonies, were part of this jigsaw puzzle.

By then the Colonial powers had to accept the fact that they could no longer keep their Colonies intact.  They had to put together a new security arrangement for them. In this regard, they must prepare their colonies to look after themselves and build their own future. It was a matter of releasing them properly not in haphazard manner. 

For example, the British, after giving up India and giving Independence to Burma, had to work out plans how Malaya and the Borneo territories could find places in the new Independent world.

Then the Federation of Malaya had the problems arising from attempts to form the government that would reflect the aspiration of the left. Of course, such government would not be in the interest of the people of Malaya. Hence, a long drawn out struggle, in the form of the struggle to contain the communist guerrillas came up immediately after the Second World War all the way to 1959.  Malaya became a success in defeating the communists.  It was a model for the British to tackle other colonial territories.   

SIGNATORIES: The Malaysia Agreement was signed by (from second left) Dato Abang Haji Openg, Tun Jugah, Dato Bandar Abang Mustapa, and P.E.H. Pike (not pictured) in London on July 12, 1963.

In the Federation of Malaya, everybody welcomed the formation of the federation of Malaya.   It was a simple nationalism based on common interests.  But in the case of Sarawak and Sabah, such idea was not obvious to the common people, who did not know the intrigues of the world surrounding them. Nevertheless, there was a suggestion to have a federation of Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei but it could never take off.

Understandably, the British did not know what to do with Sarawak and Sabah as each of them could not go on its own.  Both territories each had small population, to become a nation on its own, build its own defense and tackle all security problems that they could face ahead of them. More importantly, they had to be conscious of building the nation and developing the economy in order to become viable nations. 

Understandably, many formulas were tossed around to find out what to do with Sarawak and Sabah.   The solution became more urgent with the victory of the Socialists, which were viewed as representing the leftist movement, in Singapore in 1959.  Then Singapore, with the strong presence of the socialists under the umbrella of the Socialists Front, was dubbed as Cuba of the East.

Basically, the solution must represent a move to find better consolidation and security for all small countries to enable them, as ex – colonies after Independence, to have their own places under the sun.  

Presumably, during a conference in Singapore in 1961, the British, the Tunku and Lee Kwan Yew must have talked about a proposal to form a bigger federation to include Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Singapore. This prompted the Tunku, when speaking during a luncheon organized by Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Singapore, to talk about a proposal to form a bigger federation to include Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Singapore.

The concept of a bigger federation caught the imagination of the people in Sarawak that plunged them into discussions about their future in the new Federation. As a consequence, the Cobbold commission was appointed to see what the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah really wanted. 

The net result was that the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah wanted to be parts of a bigger federation with conditions that their interests would be looked after and their peculiarities would be taken into consideration.  

As a consequence, discussions to form a bigger federation took place in London between representatives of the Colonial power and those from Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah.  Admittedly, it was a strange concept as it had to preserve the federation of Malaya intact and Singapore with its internal problems would not upset other parts of the bigger federation.

Besides, Sarawak and Sabah, each thought of how to protect themselves from many disadvantages that they could see if they were to become parts of the bigger Federation; they wanted safeguards for their rights and peculiarities. Obviously, right from the beginning, the concept of forming a bigger federation, comprising of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah was mooted with the idea of having special conditions for the new territories.

Understandably, the people of Sarawak, a territory with small population, did not want to be swarmed by herds of people, who were likely to be unemployed coming over from Malaya or Singapore. Sabah, with fewer controversies, did not face many problems. However, there were a lot of debates in Sarawak on what the people would get as a partner of the bigger Federation.

 At the same time, there was political turmoil in South East Asia with Indonesia witnessing the rise of a communist party to become the biggest party in Indonesia; it was the biggest communist party outside China. The Chairman, D.N. Aidit was influential in Indonesia.

President Sukarno had to play the balancing act, one time siding with the Nationalists and on another time siding with the communist forces.    The internal struggle gave the unsettling atmosphere to the neighbors. He considered the proposal to form Malaysia a Colonial plot and opposed it.

