If we thought that
dealing an electoral blow to the Umno-led BN would serve as a wake-up
call, we’d better think again. Far from learning
anything from the rebuke, the new cabinet is proof that not one thing
has got in those thick skulls, observes Tingang.
First, it would be a
normal assumption that there is consultation before announcing a
cabinet. But the two instant rejections show the arrogance behind the
appointments. The assumption is that people are so hungry for cabinet
positions that you don’t have to consult them.
Second, the huge
disappointment of the Dayaks in Sarawak pushed even the usually
subservient James Masing, disputed leader of the Parti Rakyat Sarawak
(PRS), to voice his disappointment.
Now, if one wants to
know what the NEP really means to today’s Umno, Sarawak is a great
place to learn about it – and the cabinet appointments only serve
to underline that.
This is a state
whose bumiputera – a majority non-Malay bumiputera – have seen
the favoured grow rich while first the forest and now the land is
literally being taken away from them. For these bumiputera, there is
no NEP, instead lectures about changing their mindsets while their
sources of livelihood are handed over to the well-connected, mostly
apparently Chinese companies, but who knows the ultimate
So, a first-term MP,
son of the Chief Minister of Sarawak, is immediately given a deputy
ministership, while long-serving Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu MPs are
left out in the cold. Now, if anyone is interested in how politics
and business are intertwined in Sarawak, just look up the Annual
Report of Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB), a company laughingly
referred to as Chief Minister & Sons Bhd.
Go along most major
roads in Sarawak and you’ll see signs proudly announcing that the
road maintenance is under CMSB. The proposed USD2 billion aluminium
smelter is a joint venture with CMSB – and we can guess why Rio
Tinto picked CMSB as a partner. The concrete and cement and steel for
Bakun is from CMSB. CMSB’s tiny Bank Utama was allowed to do a
reverse take-over of much larger RHB Bank – but unable to turn a
profit out of it, it’s now sold to EPF. CMSB owns the former JKR
construction arm. And so on – to the tune of doing business
amounting to 10 per cent of Sarawak’s GDP. One company, owned by
the Chief Minister’s family – and our Mr Clean had no problems
appointing the first-term MP son to the cabinet.
Well, it should be
interesting to see Suleiman Taib Mahmud’s asset declarations. But
if the government means what it says – who believes that anymore –
then it should insist on asset declarations covering the extended
family of parents, siblings and nephews and nieces.
But it gets worse.
The new environment minister is from Sarawak, as is the plantations
minister. Guess which state has done more deforestation in the past
ten years? Right, Sarawak. And for what purpose? Right, for
plantations. Check and balance? Or, green light to go ahead and
further dispossess the bumiputera of Sarawak, handing over the
degraded forest to the same people who degraded it with terrible
logging practices, so that they can plant acacia and oil palm? Look
at the timber companies. Now look at the ones in plantation. They are
the same – the Big Five – they call them. And the economy of
Sarawak is being handed over to them: forests, plantations, shipping,
hyper-malls, hotels, real estate, etc.
deserved to go. But by all accounts she was a competent international
trade and industry minister – she deserved to go not because she
couldn’t do that job, but because she got too good at some other
Whover has replaced
her, it should be fun. But even more of a joke is the deputy
minister, a long-serving Orang Ulu MP, also from the CM’s party,
whose only knowledge of international trade and industry is staring
at oil palm and acacia plantations coming up all over the Baram. Now
this is a man who dare not even talk with his constituents when they
want to talk about the land issue. And he is going to represent us in
those international forums facing the sharks?
If Mr Clean had
appointed him to the works ministry, it might at least be
understandable. After all, he is MP of an area where, after more than
twenty years, the government road remains unfinished, and is in worse
shape than even the logging roads! They used to blame Samy Vellu. Now
we don’t have Samy to kick around any more, it would have been good
to let Jacob Dungau prove himself and finally get the road completed.
Come to think of it,
maybe we should present the whole cabinet with pillows. Things might
actually be better if they all went to sleep.