Abdul Taib Mahmud

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This is a Malay name; the name Mahmud is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name, Abdul Taib.
Tuan Yang Terutama Tun Pehin Sri
Abdul Taib Mahmud
Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud.jpg
Abdul Taib Mahmud in 2005
7th Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak
Assumed office
1 March 2014
Chief Minister
Preceded by Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng
4th Chief Minister of Sarawak
In office
26 March 1981 – 28 February 2014
Preceded by Abdul Rahman Ya'kub
Succeeded by Adenan Satem
2nd and 4th President of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu
In office
26 March 1981 – 28 February 2014
BN chairman
Preceded by Abdul Rahman Ya'kub
Succeeded by Adenan Satem
In office
October 1975 – 1977
Preceded by Jugah Anak Barieng
Succeeded by Abdul Rahman Ya'kub
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Kota Samarahan
In office
1970 – 13 February 2008
Succeeded by Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib
Member of the Sarawak State Assembly
for Balingian
In office
2001 – 28 February 2014
Preceded by Abdul Ajis Abdul Majeed
Succeeded by Yussibnosh Balo
Majority 5154 (2011)
Member of the Sarawak State Assembly
for Asajaya
In office
Preceded by New constituency
Succeeded by Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah
Member of the Sarawak State Assembly
for Sebandi
In office
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1936-05-21) 21 May 1936 (age 79)
Miri, Kingdom of Sarawak
Political party Barisan Ra'ayat Jati Sarawak (1963-1968)
Parti Bumiputera Sarawak (1968-1973)
Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (1973–2014)
Spouse(s) Laila Taib (1959–2009, her death)
Ragad Waleed Alkurdi Taib (2010–)
Children Jamilah Hamidah Taib
Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib
Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib
Hanifah Hajar Taib
Residence 1°34′39″N 110°22′36″E / 1.57750°N 110.37667°E / 1.57750; 110.37667 Demak Jaya, Jalan Bako, Kuching, Sarawak
Alma mater University of Adelaide
Religion Sunni Islam

Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud (born 21 May 1936) is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sarawak, in office since 2014. Previously he was Chief Minister of Sarawak from 1981 to 2014.[1] Taib was also the President of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), which is part of the Barisan Nasional coalition. He is of ethnic Melanau descent.

Taib is informally known as Pak Uban, which translates into "white-haired uncle". Among Chinese speaking communities he is known as Pek Moh (白毛) which means "white hair".[2][3] Another informal name for him, in reference to the British Brooke family that ruled Sarawak as White Rajahs in the 19th and early 20th century, is the "last white rajah" or "white-haired rajah".[4] Holding the post of Chief Minister of Sarawak from 1981 to 2014, he was the longest serving Chief Minister in Malaysia. He assumed the Chief Minister post at the age of 45.[5][6] Being a member of the Malaysian Parliament for 38 years, Taib is also the second longest-serving parliamentarian in Malaysia after Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.[7][8] Taib and his wider family are regularly accused of corruption and personally benefiting from Sarawak's natural and economic resources.[9]

On 12 February 2014, Taib handed over his resignation letter to the Governor of Sarawak to vacate his chief minister post, officially ending his 33 years of chief ministership. His former brother-in-law, Adenan Satem, succeeded him as Chief Minister with effect from 1 March 2014.[10] At the same time, he received the official credentials as the 7th Sarawak Head of State from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at Istana Negara on 28 February,[11] and officially took the oath of office on the following day. He became the second Sarawakian (after his uncle, Abdul Rahman Ya'kub) to be appointed as the Governor after formally relinquishing the post of Chief Minister.


