GPS exists to keep the status quo in Sarawak, as established by the Ya’kub/Taib family dictatorship from the 1970s till this day.
For this reason the current chief minister, Abang Jo, initially and instinctively rejected an alliance with the reforming, anti-corruption PH coalition which received most votes in the election (and which he had also readily abandoned following the earlier Sheraton coup). He had preferred to join the PN coalition dominated by the extremist Islamic party PAS, even thought the majority in his state are non-Muslim.
PN still couldn’t get the numbers, so now GPS have hopped over to support PM Anwar Ibrahim strengthen his majority, in accordance with their philosophy which can be summed up as keeping KL on side in return for a free hand over Sarawak.
Now to gain as much influence as possible to protect their interests. For those who are concerned that this PH government needs to achieve, at the very least, a strong anti-corruption agenda with a view to ending the kleptocratic blood-sucking that has left far too many people impoverished in the country, the roles GPS have taken are troublingly strategic.
Fadillah Yusof, brother of the notorious Bustari Yusof who emerged as a chief crony of Najib and mega-contract winner (whilst Fadillah was previously minister of public works) was the only candidate put forward by GPS leader Abang Jo for deputy prime minister.
In the process he also snatched the plantations industry portfolio in the Cabinet, which will suit his colleagues in the oil palm and acacia growing business just fine (mainly loggers with political connections who have now turned to replacing the denuded land bank with quick cash crops, or so they hope).
Now, the deputy ministers list has been published which should leave the GPS hierarchy well satisfied that they have embedded themselves in the Departments that count as far as Sarawak is concerned. However, for outsiders, particularly reformers, the appointments seem laughable to the extent they place the fox squarely inside the hen house of the new administration ready to block reforms that matter to ordinary Malaysians – and particularly those from Sarawak.
First, Taib Mahmud’s own multi-multi-millionaire politician daughter, Haifah (who inherited Taib’s seat after he elder brothers proved rather useless and elder sister fled to open up the international side of the family business) has been placed under Rafizi’s Economics Ministry.
All the better to block anti-kleptocratic reforms with, one might suggest, or indeed to keep an eye on moves to restitute billions in stolen wealth from Sarawak?
Likewise, none other than a notorious Sarawak timber tycoon, the SUPP party’s Huang Tiong Sii, has been placed in deputy charge of the climate change portfolio! Tiong is the man behind MM Golden (M) Sdn Bhd, which threatened locals trying to prevent logging in Baram. He has also developed extensive and some very recent interests in Papua New Guinea which has likewise been devastated by Sarawak logging concerns causing immense hardship for its people.
This raises several obvious concerns over conflicts of interest. Malaysia’s biggest contribution to global climate change (and it has been a seriously big contribution) has come with the destruction of its natural rainforests, particularly the Borneo jungle in Sarawak.
A reforming climate change agenda would seek to grasp the opportunities and challenges of the global movement towards reforestation and the restitution of natural canopies to save the planet, but what would Tiong’s colleagues and business interests make of that?
It looks suspiciously as if he has been put in the post once again to BLOCK reforms that need to be implemented, given the ageing political hierarchy of Sarawak just want things to carry on as before with them plundering at will and bandying the outdated excuse of ‘progress and development’ which has never happened.
Will such forebodings prove to be correct? It is possible the second generation Taib has concluded that giving back beats the thefts of her forefathers and that Tiong would now like to restore as best he can what he destroyed.
Possibly, PH will drive through policies despite these blockers at the heart of the administration. What is clear, is that these characters revolt the reforming base of voters who voted in Anwar’s government and if they put the brakes on progress it will damage Malaysia and all concerned.