KUALA LUMPUR: A coalition of Malaysian rights groups has launched a petition urging the country’s king to block a new posting for a controversial state leader who resigned after decades of graft allegations.
Taib Mahmud, who has been chief minister of resource-rich Sarawak state on Borneo island since 1981, resigned last week following mounting claims of corruption and environmentally disastrous policies.
One of Malaysia’s most powerful political figures, the 77-year-old is widely rumored to be eyeing the traditionally ceremonial position of state governor.
Critics say that would allow him to be able to retain control of Sarawak and possibly avoid potential prosecution.
But dozens of Malaysia’s leading rights and environmental groups, along with the youth wings of opposition parties, on Sunday launched a petition campaign to block that, seeking 10,000 signatures.
As of Tuesday, it had more than 1,400.
The petition said it would be a “national disgrace” if Taib were allowed to assume the govern–orship of Malaysia’s largest state, which is situated on Borneo, an island the country shares with Indonesia and Brunei.
“Taib Mahmud has abused his power as Chief Minister in the past 33 years by outrageously exploiting Sarawak’s natural resources for personal gains,” the petition said.
Taib implemented ambitious plans to develop the region, which lags the rest of the country, but has been the target of allegations of massive corruption, rainforest destruction, and ill-treatment of Sarawak’s native tribes.