KUCHING, April 11 — Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud repeated his intention tonight to step down “in a few years’ time” despite the opposition calling for a quicker end to the Sarawak chief minister’s 30-year-rule.
The embattled leader, who has taken on the task of delivering Sarawak for another term to the Barisan Nasional, made the pledge before Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a short speech at a 1 Malaysia concert held at the Padang Merdeka in the capital city here.
“I would like to urge the youths here — your time will come. When I step down later, in a few years, I want to see your generation support those who will assume my power and build Sarawak so it will become truly developed and truly luxurious in the future,” said the pint-sized leader who in recent months has faced tremendous pressure to resign.
Taib’s words come amid repeated calls from opposition leaders that he step down immediately and reports that even those within his ranks are uncomfortable with his lengthy reign.
The countless allegations of corruption and abuse of power that have been levelled against the powerful leader in recent months have also been said to be hampering BN’s struggle to retain power in Sarawak.
At another 1 Malaysia function near here, Najib promised that the matter had already been discussed with Taib and the latter had agreed to leave and make way for a fresh lineup in the state’s leadership.
But the BN chairman kept mum on the date of Taib’s resignation and his likely successor.
Najib said yesterday that there will be a change but did not give a timeline or the name of Taib’s successor.
“Ladies and gentlemen, do not worry. We have made plans so that a change will happen in the Sarawak top leadership, a planned and organised change.
“If we make a shock change, a state of uncertainty will ensue,” Najib had said.
Taib also pledged tonight to maintain close federal and state relations, saying that this would help the government’s aim towards achieving developed nation status by 2020.
He told the crowd of more than 1,000 youths who gathered for the event that the Sarawak government had carried out many initiatives beneficial to them.
“These initiatives reflect our ability to identify the best ways to bring development to Sarawak; to maximise the state’s potential.
“But we are also aware that in the federation we are in today, the understanding between Sarawak and the peninsula, between Sarawak and Sabah, should be maintained,” he said.
Taib also expressed satisfaction at the crowd turnout and pointed out that the spirit of 1 Malaysia had been long enjoyed by the diverse communities in Sarawak.
“We have been in Malaysia for almost 48 years now so we should have political maturity.
“We have long established this muhibah spirit among us where the Malays, the Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulus live in harmony and mutual respect.
“Like the prime minister has said before, we have been enjoying the spirit of 1 Malaysia,” he said.
Sarawak goes to the polls on Saturday.