|Corruption stench claims Malaysian state chief allied to ruling coalition
The controversial chief minister of Malaysia's Sarawak state announced his resignation today but is widely expected to retain influence behind the scenes and through a business empire built via what critics have called flagrant corruption.
One of Malaysia's most powerful political figures, Taib Mahmud, 77, has been chief minister of resource-rich Sarawak since 1981.
Taib has faced criticism over blatant graft and environmentally destructive policies in the state.
“Taib Mahmud will retire as chief minister of Sarawak with effect from February 28,'' Samuel Simon, a Sarawak government spokesman, told AFP.
Simon said Taib – who has a private jet and is known for driving around in his Rolls-Royce cars – made the announcement in the state capital Kuching.
No reason for the resignation was given.
But Malaysia's ruling coalition, whose grip on parliament has steadily weakened in recent elections due in part to public disgust with official corruption, is believed to have been pressing Taib to quit for years.
Taib's Sarawak-based party is a member of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition that has governed Malaysia since independence in 1957.
Speculation is rife that Taib will seek to assume the ceremonial position of Sarawak governor.
“In the event he becomes the new governor, he will hold a symbolically influential position. It can be translated to mean he still retains power,'' said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng.
Simon said the chief minister's post would be assumed by Adenan Satem, a state government official and Taib protege.
Observers say Taib has escaped prosecution for alleged corruption due to his importance to the Barisan coalition.
Sarawak parties that he controls held on to 25 parliamentary seats in elections last May, which proved crucial to Barisan retaining power.
Malaysia's longest-serving chief minister, Taib has long denied allegations of corruption.