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Taib’s cousin going for broke to reclaim Balingian

Family affair: Salleh (left) and MoCS president Francis Siah at Kuching International Airport Tuesday.

KUCHING: It will be a battle of the cousins in Balingian, where the Chief Minister is the incumbent.

Datuk Salleh Jafaruddin, former deputy education minister and PBB deputy secretary-general, announced his candidacy against his second cousin Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud at Kuching International Airport yesterday.

“Principles and religion are thicker than water, not blood,” said Salleh, who was Balingian assemblyman between 1974 and 1977. He will stand as an independent candidate under the Movement of Change Sarawak (MoCS) banner.

It is not known whether PKR's endorsed Balingian candidate, Suriati Abdullah, will pull out.
Salleh's team claimed they had spoken to the state PKR leadership on the matter.

The veteran politician said he was standing against Taib's policies and administration, but that he believed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was a good leader.

“Taib was as poor as me when we started,” Salleh said.

“We were both helped by Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub. In fact, the whole family was taken care of by Tun Rahman.”

Tun Rahman was Sarawak's third Chief Minister, who handed over the position to his nephew Taib in March 1981.

Salleh said he would campaign on native land rights among other issues.

“Today, I do not have an inch of land. I'm seeking re-election because Balingian is my home. I want change and justice. The people want it.

“You ask me why I'm doing this. Well, I'm doing this for the future generation, for my 27 grandchildren's future.”

When asked about his relations with Taib, Salleh said the last time they had met was at the funeral of Taib's first wife, Puan Sri Laila Taib.

Salleh claimed he had tried to reconcile with Taib on many occasions but was rebuffed.

“I can't say for sure how he feels about me standing against him,” he said.

On his upcoming campaign, the former deputy minister was circumspect.

He said all would be revealed today and that he had written least 47 pages of campaign material, which were backed by evidence of corruption.

“I've been preparing for this re-election for over two years. I was either going to contest in Belawai or against Taib.

“In the end, there was enough support for me to go against the top man.”

A key member of Salleh's campaign team is another former deputy education minister, Datuk Bujang Hadziri Ulis, who served the ministry between 1984 and 1987.

Hadziri said change in Sarawak's leadership was long overdue.

“The question people keep asking is who will Taib choose to succeed him. Why let him choose? The voters should be doing the choosing,” Hadziri said.

Meanwhile, MoCS president Francis Siah said Salleh would head a team of independents endorsed by MoCS.

Besides Balingian, Siah said MoCS would field candidates in Bukit Saban and Krian among others.

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