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LETTER | Taib Mahmud’s death and Sarawak’s future

LETTER | Abdul Taib Mahmud is dead. This raises a lot of questions about what is going to happen to Sarawak in the near future.

It is often the case that after a strongman who has ruled for decades passes away, a vicious power struggle will ensue.

A strongman keeps his power by depending on secrets, shadows and complications. Once he is gone, no one will possess all the secrets, or know how to lurk in the shadows or work the complicated levers of power that are necessary to keep everything together.

The fact that no one knows everything and that everybody is vulnerable, added with the fact that the strongman would have likely been leaving behind a treasure trove of wealth and power that he had accumulated throughout his long years in power, will likely persuade all sorts of gamblers, risk takers and dreamers, to try their luck and fill the power vacuum.

Their antics have the potential of causing Sarawak to go into a tailspin.

Other than an internal power struggle, Sarawak is also mired with existing and external problems.

Abdul Taib Mahmud

Sarawak is the only non-Muslim majority state in Malaysia and Taib comes from the Melanau tribe, who are actually one of the smaller tribes in Sarawak.

The Melanau, however, hold extraordinary power in Sarawak despite their size, on account of their closeness to Putrajaya.

Being a Muslim tribe who have embraced a Malay-Muslim culture and lifestyle, the Melanau's have for decades controlled the politics of Sarawak despite being a minority tribe, by taking advantage of their closeness with those in Putrajaya.

Now with Taib gone and the power structure in Putrajaya weakened by internal fighting, it is a question mark as to whether the Melanau-Putrajaya cooperation to control Sarawak will still hold.

Sarawak is also located in the highly contentious South China Sea region and will be a major theatre of conflict between China and the West.

Considering the general consensus that the dispute between China and the West will most likely manifest itself in the next five to 10 years, the question of whether foreign powers will interfere in the contentious post-Taib politics of Sarawak in the future, as an extension of their power play in the South China Sea region, is something that we will also have to think about deeply.

The affairs in Sabah and Sarawak have always taken a backseat to the happenings in the peninsular. Post-Taib, this might not be the case anymore.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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