Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has been accused of violating Sarawak’s constitution by engaging in commercial activities while serving as the state’s top official over the past thirty plus years, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, an NGO that campaigns on behalf of Sarawak’s forest people.
The charge was brought by Wong King Wei, member of the Sarawak State Assembly, who is challenging Taib’s plan to run for governor. Wei says that Taib has breached the constitution “on the grounds that he is and was at all material times actively engaged in commercial enterprise” including serving as a director and shareholder of several Malaysian and international companies. At least one of the companies received land from the state for 400 Malaysian Ringgit per hectare.
“The Defendant is actively engaging in commercial enterprise as principal through his children, family members and nominees,” states the brief, which asks the High Court to block Taib’s appointment as Governor and a declaration that he “has violated Article 6(5) of the Constitution.”
The filing comes just two weeks after Taib Mahmud resigned as Chief Minister of Sarawak after 33 years in power. During his reign, vast areas of Sarawak’s rainforests have been destroyed for timber and palm oil production, while traditional forest people have been uprooted from their homes. NGO’s accuse Taib of profiting from the activities through his ownership in dozens of companies.