Taib Mahmud and his Syrian wife in 2011

Taib wed 18-year-old Laila Taib, a Polish Muslim, at South Australia's Adelaide mosque on 13 January 1959.[12]

Taib's son Sulaiman Abdul Rahman is married to Anisa, who is the daughter of Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam.[13]

His daughter, Jamilah Taib and husband Sean Murray are involved in property development in Ottawa, Canada.[14]

Taib's mother Hajah Hamidah Yakub died in Normah Specialist Medical Centre when Taib Mahmud was hospitalised in Singapore and underwent surgery to remove a suspected cancerous lump in his colon on 11 January 2006.[15]

On 29 April 2009, Taib's wife Laila died of cancer. She was buried at the Demak Jaya cemetery in Kuching the following day.[16]

On 3 June 2009, Taib's four-year-old granddaughter Celestia Lulua Mahmud Abu Bekir died two days after slipping into the swimming pool at her home at Duta Nusantara Condominium in Kuala Lumpur. Celestia was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Kuala Lumpur Hospital after the accident. She was buried at the Bukit Kiara Muslim Cemetery.[17]

On 18 December 2010, he reportedly married for the second time to a Syrian woman in her early 30s; however the wedding ceremony was held in private, attended only by his family members and 200 invited guests.[18][19] On 8 January 2011, he was seen together with his new wife Puan Sri Ragad Waleed Alkurdi attending a wedding reception of a former MP in Kuala Lumpur. Both held a wedding reception sometime in the middle of January,and the reception were held at the New Sarawak State Legislative Building Complex.[20]

Early life and education[edit]

Taib Mahmud was born on 21 May 1936 at Kampung Sungei Merbau, Miri, Sarawak. He is the eldest child of Mahmud bin Haji Abang Yahya (father) and Hajjah Hamidah binti Yakub (mother). Taib has nine siblings namely Ibrahim, Onn, Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Arip, Mohammad Tufail, Aisah Zainab, Roziah, Faridah Hanon, and Zaleha. Taib's father was a descendent of Pehin Datu Yahya Setia Raja, where the latter was an aristocrat that was linked to the Royal Court of Brunei. However, Taib had an impoverished life because his father worked as a carpenter for Shell Oil Company.[21][22] Taib's uncle, Abdul Rahman Ya'kub raised Taib since he was a boy.[23]

Taib was four years old when the Japanese army landed Miri in 1942. Taib's father, considering his family safety from Japanese occupation, decided to move his family to ancestral village in Mukah. After the war ended, the family returned to Miri.[21][12] Taib undertook his early schooling at Andi Malay School and later St Joseph's Primary School in Miri. Taib later won a Shell scholarship to study at St. Joseph's Secondary School in Kuching with the help of his uncle, Abdul Rahman who was also a Probationary Native Officer in Miri.[21] There, Taib met George Chan Hong Nam who would later become the deputy chief minister of Sarawak and Bujang bin Mohammed Nor who would later become Sarawak state secretary under the Taib's chieftainship.[12]

After school, Taib Mahmud planned to become a doctor[12] but he was persuaded by Abdul Rahman to take up law.[24] According to Taib:

I was obliged to study law because of family pressures and expectations. I preferred medicine because I felt Sarawak dearly needed doctors. I was maneuvered toward law by my uncle. When I entered politics in 1963, I told myself that I would give Parti Bumiputera five years of my life.[21]

— Abdul Taib Mahmud, as reported by Douglas Bullis in 1996.

In 1958, his excellent performance in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) examination earned him a Colombo Plan scholarship,[25] allowing Taib to further his studies at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. He graduated with Bachelor of Laws from the university in 1960. After graduation, he was appointed as an associate to Justice Sir Herbert Mayo of South Australia.[21] After the demise of his father, Taib took up the responsibility to look after his siblings and to discipline his siblings in studies and in looking after the household.[12] Taib Mahmud pursued his postgraduate studies at Harvard International Summer Course in 1964.[26]

Hobbies and interests[edit]

