KUCHING, Jan 12 – Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi tonight spent about 30 minutes to pay his last respects to former Sarawak cabinet minister Tan Sri Celestine Ujang Jilan.
Ujang, who was also former speaker of Sarawak State Assembly, died from illness on Wednesday in a private hospital here. He was 70 years-old.
In his short speech, Ahmad Zahid urged his family to accept his death and remain patient adding he befriended Ujang since 1989 when they were together in Barisan Nasional (BN) Youth.
He considered Ujang’s family as his own and described Ujang as a good friend and a credible leader.
Ahmad Zahid said he visited Ujang three times since he fell ill.
Ujang was Kemena state assemblyman from 1974 to 200 and also former Sarawak Youth and Sports minister and former Housing and Land Development minister.
His remains will be buried at Nirvana Cemetery, Jalan Kuching-Bau Siniawan at 1.30pm tomorrow after prayers at St Joseph’s Church, Kuching.
Meanwhile, Kemena state assemblyman Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi Utom said the people of Kemena were really sad to hear news of Ujang’s death on Wednesday evening.
Rundi who is Sarawak Public Utilities Minister said the late Ujang brought a lot of changes to Kemena and lifted the people’s livelihood via various socio economic programmes particularly land development projects.
“We in Kemena were very reluctant when he informed us about his intention to retire in 2001 because he was quite young (54-year-old) at that time.
Dr Rundi said after his retirement from politics in 2001, Ujang remained loyal to PBB and continued to give his guidance, which the party leaders and members cherished the most.
“We will continue his endeavour to see a progressive and developed Kemena and that now Sebauh is a full-fledged district, thanks to his contributions and may soul rest in peace,” added Rundi when contacted today.
Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg and wife Datin Patinggi Datuk Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang represented the state government in paying last respects to Ujang at his residence yesterday.
Abang Johari described Ujang as a statesman who had sacrificed a lot for Sarawak and his passing was a big loss to Sarawak and PBB.
He said Ujang and other PBB members defended the state government during the popular 1987 Ming Court affair and he had contributed to the stability of Sarawak.
Meanwhile his long time close friend Datuk Peter Minos described the late Ujang as a state assemblyman who was always on the ground to be with his people.
“The late Tan Sri Celestine Ujang was a close friend and we travelled together for years in Bintulu. We moved around and stayed at his longhouse at Sebauh, Bintulu where his constituency (Kamena) was.
“Our favourite spots were Ulu Tubau and Kebulu areas, catching ikan semah and meeting the Kayans and the Punans there.
“Ujang was really a good man. He just did his work as a minister and state assembly speaker to the best of his ability and never said bad things about others even if others said or did bad to him.”
Minos said Ujang was very generous and kind and very considerate to all and most likeable.
Ujang leaves behind wife, Puan Sri Elizabeth Pawa and three daughters, Malvina, Angelina and Priscilla.
His second daughter, Angelina, is the wife of Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development, Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi.
Among state dignitaries who paid their last respects yesterday were Deputy Chief Ministers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan and their wives and state cabinet ministers. — Bernama