Thousands of Sarawakians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds bid an emotional farewell to their beloved chief minister.
KUCHING: As the Muslim congregation led the recital of “Surah Yasin”, a few “Hail Marys” were quietly added to the mix at the state funeral of Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem today.
Joining a crushing crowd of thousands at the state mosque here, was Sister Patricia Chan, who silently offered an intercessory prayer of her own for the repose of Adenan’s soul.
“We didn’t expect this. My brother broke the news to me. I can’t find words to describe my sadness. We miss him a lot because he was such a good man and a great statesmen and very gutsy,” said Sister Patricia, a Franciscan nun.
A member of the St Teresa’s school board, Sister Patricia said Adenan played a direct role in the welfare of the 132-year-old Catholic mission school. She remembered vividly the great fire of Oct 29 last year that gutted one of its main buildings.
“He (Adenan) helped us immediately when the fire broke out. Just a few days later, we got a cheque from the government for RM1 million. We collected it on Nov 2,” the 60-year-old said.
Sister Patricia also fondly recalled how she bumped into Adenan once on the street and was nervous about how to address him correctly.
“I didn’t know what to call him. He said, never mind, call me anything you like,” the nun said, fondly adding that the late chief minister was “very informal, very friendly, very approachable.”
“He did a lot. Even though he had only two years (as chief minister), he did a lot. (He was) very caring and very concerned about the wellbeing of the people. He was a real Sarawakian to us. We are very proud of him,” she added, looking visibly sad.
Safiee Leh, 54, meanwhile attended Adenan’s funeral with over a hundred members of the Borneo Island Big Bikers Club.
“He (Adenan) was an icon. We loved him so much. We feel like we have lost a family member,” said Safiee, who is the club’s former road captain.
Safiee said his bikers were apolitical but wore the Team Adenan shirt today to show their deep respect for their leader.
“He did not only look after the Bumi(puteras). He gave his attention to the whole community of Sarawak. Hopefully there will be someone to carry on his legacy,” he said of Adenan.
The state funeral also drew thousands of loyal party members, among them Ramli Tahir, a tradesman, who travelled 60km from Kampung Semera, a village in Sadong Jaya.
“We want to pay our final respects to the late chief minister,” said Ramli, 45, who was accompanied by his father and several relatives.
“Adenan did so much to improve the lives of ordinary people, like removing the toll (booths) and ferries. There has never been a chief minister like him before,” said Ramli.
He said his family was shocked to hear of their beloved chief minister’s demise.
“We knew he wasn’t well. But we thought his health would improve and he would serve out his final term at least,” he said.
Meanwhile, a state opposition leader, who frequently clashed with members of the ruling state government over policies and alleged corruption, said Adenan “left a good legacy”.
“I think each and every Sarawakian can acknowledge that he preserved peace between the religious groups and tempered issues concerning race. He was very quick to act,” said DAP Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei, also praising Adenan for putting a stop to rampant deforestation by freezing timber licences.
“But particularly important, he spoke up for Sarawakians with regard to autonomy and oil royalties.
“He was the first Barisan Nasional chief minister to do so. Although that has yet to yield any fruit, we acknowledge his contributions and hope his successor will continue his work,” Wong said.