For most of the last twenty-five years, Sarawak's Resource Planning portfolio has been retained in the office of the Chief Minister, the highest authority in the state. Since 1981 the Chief Minister has been Taib Mahmud, a man whose personal fortune, derived from logging, has made him one of the wealthiest men in Malaysia. According to a February 7, 1990 report in the Asian Wall Street Journal, " He lives in a well-guarded palatial home in Kuching, and rides in a cream-colored Rolls Royce. A dapper dresser, he is partial to double-breasted suits and sports a ring with a walnut-sized red gem surrounded by small diamonds."
That his office has been used for personal financial gain became clear during the run up to the State elections in April 1987. At a press conference on April 9, 1987, Taib Mahmud announced the freezing of twenty-five timber concessions totaling 2.75 million acres belonging to relatives and friends of the former Chief Minister Rahman Yakub. Estimates of the value of these holdings ranged from US$9 billion to US$22 billion. As it turned out, each of Rahman Yakub's eight daughters was the owner of a logging concession. In retaliation for these revelations, Rahman Yakub told the press the names of politicians, friends, relatives and associates connected to Taib Mahmud who controlled 3.52 million acres of concessions. Ironically the two antagonists were themselves related, Taib Mahmud being the nephew of Rahman Yakub. Between them, these two quarreling factions of the elite controlled 6.38 million acres, a figure that amounted to over half of all logging concessions and a full third of Sarawak's total forested land. So great is the potential for graft, and so high the financial rewards of securing government office, that politicians have been known to spend as much as US$24 million competing for the support of the 625,000 eligible voters in the state.
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