Sarawak mourns popular leader who stood up for state rights, integrity
KUCHING — Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem, who rose to popularity among Sarawakians because of his efforts to reclaim state rights, died yesterday at the age of 72 after almost three years in office.
The Borneon state declared a seven-day mourning period, starting yesterday. A state funeral will be held today and the public can pay their respects from 10.30am.
Adenan died at the Sarawak Heart Centre from a heart attack. He would have turned 73 on Jan 27.
Adenan, who had a history of heart problems, was admitted to the heart centre on Saturday, not long after his return from Australia where he was on a holiday with his family.
His death shocked Malaysians and led to an outpouring of condolences from leaders of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and the opposition. “His contributions to Sarawak were big, Malaysia has lost a capable leader,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted yesterday, adding that he would be going to Sarawak to pay his respects to Adenan.
Adenan’s predecessor Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is now the state Governor, said the Chief Minister “left behind a good government, as good as ever ... even better than what I had inherited before”.
Opposition Democratic Action Party Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen, who had clashed with Adenan over several issues, wrote on Facebook that the Chief Minister had contributed greatly to the Borneon state and showed that Sarawak can “stand up against the might of the federal government”.
“Despite the great resistance within the system, he has tried, to the best of his ability, to introduce some change for the better for Sarawak. It is sad that time is not with him.”
Born on Jan 27, 1944, Adenan became Sarawak’s fifth Chief Minister in February 2014, replacing long-serving Mr Abdul Taib.
He did what no state Chief Minister has done: Taking an oath before the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) never to award government contracts and allocate state land to his immediate family members.
In the process, he steered away from the administration of Mr Abdul Taib, who was accused of corruption and abusing his power to enrich family members and crony companies throughout his more than 30 years in power. Instead, Adenan strongly pushed for state autonomy during his administration. He introduced measures and policies that centred on the theme of “Sarawak for Sarawakians”.
These included stating that BN’s dominant party United Malays National Organisation would not be represented in Sarawak, reinstating English as the official state language, backing religious freedom, and freezing timber licences for 10 years.
In last year’s state election, he led the state BN to a landslide victory, winning 72 out of 82 state seats. Mr Najib had paid tribute to Adenan, saying BN’s victory at the state poll was a reflection of the people’s trust in Adenan’s leadership. AGENCIES