Can former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad be proven right when he cryptically advised Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to “learn from history” in deciding when to step down, citing the case of “one MB who insisted he should continue, and lost the whole state”?
Mahathir was of course referring to the case of Tan Sri Wan Mokhtar Ahmad who was Mentri Besar of Terengganu for 25 years from 1974 to 1999 and was ignominiously evicted from office when Barisan Nasional suffered an electoral rout of 4 – 28 state assembly seats to PAS in the 1999 general elections.
Has Taib overstayed as Sarawak Chief Minister marking his 30th anniversary in office this year?
There can be no doubt that the question of getting Taib to step down as Chief Minister is the single most potent weapon and burning issue against the Barisan Nasional in the 10th Sarawak state general elections, uniting Sarawakians regardless of race or religion throughout the state not because of Taib’s age, the length of his tenure as Chief Minister but because of the lack of accountability, transparency and good governance under Taib’s Chief Ministership illustrated by the mountain of allegations on abuses of power and rampant corruption under his rule which he has not been able to rebut.
It is not that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not aware of Sarawak Barisan Nasional’s Achilees heel but even he is impotent as far as getting Taib to step down as Chief Minister.
All Najib’s attempts to tie Taib down to an early date to step down had been fobbed off and foiled by the Chief Minister and there is nothing the Prime Minister could do about it.
For instance, when Najib “closed down” Putrajaya for six days and led his entire Cabinet to Sarawak to campaign in the Sarawak state general elections on Sunday, his first message was to assure Sarawakians that a change in the state leadership was imminent.
But Taib refused to “play ball” and made it very clear in Najib’s presence the next day that he was not planning any “imminent” stepping down as Chief Minister, as his time frame is “in a few years’ time”.
“A few years’ time” is not one or two years but at least three years and could even be four or five years!
On Tuesday, Taib even said that he had identified his successor as Sarawak Chief Minister and that he had been grooming his successor for 20 years!
This must rank as the greatest political mystery of the century as no one knows that Taib had been grooming his successor for 20 years – not even Taib or the candidate himself!
Yesterday, Taib vacillated talking at first about “two, three years” and later “two years” as the timeframe of his stepping down after Saturday’s state general elections.
Clearly, it is still very elastic to Taib as to the timeframe of his stepping down as Sarawak Chief Minister and depending on the outcome of Saturday’s polls, it could still range from two, three to four and even five years!
Of course, there is no question of Taib’s remaining as Chief Minister if Mahathir’s warning come true on Saturday and Barisan Nasional loses power with Pakatan Rakyat winning over half of the 71 State Assembly seats.
There are those who believe that Barisan Nasional will be voted out of power in April 16 general elections.
I am more inclined to the second scenario of denying the Barisan Nasional two-thirds State Assembly majority – although the first scenario of Barisan Nasional losing power in Sarawak through the ballot box is no more an unthinkable and impossible objective.
To deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds majority in the Sarawak State Assembly, Pakatan Rakyat must win at least 24 out of the total of 71 State Assembly seats in Sarawak.
From the ferment and effervescence in Sarawak, the air of freedom of liberation evident among the people during the campaign, it is clear that something is in the works on Saturday affecting the political future of Sarawak and Malaysia.
The goal of denying the Barisan Nasional two-thirds State Assembly majority is eminently achievable which would in fact be the worst defeat in the history of Barisan Nasional.
There is no way Taib could continue as Chief Minister if he loses two-thirds state assembly majority on Saturday as this would impact most adversely on Najib’s political future and in particular for the long-delayed 13th national elections.
Although the electoral prospects for the 15 seats contested by the DAP are ever optimistic and positive by the day, I want to warn and caution all the 15 DAP candidates and election workers that we cannot be assured of victory in anyone of the seats until the votes are counted on Saturday evening and the results announced.
In the one-and-a-half days to polling, Barisan Nasional will go all out to “steal” the 10th Sarawak state general elections with their department of “dirty tricks” working 24/7.
In Kuching, SUPP leaders have declared that they are confident of winning in all the four state seats contested by DAP – Padungan, Pending, Kota Sentosa and Batu Kawah.
We must not take SUPP and Barisan Nasional boasts lightly and I call on all the four DAP candidates in Kuching as well as all the 15 DAP candidates in Sarawak and all voters, supporters and well-wishers to adopt a common approach – that no victory in any constituency is assured until the votes are counted and victory declared, and till then, an all-out effort must be launched to get out every single available vote on Saturday to usher in political change in Sarawak and Malaysia.
Media statement by Lim Kit Siang