Thursday, November 22

Excerpts from Chapter 6: The Ming Court Affair

The Ming Court is a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, where a group of politicians headed by the former Governor of Sarawak, Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub gathered some time in March 1987 and discussed a plan to topple the State government of Sarawak under the leadership of Taib Mahmud, Rahman’s nephew. The Ming Court Hotel became the “headquarters” of these politicians who were dissatisfied with Taib’s government. Thus, the name of Ming Court Hotel Affair came about.

Dissatisfaction with Taib’s leadership started as early as in 1985, when Bumiputera politicians accused him of neglecting the interests of Bumiputeras – the Malays, Ibans and Bidayuhs and giving so much face to the Chinese. Many big projects, timber concession areas and large tracts of land were given to the Chinese and SUPP. Because of a special relationship between Taib and SUPP leaders, SUPP became very daring in its demand. SUPP even asked the State government to give it a piece of land in each of the seven divisions in the State for the construction of its premises. This request by SUPP angered the Bumiputeras.

Wilfred Nissom, the independent State Assemblyman for Bengoh, was among those who were critical of Taib Mahmud. Nissom accused Taib of being a “weak” Chief Minister who always gave in to demands by SUPP. He said that it was only a weak Chief Minister who tried to make a criminal out of a Bidayuh who had made a private application to join PBB under him.

Wednesday, November 14

Excerpts from Chapter 5: The Fall-Out With Taib

It was evident during the SNAP-PBDS crisis that Taib was not only supportive of PBDS, but went all out to ensure that it was admitted into the Barisan Nasional. At one time, Taib even called SNAP the “real enemy” of the Barisan Nasional.

After a year or so in the Barisan, Taib started to pick quarrels with PBDS leaders insulting and chiding them whenever occasions presented an opportunity for him to do so. For example, at the opening of the Batang Ai hydroelectric station in Lubok Antu by the Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on 21 August 21 1985, Taib spoke highly of Datuk Alfred Jabu, the deputy Chief Minister III as the true leader of the Iban community, honest and trustworthy. Datuk Leo Moggie, Minister of Telecommunications, Posts and Energy and president of PBDS, Datuk Daniel Tajem, the deputy Chief Minister II and deputy president of PBDS, other PBDS and Dayak leaders were present at the function.

Datuk Moggie, according to some observers, was seen very uncomfortable. Datuk Tajem, however, looked calm. To many of the Dayaks present at the function, Taib’s remarks were clearly aimed at chiding PBDS leaders especially Tajem, a member of his cabinet.

There was also another instance when Taib directed Jabu to officiate at an agricultural conference in Sri Aman organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Community, of which Tajem was the Minister. The reason was obvious and clear, that is to belittle Tajem.

According to Tajem, Taib began to change when he (Tajem) questioned him as to why Taib changed a number of decisions already agreed to by the cabinet without referring back to the cabinet. Usually Taib changed cabinet decisions after Wong Soon Kai allegedly met him privately. If such a cabinet decision had been made, which affected his ministry or the Dayak community or that it was made as a result of his ministry’s recommendation, Tajem would certainly ask Taib why such a decision had to be changed and why the whole cabinet was not informed of the change.

Thursday, November 8

Excerpts from Chapter 4: The Birth of PBDS

Waiting for Tajem’s return from the CM’s residence was really unbearable. And when he finally turned up and entered the room, all conversation stopped and all eyes were focused on him. Seating himself comfortably on a chair, Tajem related what transpired between him and Taib. Taib, he said, had agreed to them to form a Dayak-based political party and that he would still be retained as deputy Chief Minister. The announcement was greeted with loud cheers and claps of the hands. That was the birth of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) and there was celebration that night followed by barbecue until the early hours of the next day. Years later Tajem asked the CM as to who objected to them to join PBB. Taib said that there were certain Dayak leaders in PBB, but did not identify them.

Strangely enough, some of those who were among the pioneers of the party years later saw it fit to leave the party. In the words of Datuk Tajem, “….some of those who had partaken in the momentous decision in such circumstances less than being extenuating had since chosen to walk on different paths; others had found comfort in an enlightened and fluent company in higher esteem.”

Among them who had left the “PBDS boat” are Datuk Tra Zehnder, Datuk Gramong Juna who is now with PBB, Douglas Endawie who believes that Iban must act like a creeping plant (empakap) in order to survive and one time worked for Wahab Dollah, a PBB strongman, Patrick Anek Uren, Lucia Awell, Vida Bayang and Joseph Samuel. (You will read more of Joseph Samuel’s story later on). But the tenacious few have chosen to march on to carry the torch of the party, loyal to the cause in search of new direction, joined merrily along by a band of others to explore the intricacies of politics in the new horizon far away.

Friday, November 2

Excerpts from Chapter 3: The SNAP Crisis

Rumours of SNAP’s president, Dunstan Endawie having loggerheads with his secretary-general, Leo Moggie and the senior vice-president, Daniel Tajem were at first considered as “mere rumours” especially after the party had won with a resounding victory in the recent State election in which it won 16 seats, losing two to independents including one SUPP-backed. SNAP accused SUPP of manufacturing those rumours in an effort to divert attention from internal problems affecting SUPP itself.

But after a while, the rumours and allegations seemed to gather some elements of truth. Such allegations, even if they were untrue, were made by Moggie’s supporters that he was sent to Kuala Lumpur to be made a Federal Minister (Minister of Energy, Telecommunications and Posts) so that he would not become a threat to Endawie’s leadership.

Helping to fuel such rumours was Endawie himself, when he openly told his supporters that he wanted to step down as president and was looking for someone outside the party to take over from him. Among those mentioned by him was Rufus Nanang, who was an assistant Director of Education. The author remembers attending a dinner with the late Edward Jeli, Endawie, Atong Chuat and Jefferson Jingan in March 1980 at Holiday Inn Kuching. He told us that he wanted Rufus to take over from him as the president in order to make things difficult for Moggie and Tajem. As a friend, the author said to him that such a move could be disastrous and even could split the party, because Rufus was not even a member of the party and had no political experience. Further more, he was still working with the Education Department. Even if he resigned to take over the leadership, his appointment could not be made automatic. It had to be elected by the Triennial Delegates Conference (TDC).

How would Moggie and Tajem feel if they were sidelined? In fact the duo was the most suitable candidates to take over the leadership. Compared to Moggie and Tajem, Endawie was less academically qualified. Perhaps this could explain the reason why he felt insecure as the president. There was also a time he told his supporters that the duo had also undermined his leadership. Endawie must be referring to Moggie and Tajem who advised him to stop his night clubbing and cock-fighting activities (sometimes he was present in illegal cock-fighting).

Although such activities were personal, they could, however, jeopardise the good name of the party, the cabinet post he held as well as the community he represented. Endawie, who disliked Rahman, seldom attended cabinet meetings or attended to his ministerial functions. Many a time he did not go to his office, but spent his times at Rumah Dayak. So when Moggie and Tajem gave their advice to him, he thought that they were undermining his leadership.