Sarawak Loses A People-oriented Leader

By Ravichandran D.J. Paul

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 (Bernama) -- Tan Sri Adenan Satem who died at age 72 today was a people-oriented leader who made huge efforts for the development of Sarawak.

The passing of the chief minister, fondly known as 'Tok Nan' (Grandpa Nan)and 'Apai Besai' (Big Leader), among the local community, is certainly a great loss for Sarawak and Malaysia.

Since taking over from Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud as the fifth chief minister of Sarawak on Feb 28, 2014, he had planned numerous programmes to develop Sarawak and its people.

Many may still remember his stand on the importance of English for Malaysians, as it is the main language of science, technology, communication, learning and administration, as well as international relations.

The 'development' meant by Adenan was not just in physical or materialistic terms, but also development of the mind through sound education, where he felt English played a vital role.

In his efforts to strengthen the administration, Adenan also prioritised good relations with the federal government, despite calls that Sarawak's position in Malaysia should be reviewed.

Adenan stressed that Sarawak only demanded rights enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and did not wish to secede from Malaysia or go against the federal government.

He acknowledged that Sarawak had benefited much from its participation in Malaysia, with Peninsular Malaysia as a 'pillar of strength' in many aspects.

In many ways, the Parti Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) president was seen as a 'level headed' leader and practised an 'all inclusive' leadership style.

Adenan worked hard to win the hearts of the multiethnic community and the Barisan Nasional component parties in Sarawak. He also managed to gain the trust of the Chinese community, who previously leaned towards the opposition.

He did not rush into action or conclusions. This could be seen from his decision not to table a motion to restore the status of Sarawak as it was in 1963 in the state assembly, with the rationale that the route of diplomacy was better than confrontation.

He emphasised racial harmony in the state, and thus rejected any policy that threatened it.

Although he had only helmed the state for less than two years, Adenan was well received by all parties in Sarawak. This was evident from the success BN enjoyed during the Sarawak state election in 2016.

It was also under his leadership that the Pan Borneo highway project began to materialise.

On Dec 1 last year, Adenan had stressed that the '53 principles and actions' he had promised ahead of the 2016 State Election was not lip service, and a large part of them had either already been fulfilled, or in progress.

Among them were more administrative empowerment for Sarawak, and Petronas showing greater commitment to the Land of the Hornbills.

Adenan was born in Kuching on Jan 27, 1944, and received his early education at St. Joseph's Primary School, Kuching.

He had worked as a journalist and teacher before studying law in Adelaide, Australia. After graduating in 1970, he was appointed as a magistrate.

His political career began after he was appointed as legal adviser and committee member of PBB. He was first elected as Muara Tuang assemblyman in 1979.

After winning the Batang Sadong parliamentary seat in 2004, he was appointed as Natural Resources and Environment Minister. He held the post until 2006, before returning to state politics.

Adenan died at the Sarawak Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan, Kuching this afternoon, 16 days before his 73rd birthday.

He leaves behind wife Puan Sri Jamilah Anu and five children.