In Taib's early days of studying in Australia, he was fond of wearing a designer suit, a hat, and a smoking pipe instead of baju melayu and songkok (traditional Malay attire). Taib later had to tone his western image down to a traditional one in order to keep in touch with his people. Taib also developed an interest in Malay literature and pantuns (Malay poetry). He was also known for being a loyal fan to P. Ramlee, a famous Malaysian singer, actor, and a director.[12] Taib would occasionally sang a number of P. Ramlee songs in official functions. He would later became a patron of P. Ramlee singing contest in Kuching, Sarawak. Taib also played a major role in Bangsawan, a traditional Malay opera.[21] Taib Mahmud has written and published several Islamic books and other works including "Muhammad and His Mission, Islam and Utility of Mankind", "Freedom of Thought of Islam", and "Appropriate Strategy for Developing Countries in a Period of Resource Scarcity".[27]

Early political career[edit]

On returning to Sarawak, Taib worked in the Crown Council from 1962 to 1963. He was then persuaded by his uncle to take part in the formation of Barisan Ra'ayat Jati Sarawak (BARJASA) party. Taib resigned from Crown Council and assumed the post of vice-chairman of BARJASA in 1963. In the 1963 local council elections, Taib's BARJASA party won only 44 out of 429 seats. Taib's uncle was defeated in the election. Sarawak National Party (SNAP) became a majority party with Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the state's first chief minister.[21] However, Taib was able to join the Council Negri of Sarawak (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly) on 22 July 1963, where he was appointed state minister for Communication and Works from 1963 to 1966 although Taib did not contest in the election. In Taib's own words, he said that:

I never aimed to become a minister. I didn't even stand for election although I had helped BARJASA by speaking at party conventions about the importance of democracy. I felt that I did not have sufficient experience or outlook to decide weighty matters of the state. However, since at that time there were few people available with the degree and kind of education I had, I decided to give those five years of my life. Curiously enough, when I returned from Australia to Sarawak as a lawyer, I dreamed of becoming a judge one day. Now I am glad I didn't. My temperament wasn't right for it.[21]

— Abdul Taib Mahmud, as reported by Douglas Bullis in 1996.

1966 Sarawak constitutional crisis[edit]

Although Taib was a minister in the Sarawak cabinet with a superior education background, he was frustrated when his BARJASA party was consulted last after expatriate, SNAP party, and Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA) were consulted in a cabinet decision making. Taib's anger towards Ningkan's leadership intensified in 1965 when Ningkan decided to pass a land bill which would allow Chinese to purchase native land. BARJASA party later formed an alliance with Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS), and Parti Pesaka Sarawak (PESAKA) in order to challenge Ningkan. Taib and another BARJASA leader Awang Hipni was expelled from Sarawak cabinet by Ningkan. In June 1966, Taib and his BARJASA partner was re-accepted into the cabinet in order to end the ruling coalition crisis. However, the crisis between SNAP and BARJASA worsened into a constitutional crisis and Ningkan was removed as chief minister in 1966.[21]

Appointment to minister in federal cabinet[edit]

Taib later became Minister of Development and Forestry in 1967 under the leadership of new Sarawak chief minister Tawi Sli.[12] On several occasions, Taib acted as Chief Minister. Taib later fall out with Tawi Sli. Taib decided to shift his focus onto the Malaysian federal cabinet.[21] Taib was appointed Federal Assistant Minister for Commerce and Industry from 1968 until 1970.[28] He represented Parti Bumiputera Sarawak, which was a component party of Sarawak Alliance, in Malaysian general election, 1969.[29] During the 1970 parliamentary election for Sarawak, he was elected as the member of Malaysian parliament for Kota Samarahan seat.[30] He was later appointed to numerous portfolios including Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (1970–1972) and Natural Resources Minister (1972–1974).[28] In 1973, Taib was appointed deputy president of the newly formed PBB before subsequently becoming the president of the party.[27] Abdul Rahman Ya'kub was Taib's political mentor for 20 years.[23] In 1980, Taib was appointed as federal territory minister which would be the Taib's last porfolio before he returned to Sarawak. During this time, Taib was able to develop a good relationship with Mahathir Mohammad, who would later became Malaysian fourth prime minister. Taib stepped down from federal cabinet post on 9 March 1981.[21]

Appointment as Chief Minister[edit]