There were series of discussions, mainly engineered by the Philippines to make it possible for Malaya represented by Tunku Abdul Rahman and Sukarno to find out a way to get the new concept of Malaysia to come into being.

President Sukarno insisted that he would withdraw his opposition to the formation of Malaysia if he could be convinced that the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah supported it.  Their decision to support the formation of Malaysia must be confirmed in the next general elections to be held in Sarawak and Sabah.  

The Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his recent speech during a seminar on the Formation of Malaysia, organized by the Prime Minister’s department, said  the birth of Malaysia was surrounded by a lot of opposition and suspicions by the surrounding neighbors. This went on for quite some time until the communists’ problem in Indonesia was tackled in 1966.

His Excellency, who could witness the conflicts of geo political factors surrounding the birth of Malaysia, said the people in Sarawak must remember the role being played by the older generation in fighting for survival, though it was not so obvious from outside.  

The State had to fight the internal communist insurgencies, quiet at first hitting haphazardly here and there, but increasingly violent over the years. By 1965, the communists realizing that they could no longer control a political party as an open front went underground to pursue armed insurrection. Therefore, Sarawak was not only being confronted by the big neighbor but it was facing the internal problems of communist subversion.

His Excellency said Sarawak had become successful as part of Malaysia due to the strong determination of the people to defend it against forces both from inside and outside.  The people, in spite of their diversities, could demonstrate they had the gut and will power to defend themselves, the State and country. They had the determination to fight against the communists though they had certain support among the people, who must be won over by developmental programs.

His Excellency said Sarawak, right from the very beginning, insisted that it must have the development plans as part of the National development plan. It sought assurance of sufficient support from the Federal government to ensure that it could develop to become an equal partner in the new federation. The continuous struggle for nation building must be carried out by all people.  

He is happy that Sarawak has been successful in uniting the people, in spite of the fact that SUPP, as the first political party, was only formed in 1959. It was followed by Negara in 1960 and Berjasa in 1961.  SNAP was formed in 1960 and Pesaka, later. This made Sarawak as the first country in the world to organize politics after Independence rather than as the preparation for Independence.

 In a way, this was good because it spared Sarawak from the dangers and mistakes that could be committed by the wrong types of leadership, which lack of wisdom and experience in running the country.

Admittedly, the British helped the State to ensure that it did not commit too many mistakes with all the inexperience and rawness of local leaders in its administration. This was quite obvious in the first six months of Independence. Then politics was not stable; there were in- fighting in the ruling parties.  

Sarawak formed a coalition government that became the basis of political stability after the 1969/ 1970 general elections. The National election had to be abandoned in May 1969 after racial riots in the Federal capital. It was resumed with staggered polling for three weeks in Sarawak in June 1970.

He praised all leaders whether they represented Malays, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulu or Chinese then, for their determination to forge a strong unity to form the government, which had been proven to be viable in spite of the fact it had to tackle problems, which generally were slightly different from the rest of the country, in terms of development and security.

His Excellency is happy to see that no nooks and corners of Sarawak are being neglected in development. Even Baleh in Ulu Kapit, which used to be inaccessible and isolated, has some components of development being introduced into it.  

He believed the opposition to Malaysia, unlike in the early days, is not serious. Nobody wants Sarawak to get out of Malaysia; everybody wants to stay because they have acquired good experience in uniting people and getting them to work together in the continuous struggle of nation building.

As Sarawak celebrates 51th anniversary of Independence in Malaysia, it is actually on the pedestal of not only being able to intensify development but play a more significant role in contributing towards the betterment of Malaysia as a whole. 

Sarawak Monitor 

September 30, 2014


Friday, August 29, 2014

Tun Dr. Mahathir says Sarawak develops fast under Abdul Taib

His Excellency, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud,  as the fourth Chief Minister of Sarawak had a warm and cordial working relationship with Tun Dr.  Mahathir Mohamed, then Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed the fourth Prime Minister of  Malaysia from 1981 to 2003.

