Sarawak CM to step down after 33 years

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Taib MahmudThe chief minister of Malaysia’s largest state of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud, 77, is expected to step down this weekend after 33 years in charge of the resource-rich state that have been key to keeping the national coalition in power but marred by corruption allegations and deforestation.

He said he will inform Sarawak’s governor on February 15 of his plans to retire, Bernama state news agency reported. His announcement was followed by a series of meetings with his political allies.

“There is no hurry. I look forward to doing something useful for the country at a leisurely pace,” Bernama quoted Taib as saying of his retirement.

But Taib’s influence over the Borneo island state is likely to remain strong as he is expected to take on the job of state governor, a more ceremonial role than his current post. And his departure will raise doubts over whether a successor will be able to maintain Taib’s political balance between defending the interests of native Sarawak residents, and supporting the national Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. The state is majority Christian in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Sarawak has been increasingly crucial to the long-ruling BN coalition as its support wanes in peninsula Malaysia. Without the 25 seats that Taib’s party and his allies won in last May’s election, the national coalition would have lost its majority in the 222-seat parliament, likely ending its 57-year rule.

Taib’s party emerged from the election as the coalition’s second-largest party after the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), boosting his sway over national politics.

Taib has short-listed three possible successors, including his housing minister who is seen as having close ties with the federal government and Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Taib, who travels by Rolls Royce and private jet, has been under pressure to step down amid a growing focus on alleged timber corruption in the state. Environmental groups say that under his rule, Sarawak – which accounts for a quarter of the world’s tropical log exports – has lost 95 per cent of its virgin forest. Sarawak officials say 84 per cent of the state is forested although this includes massive oil palm estates planted in place of forests.

Taib is presiding over a $100 billion plan to harness the state’s rivers into 12 dams by 2020 and transform it into an energy hub that can power smelters built by Japanese and Australian firms and also light up the rest of Borneo island.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The chief minister of Malaysia’s largest state of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud, 77, is expected to step down this weekend after 33 years in charge of the resource-rich state that have been key to keeping the national coalition in power but marred by corruption allegations and deforestation.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Taib MahmudThe chief minister of Malaysia’s largest state of Sarawak, Taib Mahmud, 77, is expected to step down this weekend after 33 years in charge of the resource-rich state that have been key to keeping the national coalition in power but marred by corruption allegations and deforestation.

He said he will inform Sarawak’s governor on February 15 of his plans to retire, Bernama state news agency reported. His announcement was followed by a series of meetings with his political allies.

“There is no hurry. I look forward to doing something useful for the country at a leisurely pace,” Bernama quoted Taib as saying of his retirement.

But Taib’s influence over the Borneo island state is likely to remain strong as he is expected to take on the job of state governor, a more ceremonial role than his current post. And his departure will raise doubts over whether a successor will be able to maintain Taib’s political balance between defending the interests of native Sarawak residents, and supporting the national Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. The state is majority Christian in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Sarawak has been increasingly crucial to the long-ruling BN coalition as its support wanes in peninsula Malaysia. Without the 25 seats that Taib’s party and his allies won in last May’s election, the national coalition would have lost its majority in the 222-seat parliament, likely ending its 57-year rule.

Taib’s party emerged from the election as the coalition’s second-largest party after the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), boosting his sway over national politics.

Taib has short-listed three possible successors, including his housing minister who is seen as having close ties with the federal government and Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Taib, who travels by Rolls Royce and private jet, has been under pressure to step down amid a growing focus on alleged timber corruption in the state. Environmental groups say that under his rule, Sarawak – which accounts for a quarter of the world’s tropical log exports – has lost 95 per cent of its virgin forest. Sarawak officials say 84 per cent of the state is forested although this includes massive oil palm estates planted in place of forests.

Taib is presiding over a $100 billion plan to harness the state’s rivers into 12 dams by 2020 and transform it into an energy hub that can power smelters built by Japanese and Australian firms and also light up the rest of Borneo island.

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