|Tide rises against corruption tainted Malaysian state chief
A coalition of Malaysian rights groups has launched a petition urging the king to block a new posting for a controversial state leader who resigned after decades of graft allegations.
Taib Mahmud, who has been chief minister of resource-rich Sarawak state on Borneo island since 1981, resigned last week. The 77-year-old is widely rumored to be eyeing the traditionally ceremonial position of state governor, AFP reports.
Critics say that would allow him to be able to retain control of Sarawak and possibly avoid potential prosecution.
But dozens of Malaysia's leading rights and environmental groups, along with the youth wings of opposition parties, on Sunday launched a petition campaign to block that, seeking 10,000 signatures.
As of today, it had more than 1,400.
The petition said it would be a “national disgrace'' if Taib were allowed to assume the governorship.
“Taib Mahmud has abused his power as Chief Minister in the past 33 years by outrageously exploiting Sarawak's natural resources for personal gains,'' the petition said.
Petitioners also warned that Taib's replacement as chief minister by his former brother-in-law constitutes a “dynastic'' succession that could further shield Taib from legal proceedings.
Taib has long denied allegations of improper activity.
But Swiss-based rainforest-protection group Bruno Manser Fund, citing financial documents, said in 2012 that Taib's family controlled Sarawak's biggest companies and hundreds of others.
It estimated Taib's wealth at US$15 billion, which would make him the richest person in Malaysia.
The Bruno Manser Fund also says Sarawak has been stripped of 95 percent of its once-rich primary rainforests, calling Taib and his family the “chief culprits.’’