Family Trees: Taib’s family fortune [video]

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Sarawak govt highly corrupt, says US diplomat

US embassy political section chief in 2006


Comments from the DAP politicians and Suhakam reinforce what we have heard from other Sarawak state leaders and national politicians. By these accounts, the Sarawak state government remains highly corrupt and firmly in the hands of its chief minister. The $82 million state assembly building now under construction serves as perhaps the most obvious and extreme example of the self-enrichment of the state’s chief minister and other senior government officials. Through a combination of financial and political patronage, media ownership and control, and a seemingly unfocused opposition party, no serious challenge exists to the governing coalition’s longstanding grip on political power in the state.
Mark D Clark
political counsellor, US embassy
cable to State Department
13 October 2006

Sarawak's state assembly building dominates the skyline in some parts of the townSarawak’s state assembly building hogs the skyline in some parts of Kuching. It is many times the size of Fort Margharita and the Astana, home of the White Rajahs, situated further along the river bank. In this photo of the old part of town, the assembly building looms dominatingly in view from across the Kuching river. Its shape is said to resemble the headgear of the Melanau people. The chief minister, Taib Mahmud, is Melanau.

[Video] The fight for Sarawak, on ABC News

Election time is payback time for media bosses

by uppercaise
It’s payback time for media chiefs. It used to be once every five years and once every three years, for a state election or general election, or party elections. Now, in the post-Mahathir era, everybody’s running for elections all the time, whether for party or for public office, and it’s payback time every day.

With parties in a state of flux from the departure of the old dictators, everyone’s constantly on guard, defending his own seat or challenging for someone’s else’s.

With the tide running out on another dictator, Taib Mahmud of Sarawak, and the Sarawak election results a crucial barometer of the political fortunes of Najib Razak, Muhyiddin Yassin, and the shadow master in Mahathir Mohamad, media chiefs, too, know they have to get on board and be a “team player” — while keeping lines always open to the other side, just in case.

It is no surprise that MalaysiaKini reported on Wednesday that the media have been told to play down the Sarawak people’s big response in towns and cities to Pakatan Rakyat rallies. That’s standard procedure with media owned and controlled by political parties.

MalaysiaKini quotes reliable sources as saying that all TV channels in Media Prima had been told not to air news of opposition ceramahs, which have been attracting audiences in the thousands. “Footage of the mega rallies cannot be aired at all even if the news is on other election matters,” an insider told Malaysiakini.

Media Prima, nominally a public-listed company, is an Umno-owned entity, with the party’s ownership hidden through proxies, as was the practice with the New Straits Times Press, highway builder United Engineers and highway concessionaire PLUS.

Media Prima owns all the main commercial TV stations: TV3, ntv7, 8TV and TV9, Of these, ntv7 and 8TV have a larger Chinese audience and were allowed a little more leeway than the others. But the leash has now been tightened.

The public response to Pakatan Rakyat rallies, mostly those of the DAP, reflects a shift in voter sentiment among Sarawak’s Chinese population, most of whom live in the cities.

This has resulted in a tightening of control over election news coverage in Chinese-language newspapers. “Although we did not get any instructions, we have to be careful in reporting the news about both sides. I don’t think we can give a 60:40 ratio of coverage to BN and the opposition, we have to change to 70:30,” said an editor from a local Chinese daily quoted by MalaysiaKini.

“In the last two or three days, our coverage has shrunk significantly,” said a DAP campaigner who is in charge of media relations. There is less space for news on the DAP campaigns, reports are cut down, and relegated to insignificance.

On Monday, the word “Pek Moh” (‘white hair’, referring to Taib Mahmud) and allegations of corruption were blurred out in photographs published by United Daily News. Four photographs of 11 showing campaign banners were blurred.

