Native Penan people in Sarawak's last wilderness. Photo: Alex Joseph
Activists challenge 'corrupt' government in the battle for Sarawak's rainforests
10th August, 2011
Land seizures, rampant logging and oil palm expansion have decimated Sarawak's forests. But now an invigorated reform movement is fighting back - accusing the government and its chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud of duplicity. Alex Joseph reports
In July 1946, Charles Vyner Brooke abdicated his position as the White Rajah of Sarawak, bringing a century of dynastic rule to an end. Yet sixty years later, despite its independence as part of Malaysia, Sarawakians are battling to unseat a new, thoroughly post-colonial type of Rajah: the Chief Minister-for-life Abdul Taib Mahmud.
On a modest public salary of £35,000 per annum, Taib cuts a larger than life figure. His shock of white hair is often accompanied by dapper double-breasted blazers, sunglasses and a prominent diamond ring. He is chauffeured around in a cream Rolls-Royce and resides in a palatial mansion in the capital Kuching which, among other trophies, reportedly boasts a $2 million piano of the late Las Vegas showman Liberarce. Whilst tracing his roots back to the Brunei Sultanate, his informal paternal nickname, Pak Uban ('White-haired uncle') has been adapted by his critics to 'Last White Rajah'.
Situated on the island of Borneo, 1000km from Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak's political relationship with central government had been contentious since Malaysia's formation in 1963. The desire of Sarawak's nascent political establishment to assert its autonomy was continually...
To view the rest of this article - you must be a paying subscriber and Login
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.