Sarawakians, near and far, have all been saddened by the untimely demise of Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem.
His impact and legacy have been unmistakable despite his short tenure as Chief Minister, leaving behind big shoes to fill.
Acting without fear or favour against illegal logging and illegal immigrants, building game-changing rural infrastructures, creating more districts, responding to cries from the man on the street, fighting for greater autonomous powers for Sarawak are just some of the benchmarks he made as Chief Minister that that will forever be remembered.
He launched a war against corruption to rein in illegal logging, warning the industry not to mess with him.
He was steadfast in protecting Sarawak’s religious freedom and promoting cultural diversity at a time when political parties in Peninsular Malaysia were either race- or religious-centric in shoring up support from the grassroots.
His position on the use of the words ‘Allah’ and ‘pendatang’ were reflections of Sarawakian sentiments on these issues which threaten to disrupt our treasured racial and religious co-existence.
In standing up for Sarawakians, he pushed for greater autonomy, striking an accord with the federal government for the devolution of administrative powers to the state government.
My admiration for this well-read, intelligent and articulate politician goes back to the era of the Ming Court Affair when I first became a journalist in 1988 and he was the designated trouble shooter for Sarawak Barisan Nasional and later peacemaker.
He knew his stuff and the straight-shooting Adenan would tell anyone off if they crossed a line or tried to pull the wool over his eyes.
As a former journalist himself, he would dictate the story by paragraphs to reporters.
Once after a field trip to a cattle integration scheme in oil palm plantations in his capacity as Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture back then, he told me to just write a caption story about cows.
“No need to write about me as I am already famous enough,” he quipped.
I disagreed, telling him I would write according to newsworthiness.
Surprisingly, he looked at me and said: “OK.”
Over the years, I would come to know him better, sharing many helicopter flights zig-zagging over the rural areas in northern Sarawak with him.
The helicopter crash at the foot of Mt Murud in Bario which killed his good friend, the late Dato Dr Judson Sakai Tagal in 2004, however, saddened him greatly. So much so that he stopped flying to the Kelabit and Lun Bawang highlands for many years. He needed time and only managed to return to Bario in 2015.
Although he may have come across as aloof to many in the past.
In reality, he was a man with a heart of gold.
With his healthy dose of uncensored humour, wit and deep commanding voice, his ability to engage his audience was par excellence. There was no mistake about him being a man of principle who wouldn’t stand for foolishness or flimsy excuses – and there were no exceptions.
All these came to the fore when he became Chief Minister, traits that would make Sarawakians fall in love with him.
His willingness to pose for wefies was a sharp departure from the stern, straight-talking man of few words of the past.
Everyone in Sarawak loves him. Even Sabahans admire him. And now he is gone. He will be missed by all.