Sarawak Report can reveal that the aging Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud, relies on a personal witchdoctor, or so-called Bomoh, to make all key personal and government decisions!
The extraordinary state of affairs, which has remained a carefully guarded secret among his entourage for many years, has now been explained in detail by insiders.
“He will always consult the Bomoh before he makes an important decision, like which minister to hire or fire, or which investments to make”, one senior politician has confided.
Another member of the inner circle, linked closely to the family, also described how one particular Bomoh (see right) had a ‘Rasputin-like’ hold over the superstitious Chief Minister for many years. This Bomoh died two years ago, shortly after the death of Taib’s wife Laila, and the 73 year old leader is said to be frantically searching for a new supernatural advisor, who he can trust to take him through the up-coming election period.
“He hired an interim Bomoh” one source explained, “but he clearly was not satisfied, as he has been going around Indonesia looking for a more powerful magician and he has just engaged a new one!”.
Bomoh’s are practitioners of ‘black magic’ and are widely condemned for exploiting simple people, who do not have access to modern science and education. Taib Mahmud’s dependence on such guidance can only be judged as unhealthy and malign.
Taib consults ‘demons’ to fight his enemies
The devotion to such a primitive cult also seriously undermines the Chief Minister’s claims to be a progressive force in Sarawak. Perhaps even more damaging is the impact on his carefully cultivated reputation as a devout Muslim. The Muslim faith strictly bans any consultation of these pre-Islamic practitioners of magic and dark arts, who are considered to be bad and dangerous. The majority Christian population of Sarawak will be equally dismayed for similar reasons.
The tradition of Bomohs derives from ancient witchdoctor cults based in the Indian sub-continent and these individuals claim to gain their ‘supernatural powers’ through doing business with ‘fallen angels’ or ‘djins’ (demons). The Islamic faith recognises the existence of such evil spirits, however it forbids attempting to make contact with them.
Indeed, Muslim teachers warn that to seek favours from Djins is to bargain with evil forces and that eventually these forces will extract a terrible price. Moreover, people who do consult such spirits are considered to be engaging them to do unacceptable harm to others and to be attempting to effectively ‘cheat in life’. Taib is believed to have sought to mobilise these forces against his political enemies and the insiders believe he is now using them in his current battle against the Malaysian PM, Najib Razak (who would dearly like the tarnished kleptocrat to step down before the next election).
Dependent on soothsaying
The dismayed insiders have told Sarawak Report that they would be inclined to laugh at an old man’s obsession if the implications were not so alarming, given his position. The Bomoh who held Taib enthralled for over 30 years was always known in inner circles as ‘Ustaz’ (meaning teacher). He would frequently accompany the Chief Minister, who, to conceal his real role, would refer to him publicly as ‘My Uncle’ .
Ustaz liked to boast that his black magic ‘talent’ was given from God. He claimed to be able to foresee the future, heal the sick and, crucially, make the right political and economic decisions.
“An advisor or family member might query some decision” said one of our sources, “but if Taib replied that the Bomoh had ruled on it, then they knew there could be no further argument”.
The death of Ustaz and the loss of this advice over political and economic decisions is said to have put immense pressure on the Chief Minister as he enters his 30th year in power still determined to fight another election.
Rise of a part-time shop-keeper
Ustaz, whose real name was Abdul Rahman Hazrat, never spoke fluent Malay. He arrived from Pakistan in the 1960s and according to our sources was selling rings, spectacles and Islamic items in the town of Sibu at the time that Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan was the first Chief Minister. Hazrat claimed to be the disciple of a 130 year old teacher, who is allegedly still residing in his home country, Pakistan.
Taib, then 28 and State Minister for Natural Resources in Nignkan’s cabinet, was apparently introduced to to the stall-holder by the late Datuk Awang Hipni, a Melanau State Minister from Matu-Daro. It was after the ambitious young minister was sacked after failing to get along with Nignkan, that he is said to have first turned to the bomoh for advice.
