His cousin is faring better in Balingian while his likely successor will be someone closley linked to his sister Raziah, her husband Robert Geneid and bomoh Stella.
KUCHING: With 48 hours to go before Sarawak makes its most politically defining decision, the latest ground reports indicate that the opposition has an upperhand in Balingian, the home seat of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
Money, promises of more development and the exotic looks of his new Lebanese wife Ragad Mahmud, it appears, are not enough to convince voters in this contituency of 11,887 voters, 9,523 of whom are women.
Ground reports last night put the fight at 60:40 in favour of the opposition.
Leading the opposition’s assault in Balingian is independent candidate Salleh Jafaruddin who has brought up intimate details of Taib’s political history, including the failed 1987 attempt to oust Taib from his post.
Salleh is Taib’s cousin. He was allegedly involved in an attempt to usurp Taib. The coup was allegedly engineered by their uncle, former governor Rahman Yaakob.
Vengeful Taib went on to wipe out the Rahman-linked entourage involved in the attempt.
Revealing the “worrying” situation to FMT late last night, an insider, well acquainted with Taib since the early 1980s, said the chief minister was “struggling” in Balingian against the collective might of Salleh and PKR candidate businesswoman Suriati Abdullah.
“It’s not looking good for him (Taib). He’s got 40%… Salleh is holding at 50% and PKR 10%. He’s struggling this time.
“It’s worrying…” said the insider.
In rural Sarawak where family ties run deep and loyalty is honour, Taib’s injustices against the Rahman’s family is damaging.
“He is detailing situations and jogging their memory. They all know what Taib did to the Rahman family is wrong.
“Salleh is sharing inside information about Taib’s family, his children and how they have taken away land from the people,” he said, adding that Salleh, being from the constituency, was also well liked.
Against this scenario, Taib is facing an uphill battle.
More damaging to him, too, is the fact that Suriati is allegedly a victim of his land grab.
Fifty-year-old Suriati has kept her campaign low profile, chosing to engage her voters in small groups and telling them her story. And they are listening.
Her humble and approachable personality has much to do with her popularity in Balingian.
A Foochow Chinese convert, she speaks the local dialects fluently and moves around freely with the local folk.
What happens in the event Taib falls?
According to the FMT insider source, that’s when trouble starts.
If Taib loses Balingian, the insider said that Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) deputy president Alfred Jabu Numpang will step in and assume the position of chief minister.
“But this, too, will be in the interim. People don’t like Jabu and this will create problems.
“But based on seniority, he takes precedence over Abang Johari (Tun Openg),” the insider said, adding hesitantly that “someone else” is waiting.
The insider, however, declined to reveal the identity of this “someone” except to say that he was “close to the family”.
On Tuesday, Taib, succumbing to increasing pressure to name his successor and announce a date for his departure, said he had identifed his successor and urged all to give the unnamed “younger” successor their undivided support.
High on the rumoured list is Awang Tengah Ali Hassan who is State Planning and Resource Management Minister II and State Public Utilities Minister. He is a confidante of Taib’s sister Raziah and her allegedly manipulative husband Robert Geneid.
Earlier this week, Sarawak Report’s Clare Rewcastle Brown said it was Raziah, Awang Tengah and Stella who decided on the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates for the 10th Sarawak election.
“Awang Tengah was the only one (minister) privy to the meeting with them hours before Taib appeared at the PBB headquarters for the announcement of the state election candidates list,” she wrote.
She said the BN candidates were chosen “to keep hold of and protect the huge tracts of land and the possessions that they (Raziah and Geneid) have taken from the state”.
The report claimed that Raziah, Geneid and and Stella were “conspiring to take over from Taib”.
“They want to do whatever it takes to get Awang Tengah to take over from Taib, so that they can continue to grab money.
“Awang is commonly known to be at Raziah’s beck and call whenever she wants something from the state government.”
There are mixed feelings about Awang Tengah here. The business circle likens him to federal minister Shafie Apdal and call him the “broker”.
When probed, another FMT source simply said: “Don’t bother talking to him (Awang Tengah) if you don’t have RM50,000… “