Something in store for Kak Milah

An election poster of Jamilah juxtaposed with that of her late husband and former Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Tan Sri Adenan Satem. — Photo by Chimon Upon

An election poster of Jamilah juxtaposed with that of her late husband and former Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Tan Sri Adenan Satem. — Photo by Chimon Upon

JUST a week after the passing of Tanjong Datu assemblyman and former Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem on Jan 11, the people of Lundu have voiced their preference for his widow Datin Patinggi Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu to be the BN candidate for the by-election in the constituency.

In a random survey in Lundu that followed shortly after, the vast majority of the locals clearly indicated they want Jamilah whom they fondly call Kak Milah, to be their candidate.

So when Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg made the announcement on Feb 1, confirming Jamilah’s candidacy, it was, in fact, an open secret to the media.

As Jamilah is still observing the iddah (mourning period of a Muslim woman after the death of her spouse), she will have to be home-bound for the next 130 days, and will not be joining the campaign. But the BN has pledged to assist her in the hustings.

Jamilah did make a brief appearance when filing her papers on Nomination Day on Feb 4. She was subsequently whisked away by her family members and relatives.

For many political analysts, the result of the by-election is a forgone conclusion. They are ‘very optimistic’ Jamilah will be able defend her late husband’s seat for the BN in the polls on Feb 18.

During the first week of campaigning, most of the voters we met had expressed their wish for Jamilah to continue the legacy of Adenan or Tok Nan as the former Chief Minister is known affectionately by Sarawakians.

Tok Nan had been the assemblyman of Tanjong Datu ever since the seat was created in 2006. Most of the local people – Malays, Ibans, Chinese and Bidayuhs – describe the couple – Tok Nan and Kak Milah – as very loving and close to them. They fondly recalled Tok Nan sitting down with them for a chat over coffee and tea during his weekend visits to the area.

His closeness to the constituents was vouched by a local Chinese leader Cr Chen Chung Yee who said Adenan would break with protocol and drop by each time he visited Lundu and Sematan, adding that the former Chief Minister was also close to the Chinese community in the two areas.

“Just before he was taken ill – and his passing on Jan 11 – he asked me to organise the Chinese New Year gathering here. As usual, I started getting things organised for the big occasion – then we received the sad news of his sudden passing,” Chen told thesundaypost in Lundu recently.

He said they had been friends ever since Adenan first stood as the BN candidate in Tanjong Datu way back in 2006.

“I first got to know him when he asked me to rally the Chinese here to support him. I agreed and he never forgot. In return, he helped the Chinese community here with so many projects, including our Chung Hua School and the temple. In fact, he had big plans for Lundu and Sematan to become a main tourism hub.”

For Adenan’s continuous support to the community over the past decade, Chen hopes the Chinese will give their undivided support to his widow in the by-election.

“That’s the only way we can repay all his good deeds,” he said.

Shared sentiments

Chen’s sentiments are shared by the Malay, Iban and Bidayuh communities.

A Malay community leader Cr Abu Seman Karim believes Jamilah would be able to carry on Adenan’s legacy and hopes she will be made a full minister or at least an assistant minister if she won the election.

“It would be awkward for her to be just an ordinary YB, given her status as the state’s former first lady. So we hope she will at least be appointed an assistant minister or better still, a full minister. God willing, we hope she will garner a much bigger majority,” he said.

Both Iban and Bidayuh community leaders have also voiced their strong support for Jamilah to be appointed a full minister.

“In that position, she will have a bigger allocation to develop Lundu as a major tourist destination and an education hub,” said Cr Gom Boyet from the Bidayuh community.

He added that the late Chief Minister was close to the people and easy to approach.

“We had a function at the Lundu Waterfront where he was supposed to come but due to his illness, he was represented by Dato Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. We all felt a great loss with his passing.”

Gom said Adenan had planned many projects for Lundu. He hoped they would be completed to benefit the people.

According to Gom, one of Adenan’s favourite projects was the Lundu Waterfront which he (Adenan) implemented to beautify the town.

Michael James, an Iban voter, said he truly missed Adenan as the champion of Sarawak’s autonomous rights, adding that the former Chief Minister was forthright and courageous in fighting to reinstate state rights for Sarawak as spelt out in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“So I think it’s a natural expectation that his widow will be made a minister in order to continue his legacy. Moreover, anything short of that isn’t going to look quite appropriate since she is a Puan Sri as well as a Datuk Amar in her right,” he opined.

Indeed, the much bandied about ‘full minister’ poser was put to the Chief Minister on Nomination Day by a TV reporter.

“Let’s cross the bridge when we come to it,” Abang Johari replied with a broad smile that seemed to indicate his approval of the possibility.

Many political pundits believe the Chief Minister would accommodate the request of the people of Tanjong Datu to consider Jamilah for a Cabinet post.

“It would definitely be awkward for the late Chief Minister’s wife to be just an ordinary YB. She is very different from the other BN backbenchers. So aptly, she should be made at least an assistant minister or better still, a full minster to commensurate her status.

“I believe the BN definitely had something in mind when they decided to field her in the by-election. So let’s wait and see what the CM has in store for her,” noted a political observer who preferred to remain anonymous.

Jamilah who holds a diploma in Secretarial Science from UiTM Sabah, has been active in social work since she was married to Adenan 37 years go.

Judging from the Cabinet lineup announced by Abang Johari after being sworn in as the sixth Chief Minister on Jan 19, there are vacancies to be filled. One post yet to be taken up is for Deputy Chief Minister which has been left vacant following the promotion of Abang Johari as Chief Minister. The other vacancy is for a full minister.

But according to the grapevine, it is now too early to speculate as Jamilah is still observing her mourning period.

The ‘full minister’ topic has become a major talking point, especially in Tanjong Datu – that there is something in store for Jamilah. It’s only a matter of time before the Chief Minister decides to reshuffle his Cabinet.

In the by-election, Jamilah is involved in a three corner-fight. The other two candidates are STAR’s Johnny Aput and Rapelson Richard Hamid from PBDS Baru.

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