A Bidayuh Lady Appeals To The Prime Minister

Sarawak would hold elections for the Council Negri, its state assembly, soon, as early as next month.  The Prime Minister is there to rally the faithful to the National Front cause, but he is not as enamoured of the chief
minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, as he once was.  He clearly prefers some one else, preferably from outside the Parti Bersatu Bumiputra. the "UMNO" of the Sarawak National Front coalition.  Or, as an alternative, a member of his federal cabinet, Dato' Effendi Nawawi.  Tan Sri Taib in Sarawak has outlived his usefulness to the state and the National Front coalition as the Prime Minister has
nationwide.  All this is played out behind the scenes.

     One small item the powers that be did not anticipate is a letter handed to the Prime Minister in Kuching on
Thursday, 22 February 01.  It is from a lady in Payau Achau, a small Bidayuh village, 20 minutes drive from Serian, near Kuching.  It is a copy of a similar letter sent to the Prime Minister a week earlier.  A copy is also in the hands of an opposition leader in Kuala Lumpur.  What it contains we do not know, but this lady is known in the village was the common law wife of a Sarawak National Front leader for four years in the early 1970s.  She is said to have borne him a son, who works in a roofing manufacturing plant in Kuching. It is well possible this could be an elaborate attempt to blackmail this personage, but I doubt it.  Simple folk with a grievance do not act to destroy people just because they have been cheated.  It is also fair to assume that this man does not acknowledge either the lady or their son.

     It is highlighted in the Sarawak websites attacking the government.  And spread by word of mouth throughout the state.  I called a friend in Miri about this rumour, and he confirmed it is widely known in the town.  If it is known in Miri, it is a fair bet it is throughout the state.  The government and its leaders keep a nervous, discreet silence. They hope it will blow over, as many a sexual scandal has. Often, the politician involved, if from the National Front, can also survive.  I am aware of numerous scandals that have not made the newspapers or the public eye.  This could be one more.  But if it is, not after a messy public discussion.

     But it threatens Tan Sri Taib beyond belief.  The chief ministership of Sarawak is, for the past three decades, a family fiefdom, he succeeding his uncle and now mortal enemy, Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakub.  When he had to bring in a 79-year-old former Yang Dipertuan Agung back to the helm to succeed the late governor, he blinked.  For any name suggested would have created a problem.  In any case, he had to have someone in the Astana who would look his way in the event he may be in the running to be chief minister again. Many seasoned analysts in Sarawak believe the National Front would return but Tan Sri Taib may not.  He is in the
unenviable position of having to defend his seat than he has ever had to.  That he has to consider moving from his constituency itself is cause to suspect that all is not well for him.

     The opposition has the best chance to date to knock deeply into the National Front majority.  That they can form the next state government is not Those who want Tan Sri Taib moved is orchestrated, in the National Front and the Opposition, by forces in Kuala Lumpur.  This upsets the political sensitivities in the state:  they would prefer the rascal they know can be independent of Kuala Lumpur than the rascal who obeys dictates from across the Peninsula.  The Chinese vote is critical:  its grievances include the loss of Chinese banks, forcibly merged into larger units, the Suqiu demands, the Damansara Chinese school episode -- all these and more are seen as signs of larger problems with the Malay-led government in the future, and they do not want
this to happen in Sarawak.

     The non-Muslim natives, the Dayaks and others, feel left out in an administration where they play second fiddle and with no prospect of one of them ever becoming chief minister in their land.  The National Front itself runs helter skelter at the absolute control of the chief minister.  But the opposition does not have a common
platform, and with the forces at the government's command, they can be easily sidelined.  It should be a battle royal nevertheless.  I wonder how the Prime Minister would react to that letter.

M.G.G. Pillai