Taib Mahmud: From Sarawak chief minister to governor

Taib Mahmud sworn in as ceremonial head; still seen as holding power

Tan Sri Taib Mahmud taking his oath of office yesterday to become Sarawak's new governor, a traditionally ceremonial position. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ANN

Kuala Lumpur - Long-time Sarawak leader Taib Mahmud has been sworn in as governor of the resource-rich state, which he had led as chief minister for three controversial decades dominated by allegations of corruption.

Tan Sri Taib, 77, stepped down as chief minister on Friday, and was sworn in as governor yesterday before Malaysia's King, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah. He is succeeded as chief minister by a loyalist, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, 70, who was formerly married to Mr Taib's sister.

Despite the governor's role being traditionally a ceremonial one, observers note that this arrangement would leave Mr Taib remaining in a powerful position. He could still wield influence over the governance of this large state, which holds a crucial vote bank that helped keep the ruling Barisan Nasional in power in the last two hotly contested general elections.

Although Mr Taib did not give a reason for stepping down, it is seen as a move to placate voters who accuse him of enriching himself and his family by exploiting Sarawak's vast natural resources during his 33 years in power.