Tweet by MalaysiaKini reporter Regina Lee, covering the Sarawak elections

There has also been a de facto media blackout of the opposition in the Borneo Post, Utusan Sarawak and Utusan Borneo, which even before the campaign began had carried hardly any news of opposition parties. DAP campaigners have complained of cancelling press conferences because hardly anyone turned up, but with an election this hard fought, editors must make some hard decisions in assignments, scheduling and logistics.

They know who pays their salaries. That’s why Media Prima has taken over an entire floor in a leading hotel for an election control centre complete with mini studios and mini newsrooms headed by senior editors from KL.

It’s not just politicians’ necks on the line when elections draw near — the telltale is the reaction among reporters and editors in the newsrooms in KL on any election night as the results dribble in.

Rousing cheers and jeers erupt every now and then from shop-floor staff, to scowls and grins from some editors and some reporters. You don’t need to be a genius to know who’s cheering the underdog and who’s rooting for the reigning champ.

© 2011 uppercaise. All rights reserved.

They ‘love’ Pek Moh, the White Haired Rajah

This is the DAP poster which has got under the skin of Taib Mahmud, the embattled chief minister of Sarawak, facing the biggest challenge to his 30-year rule in the most hotly-contested election in state history.

Taib has been labelled the White Haired Rajah (Pek Moh or “white hair”, in Hokkien) in a reference to the White Rajahs of the Brooke family who ruled over the 19th Century Kingdom of Sarawak.

The DAP’s “I love Pek Moh” billboard in Miri satirises SUPP president and Piasau candidate George Chan Hong Nam and two other candidates, drawing threats of legal action from the SUPP, the Chinese-based member of the ruling coalition.

“Please take down the billboard that shows our three candidates with the CM. You have no authority to use the photos of our candidates. Kindly be warned that we will sue for defamation,” said a text message sent to the DAP from an SUPP lawyer.

Another message warned the DAP that Barisan Nasional component parties may take “tit-for-tat” action if the billboard was not removed.

The DAP says the billboard does not defame anyone. “Unless it says you don’t love Pek Moh, there’s no defamation,” said Lim Sie Keong, the opponent to George Chan in Piasau.

The billboards play on the SUPP election slogan “I love Miri” and depict the three SUPP candidates in Miri, including Andy Chia Chu Fatt (Pujut) and Lee Kim Shin as bodyguards for the emperor, Taib Mahmud.

Jigsaw of ethnic and class differences shapes Sarawak elections

Sarawak’s jigsaw of ethnic and class differences will shape the outcome of this weekend’s crucial state elections, the most hotly-contested elections in the state’s history, according to an analysis in MalaysiaKini by political scientist Bridget Welsh. She points to the 27-40 ethnic groupings (the number varies because of how ethnicity is defined), and the 40 languages spoken in the state. Add to that mix the potent pull of religion, now a political factor because of Peninsular polemics, in a state where Christians form the majority of the local population, and with the largest number of Christians in the country.

Everything is local in Sarawak, but national issues of religion (the Bible controversy) and massive corruption in high places and its effect on individual incomes, had brought a growing realisation that national issues are also local issues.

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The actual and definitive Taib retirement story

The story in 1995

Borneo Post, 1995

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Rotten tomatoes for TV3 election news

At Monday nights’ BN rally, or was it a pop concert? Photo: Sarawak]

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‘Datuk T sex video shown to Sarawak’s elderly by iPad’

Blogger MiloSuam says he has been told by a blog reader that the controversial Datuk T sex video is being taken to Sarawak’s interior and shown to elderly voters, in order to sway them towards voting for the Barisan Nasional.

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DAP strategist: Najib juggernaut upsets balance

Extracts from a press statement by DAP election director Liew Chin Tong

Over the past four days of campaigning, the DAP and Pakatan Rakyat were received with enthusiasm and unprecedented crowds. From Sibu to Sarikei [there was a] tremendous groundswell of support.

But now this state election campaign has entered an entirely different phase with Prime Minister Najib Razak taking over the reins from Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. This now morphs into an election of national proportions – with the entire Federal Cabinet and government machinery at Barisan Nasional’s disposal.
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