In order to let Taib to become an elected representative in Sarawak state assembly, a PBB assembly woman vacated the Sebandi (now Asajaya) seat and a by-election was held in March 1981. Taib won the seat unopposed. He was later appointed as Sarawak's Land and Mines Minister. On 26 March 1981, Taib's uncle, Abdul Rahman, who was the chief minister of Sarawak at that time, announced his retirement from politics by vacating his state constituency of Paloh and PBB presidency. However, the Malaysian federal government favoured the appointment of Sulaiman Daud as the next chief minister because Taib was away from Sarawak for 13 years. Abdul Rahman was able to convince the federal leaders to appoint Taib as chief minister because Daud was much more junior than Taib. Taib retained entire cabinet line-up of his uncle except for Celestine Ujang who would vacate his ministerial post to become speaker in the Sarawak state assembly. Daud would later fill the federal ministerial post left vacant by Taib.[21]

Taib held the Sebandi seat until 1987, when he was elected as state assemblyman for the Asajaya constituency. In 2001 state election, he decided to contest in Balingian. Taib served in many public and voluntary bodies and represented the government at various international conferences.[27]

1987 Ming Court Affair[edit]

Dissatisfaction with the Taib leadership arose when a group of PBB politicians claimed that the interests of Bumiputeras were being neglected. The group claimed Taib Mahmud had exclusively favoured the Chinese and Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP).[31] The Dayaks in the Sarawak Dayak People's Party (PBDS) were quite frustrated because the Chief Minister post has not been in their hands for 17 years. However, the main factor for upheaval in PBDS was the suspicion of Chief Minister Taib towards Leo Moggie, the PBDS president.[32] According to a doctoral dissertation written by David Walter Brown, fissures between the factions controlled by Taib and his uncle, Tun Abdul Rahman Ya'kub gradually developed after Rahman Ya'kub stepped down as Chief Minister. In 1985, Rahman Ya'kub was also removed from the office of governor by Taib himself. This caused Rahman Ya'kub to launch a series of attacks against Taib in 1987, widely known as the Ming Court Affair.[33]

Rahman Ya'kub headed a group of disappointed Sarawak politicians from Sarawak National Party (SNAP) and PBDS to gather in Ming Court Hotel in Kuala Lumpur to move a motion of no confidence against Taib's leadership by signing letters collectively. Daniel Tajem, a former deputy chief minister and Leo Moggie were the other main plotters of this affair. Seeing such a political crisis, Taib immediately called for a snap state election in 1987, which he narrowly won.[34] His coalition won 28 out of 48 seats in the state assembly and later received another 8 defected assemblymen from PBDS, decreasing the original seats for PBDS from 15 to 7.[23][35] PBDS remained in the opposition until it was readmitted into Sarawak BN in 1994. The internal bickering of SNAP and PBDS has benefited the rule of Taib in the years to come.[34]

Development policy[edit]

Eco-tourism forms a major part of the economy of Sarawak. Taib's administration with the help of the Malaysian federal government, has made Sarawak's World Heritage more accessible through the construction of the Pan Borneo Highway.[36] Manufacturing, industrial, and tourism sector are given special attention. High technology industries aimed to play a role into the economic expansion and creation of jobs in the state. As a result of Taib Mahmud's policy of development, Sarawak GDP growth exceeded national average in 1995. To balance the development between urban and rural areas, Taib Mahmud also endorsed town planning, natural resources planning, large-scale plantations, and native customary land (NCR) development.[27] However, cases of exploitation of NCR lands for logging, mining, and plantation purposes have also been reported.[37][38] Sarawak is the first state in Malaysia to fully implement the e-government initiative while the Sarawak State Library is the first e-library in Malaysia. Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) which was introduced in 2008, is aimed to diversify the future economy of Sarawak.[39]

Since 1981, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown from RM 6.5 billion to RM 19.7 billion in 1995 and increased further to an estimated of RM 29.9 billion in 1999. In 1995, 31.9% of the population was living in poverty and 10% in hard-core poverty. By 1997, the incidence of poverty was down to 7.5% and hard-core poverty went down to 0.7%. In 1980, only 31.8% of people of Sarawak had water supply, but in 1995, the figure has reached 85% of the population.[27]