Ustaz later confided that he told Taib not to confront Ningkan directly but to lobby for a ministerial post at Federal level and from there to plot the downfall of Ningkan. This he did and soon Taib was appointed by Tunku Abdul Rahman as a Deputy Minister in the Federal Cabinet.
People in the know describe how it was with the advice of Ustaz that Taib used this position to topple Ningkan and eventually to succeed him. The strategy was to first place Penghulu Tawi Sli as a puppet CM, who then passed the position to Taib’s uncle. According to Ustaz, Tun Rahman, a Melanau by race (just 4% of the population) could not succeed Ningkan directly for fear of a revolt from the Dayak community (about 50%).
The plan succeeded, according to people who have talked with Ustaz. Tun Rahman was appointed Chief Minister in 1968 and passed the post to his nephew Taib in 1981, 29 years ago. From then onwards Taib relied heavily on the Bomoh and kept him as his personal advisor.
Member of the Taib household
Proud of being ‘personal advisor’ to the Chief Minister, Ustaz whispered to his friends in Sibu that Taib made arrangements for him to enjoy a comfortable life. To hide the relationship he continued to base the soothsayer in Sibu, where the Chief Minister’s younger brother Tufail was tasked with taking care of his needs.
The guru was bought a bungalow on Bandong Road and enjoyed an allowance of over RM 10,000 a month, courtesy of a timber company, whose main shareholder is Tufail. He was also supplied with a car and a driver, free services and a shop house at Cross Road where he was able to sell Islamic religious items.
Insiders say that if anything further was needed it was Tufail’s job to sort it out. Tufail, unlike some of Taib’s other brothers, apparently shares the Chief Minister’s interest in Black Magic.
However, whenever Taib had to decide anything of importance he would summon Ustaz to Kuching. The guru would usually make use of the Government-funded private jet, which Taib keeps for his own use and even had a special bedroom put aside for him in the ground floor of Taib’s home in Demak Jaya, right next to the Chief Minister’s office.
The Bomoh would often stay at Demak Jaya for nights at a time, say those in the know, and when he was being consulted he would always rise early in the morning (often 3am) and start a laborious ceremony of prayer and meditation as he sought the guidance of the Djins (evil, dead spirits). Unnervingly, Ustaz was frequently considered by those around the Chief Minister to be able to provide very astute guidance.
“He was able to provide an intelligent and objective perspective of events and situations”, explains the political insider, “but I don’t call it supernatural, I call it much-needed common sense!”
Meanwhile, the Bomoh also offered the support of his magical powers around others of Taib’s inner circle. He would intercede in cases of illness to ‘discover from the spirits’ whether the sick person’s ‘time had come’. If this was the case he would under-take to ‘buy a little more time’ from the devils, so they could enjoy some more life. Unsurprisingly, family members were always grateful for this intercession at a time of need.
“He was always kind” says one beneficiary, “I don’t think it was a negative, evil influence. He just used his magic to help people”.
Bomoh used magic to help BN!
However, the Bomoh, with the encouragement of Taib, was not above using his magic in elections as well. All BN candidates in Sarawak were handed special amulets or ‘azimats’, designed to be carried in their pockets on the election stomp. The azimats were supposed to have the magical effect of making people who met the BN politicians warm to them and support them. However, it can be noted that Taib has never failed to take the insurance of also offering large amounts of cash to prospective voters as well.
Similar azimats were also handed to family and insiders for other occasions, such as to help pass examinations and achieve wealth and success. For those who believe in such old superstitions, such favours could be construed as attempting to gain an unfair advantage to Taib and his supporters, which was clearly Taib’s own intention.
However, this relationship which was so close for many years did not end happily. Sarawak Report has received further fascinating inside information detailing how Taib fell out with his advisor in recent years, culminating in the old man’s return to Pakistan shortly before his death as a broken man.
The fact that insiders have been breaking ranks to inform Sarawak Report of such negative issues is being regarded by many as a sign that the Chief Minister’s grip on his party is failing. Others of a more superstitious bent may consider that he has lost his magic touch!