The longest serving Chief Minister in Malaysia, Taib Mahmud, is the prime target in Sarawak. It is without a doubt that Taib is very unpopular in the urban areas especially among the Chinese voters.
I was informed that the Opposition is making huge gains in Miri, Sibu, Bintulu, Limbang and to a certain extent in Kuching. During my short trip to Sibu, it is undeniably obvious that SUPP may find it extremely hard to keep its seats in Sibu and Lanang.
But Barisan is caught in a difficult situation. It does not really take a fully committed and united opposition front to dent its hope of capturing two thirds majority in the state elections. PM Najib is in a quandary. He cannot criticize nor praise Taib.
Both ways just won't work for the voters in Sarawak. He had hinted at an earlier retirement for Taib but the latter was not willing to let go anytime soon. Afterall, it is not easy for a person in power for so long to live life as a normal elected assemblyman. Taib needs to be in the limelight.
The greatest challenge is to shift the whole attention away from Taib and focus on the capability of the federal government. However, Najib reacted too late and too little.
It took him almost 5 days to position himself within the Sarawak campaign. It is too late for Taib to wranggle free from the trap set up for him by the opposition. It is better for the PM to be frank about his assessment of Taib.
Taib did not do a good job in developing Sarawak. This is a fact by looking at the infrastructure even in big towns like Sibu. Privately built houses are nice, attractive and huge but these houses looked odd in an area where the infrastructure is way behind that of a city.
Taib has ignored and neglected the needs of his people. The fact that he did nothing to deny or reject the mountain of accusations against him e.g. corruption, land grab, abuse of power etc. is not going to put his leadership in a good light. Taib remains a Sarawak dilemma.
Even he chooses to step down as a CM after the state elections, it is hard to imagine him fading away. Any indication of Taib being the puppet master after his retirement is going to create an effect worse than what the Barisan is already facing in Sarawak now. The only salvation for Barisan is to recruit and use good people in government.
It cannot ignore the need to revitalize and reenergize in order to renew the party's ability to lead for the next decade. I had warned some people close to the ruling regime that it may not take the 13th GE for Barisan to fall but possibly in the 14th GE. If the coalition remains arrogant and detached from the reality, the only thing sure is defeat.