But Sarawak's prosperity is not evenly shared across the socio-economic classes. Unlike the data above, academics and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are independent of Taib's PBB party revealed that the large disparity between urban and rural poverty remains a major challenge for Taib's three decades-old administration.[40][41]

During his tenure, Taib has been able to disciplined the co-operation of leaders from different political parties to reach a common political consensus. Taib considered that his proudest achievements are in terms of economic development, social integration and industrialisation in Sarawak.[42]

Environmental policy[edit]

The Sarawak government announced that they are stepping up their effort for wildlife conservation and protection. A programme has been put in place by Sarawak government to save the flora and fauna affected by the construction of the Bakun Dam.[43]

Other programmes include the Heart 2 Heart orangutan campaign which invites the public to get involved with orangutan conservation; orang-utan and turtle adoption; protection of the dugong and the Irrawaddy dolphin, which are both endangered species; and the Reef Ball project that will rehabilitate Sarawak's ocean ecosystem by placing artificial reef modules in the sea to form new habitats.[43]

In 1992, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) also financed the establishment of Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary which now houses about 4000 orang utan. This wildlife century also aimed to improve the livelihood of the rural population and to reduce their dependence on forests.[44]

2030 vision for Sarawak[edit]

During the celebrations of Taib's 28th year in power as the chief minister of Sarawak, speaking at Dewan Suarah Bintulu Taib said that his vision for Sarawak was for it to become the richest state in Malaysia by the year 2030. It is the intention of Taib and his administration to develop more high-skilled jobs.[45]

To achieve this, the state is investing money in developing new higher education institutions. This policy is intended to help move the economy away from industry which relies heavily on Sarawak's natural resources to a more skilled, serviced-based economy.[45]

Sarawak Cabinet reshuffle[edit]

Taib announced his cabinet reshuffle on 8 November 2009.[46] Six new state assemblymen were appointed as assistant ministers, while the portfolios of others were changed. Five out of the six new appointees were sworn in on 21 November 2009 before the state governor, Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Muhamad Salahuddin in the state assembly. The remaining assistant minister, Abdul Wahab Aziz, was on a pilgrimage.[47] The new cabinet line-up took effect on 1 December 2009.[47][48]

Taib, who retained the Finance, and Planning and Resource Management Minister portfolios, said the reorganisation was meant to prepare Sarawak for new development policies and approaches that could take place some time in the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) or after the next state election. He also said that with the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) coming up, he would reform Syarikat SESCO Berhad (SESCO) in the next one or two years.[48]

On 28 September 2011, Taib again announced another cabinet reshuffle with the appointment of Senior Ministers in the cabinet and renaming several ministries. Taib also created new ministries that will focused on the welfare, women and family development.[49]

2011 state election and aftermath[edit]

Despite being the target of an onslaught of attacks by the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition,[50] Taib led PBB to a clean sweep of seats contested in the 2011 state election, winning an eighth consecutive term as chief minister.[51] However, the Barisan Nasional coalition suffered its worst performance ever in a Sarawak state election, with coalition partner Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) suffering badly due to his poor standing among the Chinese community.[2][52] Following the election, he was under pressure from the BN national leadership to step down to avoid hurting BN's prospects during the next general election.[53] Despite this, Taib remained vague about his retirement plans.[54]

Appointment as Governor of Sarawak[edit]

He resigned his post as the Chief Minister of Sarawak on 28 February 2014 and became the Governor of Sarawak on 1 March 2014. Taib was bestowed the "Tun" title on 26 May 2014.[55]


According to a series of leaked US embassy cables published by Wikileaks in August 2011, the United States was apparently aware of Taib's corruption. Taib Mahmud was described as "highly corrupt" and Taib with his relatives "were widely thought to have extracted a percentage from most major commercial contracts – including those for logging – awarded in the state (Sarawak)".[56][57]

Logging industry[edit]

