KUCHING, Oct 31 — Leaders from both sides of the political divide have paid tribute to Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing, who died this morning at the age of 72.
Sarawak Utilities Minister Datuk Seri Stephen Rundi Utom said Masing’s passing came as a sad moment and a great loss to the Dayak community as he was a respected president of Dayak-based Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS).
“A very open-minded leader who wouldn’t mind speaking out on matters that concerned Sarawak, particularly the Dayak affairs and well-being,” he said when speaking to Bernama, adding that he hoped PRS members would hold themselves together and continue Masing’s legacy to ensure victory in the coming 12th Sarawak state election.
State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president said the state had lost an “Anak Sarawak who had dedicated his whole life to serve and fight for Sarawak.”
“I am privileged to be his colleague, friend and benefited from his wisdom, sense of humour and camaraderie over the years,” Sim said.
Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the respect earned by Masing as a capable leader was coming from all levels of the community, regardless of their race and religion.
“During his tenure in the Sarawak state government as an elected representative and state cabinet member, Masing brought many changes to the people in rural areas, especially in Kapit,” he said.
Sarawak Assistant Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Penguang Manggil said Masing was a rare breed of leader who would stand up for his beliefs.
“Quite critical at times, but he meant what he meant. On a personal note, I lost a great friend whom I always look up to for help may it be outside or in politics as well as in our work as a public figure,” he said.
Bukit Semuja assemblyman John Ilus said Masing had contributed enormously to the political progress in Sarawak and was vocal on people’s issues, while Serumbu assemblyman Miro Simuh said Sarawak had lost a charismatic and firm Dayak leader, whose legacy would live on for the betterment of the community.
Meanwhile, Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president and state opposition leader Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh expressed his sadness over Masing’s death, adding that despite all their political differences and bickering, his untimely departure is a great loss to Sarawak.
“Both my wife and I knew Tan Sri James from his student days as a bright student who excelled in academic pursuits and with outstanding leadership calibre.
“Indeed, deservingly he went on to become a successful politician, culminating in his position as Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak. We will miss him and our heartfelt condolences to his wife and family,” he said in a statement here today.
Ba’ Kelalan state assemblyman Baru Bian said he had known Masing since they were members of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) in the ‘80s.
“We went through some challenging struggles together, PBDS being in the opposition in those days. Although our political paths diverged after that, we remained as friends and enjoyed cordial chats whenever we met at the state legislative assembly.
“Masing had a heart for Sarawak and Sarawakians. He was very vocal about the need for the vaccination programme to be carried out quickly during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
Masing, who was Baleh state assemblyman, died at the Normah Sarawak Medical Centre (NSMC) in Petra Jaya, Kuching at 7.05am.
He was admitted to the intensive care unit at the Sarawak General Hospital in September after testing positive for Covid-19 and was later transferred to NSMC for further treatment. — Bernama