Why is Taib a “respected statesman” to Anwar but not Daim or Tun M?

IN THE last couple of months, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been seen to be going after former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin and twice former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s family for their alleged wrongdoings against the people and the country.

Just last week, Anwar told us that the government’s anti-corruption endeavours weren’t driven by past grudges or personal vendetta but by a genuine aspiration to eradicate corruption regardless of individuals’ status or age.

“I can forgive everyone else … but what I cannot forgive is (those) stealing government land, stealing the people’s land, timber theft, misusing public’s trust. If you steal and plunder my projects, I won’t forgive you,” Astro Awani quoted him as saying

“Let me make it clear. Whether you hold titles like Datuk Seri, Tan Sri or Tun, if you’re virtuous, we respect you. However, if you engage in corruption, we will apprehend you and imprison you.”

This week, however, upon hearing of the death of former Sarawak governor Tun Taib Mahmud, he had a sudden change of heart.

“Undoubtedly, we, especially the people of Sarawak, have lost a respected statesman,” Anwar said in a social media post. “The services and dedication of Allahyarham to the country and Sarawak will always be remembered forever. Al-Fatihah.”

This is despite the fact that critics have long accused Taib of abusing his position as chief minister to enrich himself and his family.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (left) and Tun Daim Zainuddin

Taib’s legacy

Although Taib’s wealth has not been clearly ascertained by anyone, a bitter divorce between Taib’s eldest son, Datuk Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib and his ex-wife has given us a peek into the vast sums that Taib’s family possesses.

During his divorce hearing in 2014, Mahmud had told the sharia High Court that he had bought a Ferrari Modena worth RM950,000 (US$198,000) for his son when he was just eight years old in 1999 as an asset to provide for his then-wife Shahnaz Abdul Majid and their son when they separated that year.

Other than the Ferrari, he said he also gave his ex-wife a RM2 million bungalow in an upscale neighbourhood in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, three luxury cars worth RM2.1 mil and a RM10,000 monthly allowance.

Shahnaz had also filed for a RM400 mil divorce settlement by claiming that Mahmud had assets worth RM1 bil domestically as well as US$700 mil in assets overseas.

Although Mahmud had denied her claims as “lies, distortions and misrepresentations”, the Syariah Court had ordered Mahmud to pay Shahnaz a RM30 mil settlement nevertheless.

Immediately after Taib’s death, Switzerland-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) has also called for an immediate freeze of Taib’s assets.

The NGO’s executive director Lukas Straumann also wants the government and judiciary to re-open investigations into the origin of Taib’s and his closest family members’ “enormous wealth”.

The BMF which was named after the rainforest and human rights campaigner who went missing in Sarawak in 2000 has also alleged as far back as 2012 that Taib is worth US$15 bil or RM72 bil at current exchange rate.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (second from right) paying his last respect to Sarawak’s longest serving chief minister Tun Taib Mahmud on Feb 21 (Pic credit: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Facebook)

Matter of double standard?

Internal conflict among the Taibs has also already surfaced publicly since mid-2023. Taib’s children with his first wife have already sued their Syrian-born stepmother over a disputed transfer of 50 million shares in a family-controlled firm that has long been the beneficiary of various government projects in the eastern Malaysian state, dating back to when Taib was chief minister from 1981 to 2014.

The stocks worth about RM50 mil are said to be just the tip of the iceberg of Taib’s wealth who many believe is unofficially, the richest man in Malaysia.

Considering all this, it is indeed strange to hear Anwar refer to Taib as a “respected statesman” when he has been railing against Dr Mahathir and Daim for allegedly doing the very same thing that Taib has been accused of doing.

Anwar has mentioned repeatedly that he holds no grudge against Mahathir or Daim – and that whatever action he is taking against them are just something he is doing as a matter of principles.

Well, if he is compelled by principles to act against Dr Mahathir and Daim because they and their family have an enormous amount of inexplicable wealth, then why did his principles not compel him to act in the same way against Taib or Taib’s family when their inheritance dispute reveals just how much the Taib family is worth.

How – pray tell – does Anwar’s principle allow him to overlook Taib’s shortcomings and honour Taib as a “respected statesman” but not allow him to overlook the shortcomings of Dr Mahathir or Daim and to honour them as “respected statesman”?

Why is what is good for the goose not also good for the gander in Anwar’s view? Can somebody please explain? – Feb 27, 2024


Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

Main pic credit: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim/X

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