The involvement of Taib and his family in logging industry is specifically mentioned in a report published by Forests Monitor. According to the report, the chief minister reserves his right to revoke timber licenses while no legal challenge is possible against the chief minister. This is to ensure that anyone with logging interest is loyal to the chief minister.[58] Based on a book written by Michael Lewin Ross, the political insecurity of Taib Mahmud from 1986 to 1991 has enabled him to accelerate the pace of logging in Sarawak. Taib is reported to have used timber concessions for personal and family enrichment.[23]

In 2008, Indonesian newspaper Tribun Pontianak revealed that around 30 shipments of illegal Indonesian logs was imported into Sarawak and re-exported to other countries every month. Chief minister Taib Mahmud and the company Hardwood Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned unit of state agency Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC), was implicated in this timber scam.[59][60][61]

According to Mongabay, Sarawak has lost 90% of its forests cover based on satellite images.[62] However, Taib Mahmud denied the claim and said that there are still 70% of its forests remain intact and he also plans to invite independent investigations on Sarawak rainforest.[63] As on 3 November 2012, The Economist reinstated that Sarawak has lost more than 90% of its primary forests and has the fastest rate of deforestation in Asia which maybe attributed to the Taib's control on logging industry.[64]

In November 2014, Lukas Straumann, the executive director of Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF), launched a new book named "Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia", detailing the alleged environmental crimes and abuse of political power by Taib and his family during Taib's 33-year reign as chief minister.[65][66]

Allegations of nepotism[edit]

Taib's son, Dato Sri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, was appointed as Group Executive Director of Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMSB) on 23 January 1995. He is currently the Deputy Group Chairman of CMSB.[67] Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib joined the board of CMSB when his brother Abu Bekir Taib, first became the Group Executive Director of CMSB. Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib was the Group Chairman of CMSB from May 2002 until June 2006, the former non-executive director of CMSB,[68] and the former RHB Bank chairman.[69] Abu Bekir Taib's siblings, Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, Jamilah Hamidah Taib, Hanifah Hajar Taib, Hanifah's husband and his late mother Laila Taib are substantial shareholders in the company with a stake of 55%.[67] While being controlled by state Governor Taib's family, CMSB has benefited from state contracts worth 5 billion Malaysian Ringgit (USD 1.6 billion), which were granted without public tender.[70]

In the 2008 general election, Taib's son Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib won the Kota Samarahan seat in the Malaysian parliament previously held by his father[71] and became Deputy Tourism Minister in the new cabinet.[72] Prior to this, he did not have any political experience. On 14 December 2009, he resigned his deputy minister post due to personal reasons.[73]

Taib's brother, Mohd Tufail bin Mahmud is the co-owner of Sanyan Group, one of the Sarawak's biggest timber companies. In 2001, the Sanyan Group completed its construction of the 28-storey Wisma Sanyan in Sibu where the state government took up 8 office floors.[13]

Taib's brother, Mohamad Arip bin Mahmud was appointed as a director of Jaya Tiasa Holdings Berhad (controlled by Rimbunan Hijau Group) on 13 April 1995. Taib's sister is also one of the Tiong's business partners.[74]

Taib's cousin, Abdul Hamed Sepawi is the chairman of Naim Holdings Berhad, Sarawak Energy Berhad,[75] and Ta Ann Holdings Berhad. He was also on the board of Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corp and Sarawak Plantation Berhad.[76]

Taib's brother-in-law, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Haji Abdul Aziz Bin Dato Haji Husain, was appointed state secretary by Taib in 2000 and when he retired in 2006, he was appointed as the group managing director of Sarawak Energy Berhad since 2007.[77] He also holds directorships for Eksons Corporation Berhad, Mlabs Systems Berhad, Syarikat SESCO Berhad and other companies.[78]

Taib Mahmud, denying any wrongdoings, told Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) that he did not ask anybody to do his sons a favour for the positions in CMSB and other companies.[76] He also insisted that his family made money through their own hard work.[22]

Economic activity[edit]

Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMSB), the company controlled by Taib's family, has been awarded various government contracts including the maintenance of Sarawak's roads over the last 15 years.[13] Over the past 20 years, CMSB has benefited from state contracts worth 5 billion Malaysian Ringgit (USD 1.6 billion). [79] These contracts also include construction of roads, supplying roofing materials for low-cost housing units, building hospitals, and upgrading airports.[13] In 2001, the Malaysian federal government allowed the CMS Group's banking unit Bank Utama to acquire RHB Bank to become one of Malaysia's 10 core banks.[13] The company, PPES Works (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, which is 51% owned by CMSB, recently completed the construction of the New Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building in 2009.[80] CMSB is currently under the joint venture with leading aluminium producer, Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) to develop aluminium smelter in Similajau as part of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).[81]

A doctoral thesis written by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) lecturer, Dr Neilson Mersat, alleged that Taib's family wealth comes mostly from Sarawak state government contracts without tender, and profits were sent overseas to hide them.[82] Another lecturer in the faculty of Social Sciences at UNIMAS, Andrew Aeria, wrote a thesis which claimed that CMSB takeover of Bank Utama and other companies is an example where highly profitable business are only favoured between well-connected individuals.[14] The privatisation of state-owned companies deprived the state government of sources of income, thus raising the burden of taxpayers.[14]

In 2000, the Sarawak cabinet had approved RM 551.02 million state contract to be awarded directly to Titanium Management Sdn. Bhd. Taib's son, Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib is a major shareholder in the company.[83] This contract allowed Titanium to repair or replace 384 old bridges in the state in 7 years. The Malaysian 2006 auditor general report stated that agreement in the contract was favouring the contractor. There was a cost overrun of 72% from the original cost. A survey conducted by auditor-general department on 12 sites of the bridges discovered that the design of bridges over narrow rivers do not meet actual needs and were not built economically.[83][84]

Taib Mahmud (3rd from left) during International Energy Week at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching; together with Torstein Dale Sjøtveit, CEO of Sarawak Energy Berhad (left most)

In 2008, the Sarawak government planned to build 12 dams in Sarawak to meet the future energy demand of industrialisation. These dams are scheduled to be completed in 2020 although they need to be approved by environmental impact assessment. A memorandum of understanding was already signed between the Sarawak Energy Berhad and China Three Gorges Project Corporation on Murum Dam project.[85][86] A total of 51 dams may be constructed by the year 2037. This controversial hydroelectric project is receiving fierce criticism because of catastrophic disasters that they may cause and the possible displacements of native communities. The opponents of the plans cited this project as corruption and capital cronyism because CMSB is expected to be benefited indirectly by supplying concrete material for the construction of dams and building of aluminium smelter that consume much of the generated electricity.[87] In March 2009, Al Jazeera's '101 East' English programme was aired where the Sarawak's 12 dams issue and economic domination by Taib's family was discussed in great detail. Minister of Land Development, Dato Sri Dr. James Masing accepted the interview on this issue but the Chief Minister Pehin Sri Taib Mahmud declined the interview invitation.[83]

James Masing, in an interview with Al Jazeera English, maintained that the contracts were awarded transparently either in open or closed tenders. He said that the state government gave the contracts based on the previous good track record of the companies, not because of the alleged political connections.[83]

Global Witness covert filming[edit]

In March 2013, Global Witness released a video named "Inside Malaysia's Shadow State" where Taib's cousins Fatimah Abdul Rahman and Norlia Abdul Rahman (daughters of Abdul Rahman Ya'kub), Alvin Chong (a lawyer that represents the Sarawak state government and several Taib's key companies), and Huang Lung Ong (another lawyer and nephew of Hii Yii Peng, where the latter is the owner for KingWood Hotel Group in Sarawak) were filmed unknowingly during a discussion on foreign business investment in Sarawak. This video alleged that Chief Minister Taib is able to hand out licenses while seeking a 10% upfront payment (or "kickback") and also the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) evasion strategies employed by Alvin Chong through the use of agreements made in Singapore.[88][89]

