The former PBB leader will be locking horns with the mighty chief minister in the latter's stronghold of Balingian during the Sarawak state election.
KUCHING: Ex-PBB leader Salleh Jafaruddin will contest against his second cousin and Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud in the Balingian seat under the auspices of the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS).
“I am fighting the big man,” the former deputy education minister told a press conference at the Kuching airport before leaving for Balingian.
“I am leading MoCS to contest against Taib,” he said.
MoCS is also sponsoring candidates in Marudi, Krian and Bukit Saban.
Salleh said that several ex-Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) leaders including another former deputy education minister Bujang Ulis are regrouping to support him against Taib whom they believe has overstayed his welcome.
“Several ex-PBB leaders are joining me to fight and answer the call of the silent majority,” he said, pointing out that these former leaders want to see change in the state.
“We want to fight him (Taib) because of his policy of ‘for me and my cronies’ rather than for the people. There is no government for the people and by the people at present.
“They are a bunch of robbers who have been taking away NCR (native customary right) land from the people,” he said, adding that he has documentary evidence to prove his allegations.
Salleh claimed that he was once approached by Taib’s sister to sell a plot of NCR land measuring 17,000 hectares owned by the natives.
“I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “We don’t want to join them because there is massive corruption and abuse of power in Taib’s government.”
“And if Taib is wrong, we must fight and remove him,” he added, citing the uprising in the Arab world.
Not a token fight
Meanwhile, MoCS leader Francis Siah who was also present at the press conference said that his movement has been preparing Salleh to take on Taib for the past eight months.
“We know we need a personality of Salleh’s calibre to pose a challenge against the CM. There is no point in fielding a candidate who can only put up a token fight. The opposition has to be serious about this and MoCS is serious about its mission to oust Taib.
“This morning, I appealed to Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian to withdraw his party’s candidate in Balingian and asked PKR to back Salleh. MoCS and PKR are fighting on the same platform and has the same agenda for change.
“I believe that Sarawak PKR will understand MoCS’ request as our two groups have a close working relationship.
“MoCS’s stand is this: if political parties cannot put up winnable candidates in certain constituencies, then allow other concerned citizen groups to do so.
“Today, Salleh Jafaruddin will lead the MoCS Alliance of Independents into the state elections. All candidates contesting under this alliance will use the ‘Three Keys” symbol,” Siah declared.
PKR has named its candidate Suriati Abdullah for the Balingian seat.
Salleh, who was once time tipped to take over the leadership of PBB in the early days, has been in politics since 1963. He served as state assemblyman for Dalat, Balingian and MP for Mukah.
His fall-out with Taib began in 1987 when he joined the “Maju group” which wanted to topple Taib in the well-known “Ming Court” affair.
Since then Salleh and other PBB leaders including Bujang Ulis and Wan Habib, the late Wan Yusof Tuanku Bujang and the late Abang Yusuf Puteh became Taib’s bitter enemies.
Several times, these leaders wanted to return to PBB, but Taib opposed their applications.
Bujang Ulis who was also present appealed to the people of Balingian to support Salleh whom he described as his mentor and a man ready to help change Sarawak for the better.