10 things about: Adenan Satem, the people's chief minister

Adenan’s administration fervently fought for the rights of all Sarawakians, and had on many occasions proclaimed that there are no 'pendatang' (immigrants) in Sarawak. — Bernama pic
Adenan’s administration fervently fought for the rights of all Sarawakians, and had on many occasions proclaimed that there are no 'pendatang' (immigrants) in Sarawak. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — For those who knew him, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem was fearless and uncompromising when it came to fighting for Sarawak's autonomy as well as defending the rights of all the people in the state, regardless of race.

Humble yet firm in executing his duties, the Sarawak chief minister accomplished much in his short tenure and leaves behind very big shoes for his successor to fill.

Adenan’s administration fervently fought for the rights of all Sarawakians, and had on many occasions proclaimed that there are no "pendatang" (immigrants) in Sarawak.

He pushed for the restoration of Sarawak's position as a founding member of the federation, successfully securing some provisions of administrative empowerment last year.

He also played a crucial role in getting the federal Cabinet to officially recognise the Dayak community as a category on official government forms, while abolishing the use of the term “others” in April last year.

Adenan made English an official language for the state administration, and at the same time officially recognised Chinese independent schools and UEC certificates.

He insisted on non-Muslims’ right to use the word "Allah" in Sarawak despite a ban in Peninsular Malaysia, saying that his administration would never interfere with how non-Muslims practiced their faith.

Adenan was also against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang's private member's Bill to elevate the Shariah courts, and had directed all Sarawak MPs to vote it down when it is brought to Parliament.

Here are ten choice quotes from Sarawak's most loved chief minister:

Doing things his own way

“We need to have some kind of freedom to be able to do things to suit our needs.”

Adenan said this in Miri last year, when explaining his administration's decision to mission and private schools that prioritise the use of English as the main medium.

“We will insist that Petronas give priority to Sarawakians to fill up these positions in the oil corporation, and if this does not work, then we will cancel all the work permits of all staff who are not Sarawakians."

These remarks were made by the late CM back in September. He had threatened to cancel the work permits of non-local employees in Petronas if middle and senior level management are not filled with Sarawakians.

Different from his predecessor

"I’m a man in a rush ... but just give me five more years to fight for Sarawak.

Adenan said this back in October, 2015 just months before the Sarawak state election which saw Barisan Nasional (BN) win 72 out of the 82 seats contested.

"Number one, I am Adenan Satem and I am not White Hair."

In an attempt to disassociate his administration from that of predecessor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, Adenan had said during the campaign for last year's Sarawak election that he was unlike a "white-haired" leader from before. Taib was nicknamed “Pek Moh”, or “white hair” in Hokkien.

“It is very tedious for one speaker after another to address me Yang Amat Berhomat Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr Haji Adenan Satem at official functions. Just call me CM, 'cukuplah' (enough).” 

Adenan's comments when winding up the debate at the state legislative assembly back in April 29 last year.

Fighting for the rights of all Sarawakians

"In some parts of Sarawak, there are Christian and Muslim families that stay together under the same roof. Religion is of no issue because they believe ‘your religion is your religion and my religion is my religion’. That’s the way it has been for us in Sarawak for the last hundred years and that’s the way it should be all the time in the future.”

Adenan was quoted saying this as he explained on December 24 last year why religious issues in Peninsular Malaysia did not apply to Sarawak

"In Sarawak, we have everyone, Malays, Chinese, Dayak, Bidayuh ... we sit together, drink together, eat together and have fun together.”

In his own words back in May last year, the late CM summed up the formula for Sarawak's winning formula for multiracial harmony: respect and understanding of each other's faiths and beliefs.

You can use ‘Allah’ any time you want. No problem. Just use it with respect. I will not tell you how to practise your religion. I am a Muslim and I try to be a good one. But I will not tell my Christian friends how to worship. It is their business.”

Back in December 2015, Adenan stated he would not bar non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” to refer to God.

Sarawak’s autonomy

"I have made it clear that there is no talk of cessation from the federation. We don’t want to leave Malaysia. But that doesn’t mean we cannot fight for our autonomy, which had been agreed under the Malaysia Agreement ... But talk of cessation is rubbish.

In an interview in January last year, Adenan made it clear that while fight for the Sarawak's autonomy was his administration's top priority, talk of cessation from Malaysia was utter nonsense.

A humble chief minister

“I must warn you, Elvis sounds like me.”

A joking reminder Adenan often gives before singing in front of an audience.

Adenan died yesterday at the age of 72 from a heart attack, after just about three years in office.