Adenan went beyond mere rhetoric, turning his promises into actions to secure Sarawak's future.
Many did not know who Adenan Satem was when he took over the reins of government from Abdul Taib Mahmud in 2014. This was despite his having been an official of Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu since the mid-1970s.
Today, there is hardly anyone in Malaysia who hasn’t heard of him, no doubt because of his no-nonsense approach in running Sarawak the way he believed was right, even if it meant going against the federal leadership.
Among his chief struggles was to get Putrajaya to honour the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and thereby give back to Sarawak its rights as a partner equal to Peninsular Malaysia in the Malaysian federation. He did not request these rights, but demanded them, albeit without threats.
Unlike his predecessor, he took a strong stance against unbridled extraction of timber from his state, pushing for sustainable logging and stopping the issuance of new logging and plantation licences.
He also had a clear stand against racial politics and took radical action to ensure that the communal narratives of Peninsular Malaysia would not reach Sarawak’s shores. He vowed to quit if Umno set up shop in the state.
Time and again, he sought to reassure the Chinese that they were not “pendatangs” and said the word “Allah” could be used by all and that there should not be any restrictions on the distribution of Bahasa Melayu bibles in the state.
He recognised the importance of the Unified Examination Certificate and independent Chinese schools, even though this was not in line with the national education policy.
He encouraged the use of English in the state, even making it an official language in state government correspondence, and he placed emphasis on technical education.
Adenan also pressed Putrajaya to honour its commitments in relation to the Pan Borneo Highway and Petronas to prioritise Sarawakians in its operations in the state.
In the state election last May, the people responded to their new hero with an overwhelming vote. Barisan Nasional won 72 of the 82 seats available. A number of political analysts attributed the whopping victory to the “Adenan factor”.
In his first few months as chief minister, Adenan said;
“I am not the chief minister of the Malays, of the Chinese, or of the Ibans and so on, but a chief minister for everyone. I am the chief minister of all the people, including the opposition.”
Indeed, Adenan proved to truly be a chief minister for all and his demise leaves an emptiness in the hearts of many.