Friday, February 25, 2011

Masing is seen to be taking advantage of the federal government’s dislike of Taib.

What’s Masing’s plan now?
FMT Staff | February 25, 2011

Cornered Parti Rakyat Sarawak president James Masing maybe making a calculated move soon.

KUCHING: Allegedly “bullied and ignored” by Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, State Land Development Minister James Masing, who has faithfully waited in the wings, is now, it appears, prepared to go his way, with or without Barisan Nasional, if forced to accept Pelagus assemblyman Larry Sng.

Masing, who is Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president, made a covert visit to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak recently, causing much discomfort among Taib’s Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) party.

They know Masing had gone behind Taib’s back and complained to Najib about Taib’s interference in PRS internal matters.

PRS secretary-general Wilfred Nissom, however, said the meeting with Najib was about the seat allocation for the party.

“The delegation went to seek the prime minister’s agreement on the allocation of seats which will be honoured,” Nissom said, adding that Sng’s case did not arise as he was no longer a member of the party.

But the visit by PRS is certain to worsen the relationship between the BN coalition parties.

Masing, however, is unfazed because he knows Kuala Lumpur (KL) also does not like Taib.

In fact, according to insiders, the Barisan Nasional (BN) government in KL wants Taib to step down before the state election.

“KL wants to regain the confidence of the Chinese. Taib is in the way.

“This time Taib is a liability to KL. He carries with him too many issues going into the election… he’s become an embarrassment,” said the insider, referring to a horde of police and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) reports and allegations of corruption, abuse of power and cronyism being labelled against Taib.

(The latest came on Monday when the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund released a blacklist of 49-companies in eight countries which were linked to Taib. His own company Cahaya Mata Sarawak allegedly hold monopoly over projects in the state.)

So Masing is seen to be taking advantage of the federal government’s dislike of Taib.

Powerless Masing

Masing is perhaps the only Dayak leader who has dared to speak up on issues.

Several months ago, he blamed the massive logjam, described as an ecological disaster, on over-logging in the upper reaches of Batang Baleh.

But Taib’s defenders chided Masing and instead blamed the logjam on the weather.

Then Masing, defending himself against allegations of doing nothing to help resolve land grab issues, said he had “no power” to deal with native customary rights (NCR) land issues despite being land development minister.

The “power” was in Taib’s hand.

Masing had also said even Sarawak Land Consolidation Rehabilitation Authority’s (Salcra) oil palm plantations, supposedly to help the natives to eradicate poverty, is under Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu’s State Rural Development Ministry.

Several applications by possible investors for the development of NCR land under a new concept devised by Masing’s ministry have also been delayed for more than three years because the decision laid in Taib’s hands.

Many would-be investors are also irked by the delay because the deposit of about RM5 million as required by the government for each application for an oil palm plantation could have earned them some interests had it been deposited in a bank.

But now the money is idle.

Raising these issues along with other matters like recruiting Dayaks into the state civil service, promotions in the civil service, and appointments into government-linked companies has not endeared Masing to Taib or his lieutenants in PBB.

Still suspicious

If anything at all, the strain between PBB and PRS, which sees itself as the leading party for Dayaks in Sarawak, is beginning to show.

PRS is considered “a threat to PBB” during the runup to the 2006 state election when some of Masing’s proposed candidates were dropped and replaced by PBB-inclined candidates.

At the time, PRS had submitted Lantak Amin as the candidate for Balai Ringin, but Taib dropped her and instead nominated Snowdan Lawan, whose father was an active member of PBB.

A similar situation arose during the 2008 parliamentary selection. This time, Masing’s candidates for Sri Aman and Lubok Antu were replaced with PBB’s Masir Kujat and William Nyalau Badak respectively.

Both of them were strong supporters of Jabu, who is PBB deputy president.

If Masing has moved on, Taib, it appears, hasn’t.

According to a PBB insider, Taib is still suspicious of Masing, who had tried, unsuccessfully, to topple him during the 1991 state election through “Project Ketua Menteri 92” .

“Taib remembers all these situations well. He knows what Masing did to try and topple him… it was a long time ago and Masing has been waiting since.

“Personally, I think it is time for Masing to come out. Jabu is not chief minister material. People prefer Masing to Jabu and Taib knows this too.

“And Masing, whatever is said, will know how to be grateful to Taib when the time comes,” said the insider.

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