He was the longest serving Prime Minister of Malaysia and still has a sharp mind and sharp tongue in his criticisms of the government’s development policies and programs that he disagrees with.

With this in mind, a team of local writers were dispatched to get his views on the leadership of Pehin Sri Abdul Taib as a politician and leader, who has  led the state for 33 years.

The writers met Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed in his office at Yayasan Perdana in Putrajaya last July. Though he was fasting he was gracious enough to grant the interview and gave whatever the writers wanted to know from him.  (The  edited text of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed’s interview will be published in a coffee table book being published by the State government to depict Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s 33 years as the Chief Minister of Sarawak. )

Sarawak, with a total land area of 124, 450  Sg. KM, which is almost the size of England, is Malaysia’s largest state by a considerable margin.   However, with a population of about 2.5 million, it is also the most sparsely populated state. It is a  land of rugged mountains, mighty rivers, mangrove forests, white sandy beaches and pristine islands.

Though, the State  has a good network of roads of various  grades with a total length of about 30,000 KM,  its 66 major rivers and hundreds of tributaries  remain important for transport for the people.

Sarawak, as a state in Malaysia, enjoys a measure of political autonomy in the form of self - governing parliamentary democracy, independent legal system, strong institutions and a professional civil service  headed by a State Secretary. English is very widely spoken by the people.

The State  enjoyed unparallelled racial harmony, political stability and progress and prosperity under Pehin Sri Abdul Abdul Taib. His politics of development  as the philosophy of development has helped to chang the midset of the people and transform  Sarawak into an open, dynamic and business friendly economy.      


Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed started by saying he first met Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib in New York while attending the UN General Assembly in 1965. Both of them were  delegates; usually the government sends Members of Parliament as delegates to UN General Assembly.

He said it was memorable time for them in New York while  attending the UN General Assembly. Abdul Taib’s father-in-law was also in New York at that time. They  were together quite a lot and got to know each other well.  He was with Abdul Taib most of the time.

He met Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib (then young Abdul Taib as a local politician) before the meeting in New York  but not so well.  His first impression of Abdul Taib was, he was very active and interested in many things. Of course, he was very dedicated to the development of Malaysia, Sarawak in particular.  

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed said when he became the Prime Minister, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib served briefly  in his Cabinet as the Minister of Federal Territories. He  had to resign his Federal post, after serving for more than 13 years, to come back to helm the State government .

Before the appointment, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib (then Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud) had to contest a by-election and appointed a State Minister before he assumed the appointment of the fourth Chief Minister of Sarawak on March 26, 1981.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed observed that Sarawak under the leadership of Pehin Sri Abdul Taib developed very fast, the whole of Sarawak, not just Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Bintulu and others.  He had this scheme of building Dewan Suarah or civic centres, to encourage the people to interact among them, throughout Sarawak.

Generally, there has been a distinct change since Pehin Sri Abdul Taib became the Chief Minister.  He was very focused on developing Sarawak.  Fortunately, for him, with the oil royalty he had money to do a lot of things in terms of the development of Sarawak.

He had to contruct roads and build bridges, some very long and costly bridges over big rivers like Santubong,  Batang Igan, Pakan, Batang Kemena and Kuala Baram bridges in order to make more coastal and remote areas in the hinterlands of Ulu Kapit,  Ulu Belaga, Ulu Baram and Ulu Limbang accessible by roads.

He brought a lot of development to Sarawak that some areas, which used to be mushy back in the 70s and early 80s,  have been transformed to become built - up areas with settlements.

As the Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed used to come to Sarawak fairly often. No matter which parts of Sarawak he visited, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib would be there with him. The occasions provided them opportunities to strategize and further plan for  the development of Sarawak towards the year 2020 and beyond.