In response to the video, Taib accused those featured in the video (and in particular Rahman Ya'kub's daughters) of trying to frame him for their own personal gain. This is because Rahman Ya'kub was the main plotter of Ming Court Affair back in 1987.[90] Huang Lung Ong maintained that the conversations in the video were just "coffeshop talk".[91] Alvin Chong's law firm responded stating that the tax evasion strategies mentioned in the video were strictly hypothetical.[92] In the mean time, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) also denied allegations that they have helped the people mentioned in the video to evade taxes from Malaysian authorities.[93]

In response to Huang's reply, Global Witness uploaded a second video on YouTube which indicated that Huang was actually serious in making a deal with the investigators who posed as foreign investors in Sarawak.[94][95]

Personal wealth[edit]

Taib Mahmud's private residence by the Sarawak River.

Taib owns a mansion in Demak Jaya which overlooks the Sarawak River. According to photos in the July to December 2006 newsletter of Naim Cendera Holdings Bhd, Taib's living room is decorated with gilt-edged European-style sofa sets.[76] He also wears a ring with walnut-sized red gem surrounded by small diamonds. Laila Taib and her children are the majority shareholders of Sitehost Pty. Ltd., Australia, which owns Adelaide Hilton Hotel.[21] Taib was described as "flamboyant with expensive tastes",[96] an avid collector of Southeast Asian betel nut paraphernalia, and had reportedly purchased a piano once belonged to late American showman Liberace for US$2 million.[97] It emerged that this was untrue, however one of Liberace's pianos was acquired for the state civic centre at a cost of US$8,032. [98]

Sarawak Report and Bruno Manser Fund[edit]

Taib is alleged to have established a real estate empire, Sakto Corporation in Canada worth a few hundred million dollars, under the name of his son-in-law, Sean Murray.[99] This company was founded by Taib's brother Onn Mahmud, Taib's daughter Jamilah, and Sean Murray.[100] Sean Murray and Taib's daughter has successfully won the trust of Canadian government departments to move into their office spaces after an open and competitive lease search.[101] Sarawak Report, run by Clare Rewcastle Brown also alleged that Sakti International Corporation in United States, managed by the Jamilah and Murray, owns Abraham Lincoln building which houses the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) facility,[102] with Taib Mahmud as the ultimate owner of Sakti.[103] Taib family is also alleged to own Ridgeford Properties in London.[104] Taib Mahmud admitted that his daughter owns properties in Canada and London but he denied that he has any business interests in his daughter's properties.[105][106]

Bruno Manser Fonds has since disclosed that Taib and his immediate family (his children, siblings and cousin Hamed Sepawi) have shares in more than 330 companies in Malaysia alone and more than 400 companies in total around the globe worth several billion US dollars.[107] In September 2012, Bruno Manser Fonds, in a report entitled "The Taib Timber Mafia. Facts and Figures on Politically Exposed Persons from Sarawak, Malaysia", estimated that Taib Mahmud net worth is at least 15 billion US dollars.[108]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In April 2010, he received "Doctorate in Leadership" from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and is recognised as the "Architect of Modern Sarawak" or "Father of Modern Sarawak" by the university.[109]

In July 2010, Taib was presented with the "Lifetime achievement" by Asia HRD Congress to commemorate his contributions towards developing the human capital in Sarawak especially for the establishment of University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS).[110]

In December 2001, he was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, "for service to Australian-Malaysian bilateral relations".[111]

Taib also holds honorary degrees from a number of universities including, an Honorary Degree from the University of Adelaide, Australia, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Putra, Malaysia, Honorary Doctor of Technology Degree from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and in 1998, Taib was made the Honorary Fellow of Islamic Academy of Sciences at the Islamic Academy of Sciences, Amman, Jordan.[28]

See also[edit]


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  111. ^ It's an Honour
Preceded by
Abdul Rahman Ya'kub
Chief Minister of Sarawak
Succeeded by
Adenan Satem
Preceded by
Abang Muhammad Salahuddin
Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak
Succeeded by