It was quite obvious to Tun Dr. Mahathir that Pehin Sri Abdul Taib wanted Sarawak  not only to catch up but move in tandem with the development and progress of Semenajung Malaysia, which started its development six years earlier.   

He wanted  to make Sarawak as developed as the Peninsular Malaysia in terms of infrastructure  development and investments of the revenue from the shares of oil royalty.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed recalled  how Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib was concerned with the future development of Sarawak or how Sarawak could sustain its development  after attaining the  status of high income economy on or before 2020 and beyond.

He had to initiate the industrialisation programme  through the development  of vast hydro potential, which was of course very expensive. However, it has to be done to sustain the development of Sarawak. That was how they came to agree  on the development of Bakun hydroelectricity dam, a mammoth project, as the pre-requisite for industrialisation.

Undoubtedly,  the development of Bakun hydro dam, which was badly affected by the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis, has triggered the development of a much bigger industrialisation program in the form of the development of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

It was obvious to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed that Pehin Sri Abdul Taib has laid a strong foundation, in term of direction in particular, for the development and progress of Sarawak  much more than any other leaders.

He has spent the the State’s money wisely as evidenced by how he has  been developing Sarawak. He has lifted Sarawak from the back water of development to become one of the fastest development states in the country.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed observes that Sarawak has done extremely well in development. At one stage it was way ahead as compared to the other states including Sabah, which under Tan Sri Harris Salleh as the Chief Minister developed very fast.  But Sarawak under Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib was able to catch up and moved ahead.

Tun Dr. Mahathir says Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib has remarkable grasp of things like understanding of the workings of the government. His dedication to Sarawak is total. Sometimes, the Federal leadership felt uncomfortable when he appeared to be too much of a Sarawakian and forgot about the country.

However, as a whole he has been very supportive of Malaysia and the Federal leadership most of who are from Peninsular Malaysia.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mahathir said he had no difficulty working with Tun Pehin  Sri Abdul Taib. He worked well with him. During his time, they were very much together and could achieve the objectives both for Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak.
Tun Dr. Mahthir said his first visit to Sarawak was shortly after the separation of Singapore from Malaysia. Then there were rumours that Sabah and Sarawak would join Singapore. He came together with Tun Abdul Razak to Sabah and Sarawak because they were worried that Sarawak might secede from Malaysia.

That was the first time he met Sarawak political leaders  like Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib, Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, the third Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Haji Daud, a former Federal Minister and others.

He recalled when they were in Miri they had to stay in a number of wooden houses belonging to Shell in Lutong.  In Kuching,  they were not very well as  SUPP then was still in the opposition with a very strong stand against Malaysia.

Generally, the urban Chinese have a mind of their own. In Sarawak, they were with SUPP, which  not with the alliance.  Tun Abdul Razak, after May 1969 racial disturbances in Peninsular Malaysia,  invited all the opposition parties to join the government and run the country together.

SUPP was one of those  opposition parties, which responded positively to the invitation and agreed that all must work together to downplay politics and concentrate on development of the country for the benefits of the people, State and country.

Apparently, SUPP, with its long history in the opposition, accepted the leadership of Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib very well. For a long time, SUPP formed a strong unit with PBB as the backbone of the Government and Barisan Nasional.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed observes that Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib has a very strong command of the essentials of politics in Sarawak. He managed to get strong support especially from the natives whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims; whether they’re Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus, Orang Ulu and others.  

He says it is worthwhile listening to Pehin Sri Abdul Taib rather than do something else not in accord with his perception of things. He has a complete grasp of the situation.

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed says Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib’s greatest contribution to Malaysia, Sarawak in particular, is his ability to get the people, comprising  of different tribes and origins, to work together in the common pursuit for progress and development. It is not an easy thing to keep the people, comprising of about 30 ethnic groups together.

Even, the Chinese, who have always been very independent-minded accept his leadership.  Although some tried to pull away, they could never make any significant split to withdraw support Barisan Nasional being led by Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib. 

Sarawak Monitor 
August 29, 2014