2017 The Year That Was

In memoriam: Pehin Sri Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem (Jan 27, 1944 – Jan 11, 2017).

IT was a sad beginning to 2017 for Sarawak with the untimely passing of former chief minister Pehin Sri Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem on Jan 11 — 10 days before his 73rd birthday.

Adenan was appointed the fifth chief minister of Sarawak on Feb 28, 2014.

His wife, Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu, related that a few days before his death, Adenan had said he loved Sarawak and wanted the people to love and care for the state as much as he had.

Jamilah recalled her husband was cheerful in the last few hours before he breathed his last.

“He decided to take a bath and put on new clothes before asking to be seated facing the view of the forests from his room.

“He then asked Wan Khalik Wan Muhammad (his private secretary) to read to him what was going on in the state, including matters pertaining to state autonomy, particularly on education and English,” she told The Borneo Post at her residence when a team from the paper went to pay their last respects to the great man.

Indeed, it is not an overstatement to say Adenan’s last wishes — consistent with what he was doing during his tenure – shaped the direction for Sarawak in 2017 as well as moving forward.

Without any doubt, Adenan loved Sarawak.

Although he served a little less than three years, he had laid a strong foundation and set a clear direction for his successors and Sarawakians as a whole to continue with the pursuit — and eventual fulfilment — of the state’s aspirations, particularly on the reinstatement of Sarawak’s autonomous rights and its status as an equal partner in Malaysia.

Jamilah unable to contain her emotions upon receiving the state colours from Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. — Photo by Kong Jun Liung

Abang Johari sworn in as Sarawak’s sixth chief minister

Abang Johari signs a document to mark his first day at the Chief Minister’s Office, witnessed by Wan Khalik.

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was sworn in as Sarawak’s sixth chief minister on Jan 13.

Abang Johari, 66, is the youngest son of the first Head of State, the late Tun Abang Openg Sapiee and Toh Puan Hajah Masniah Abdulrahman.

Prior to his appointment as chief minister, he held three state cabinet portfolios — Deputy Chief Minister, Minister of Housing and Urbanisation, as well as Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

As chief minister, he also automatically assumes the presidency of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the backbone of the state Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. He was previously the deputy president.

The chief minister – known to many as ‘Abang Jo’ is from a prominent and influential family, and has been involved in politics since 1977.

He has held the Satok seat since 1981 and is a nine-term assemblyman for that constituency.

Abang Jo calls himself the ‘New Captain of Team Adenan’ and has vowed to follow through on the late chief minister’s programmes for the betterment of the state; albeit with ‘a little of my own style’.

“I will carry on Tok Nan’s (Adenan’s) legacy. Maybe there would be a little change because I cannot be a clone.

“Just like Tok Nan’s ‘Ooh-ha You-You’ — even if I were to emulate him, I would not be able to say it exactly like he did.

“So I will have my own approach, but the fundamental is the same. Of course, we want to improve and the emphasis is still on rural development,” he said when launching the Kuching North City Commission Agenda 2017 on Feb 6.

Abang Jo has made clear his stance on continuing Adenan’s policies, including conservation of forests, continuation of coastal highway projects, fight for state autonomy and restoration of the rights as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), continuous pursuit of 20 per cent oil and gas royalties, as well as maintaining of English as the second official language.

In his first year as head of the state government, Abang Jo has shown that he has the will, wisdom and vision to take Sarawak to the next level of development and progress.

In the political arena, he cleared his first hurdle as chief minister, PBB president and leader of the state BN in the Tanjong Datu by-election, which was called following Adenan’s passing.

In a three-cornered fight, BN candidate Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu — Adenan’s widow — won a landslide victory with a thumping 6,443-vote majority.

Act 355

The state also adopted a firm stance by rejecting the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 – commonly known as Act 355.

“What we suggest is to look at it judiciously. We fear there are discriminatory elements. This is syariah law, nothing to do with hudud. But the only thing we are concerned about is the penalty.

“For example, if I were caught stealing with another friend, who is a non-Muslim, and I am a Muslim. The penalty for me could be higher than his in the syariah court.

“But under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, everybody is equal in the eyes of the law,” he explained at a press conference on March 18.

“So, there must be no discriminatory penalty because we are all equal. He’s Malaysian and I am Malaysian. And though he’s a non-Muslim and

I am a Muslim, the penalty must be equal.”

Abang Jo’s unequivocal stance on the issue, coupled with opposition from the other state BN component parties to the bill, contributed to it being dropped as a government bill.

Launch of Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS)

Abang Johari (third right) unveils the DBOS logo, witnessed by (from right) Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani, Uggah, former deputy chief minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh. — Photo by Chimon Upon

The DBOS was officially launched on Nov 3 to ensure continued balance between the state’s investments and savings in the effort to speed up development.

“Economists know if we don’t use our reserves to invest, it is also costs called opportunity costs — meaning costs of lost opportunities because we did nothing to our money.

“Opportunity costs do not appear in the account books but it’s important in the decision-making process. What I mean is there is a need to ensure a balance between our reserves and investments without depleting our reserves. This is the primary role the Development Bank of Sarawak,” Abang Jo said at the official launching of DBOS.

Research on MA63

A team of lawyers travelled to London to search for studies and references related to the state’s rights under Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Abang Jo said this was a sequel to Adenan’s efforts to regain state rights as embodied in MA63.

“This agreement (MA63) is not simply an agreement — we want to get the facts right because if we want to make a claim, we must do our homework; otherwise, we are just shooting at the target without hitting it,” he pointed out.

While in London, the research team found documents on the ‘Continental Shelf’, confirming the ownership rights of the state to the natural resources on the seabed and in the subsoil of the Continental Shelf within the boundaries of Sarawak as defined in the ‘Order in Council’.

Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, who led the team to London, said these were among the findings they had come across through research and study of the documents, which originated from Sarawak before Sept 16, 1963, but were classified by the Colonial Administration as ‘secret’ and ‘confidential’.

“These documents form what’s termed as the ‘Migrated Archives’ — those that have been declassified by UK government and stored in the British National Archives.

“The documents were no longer in the custody of the state government after Sept 16, 1963,” she said in a press statement on Aug 9 after the research team had briefed the chief minister on their findings.

Additionally, Sharifah Hasidah said they had obtained British Government Cabinet Papers relating to the Cobbold Commission’s Report and its views on granting Sarawak’s independence with regard to the formation of the new Federation of Malaysia — apart from documents

on the formation of Malaysia, including minutes of meetings of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC), leading to the publication of the IGC Report.

“Copies of these documents have been obtained by the team from the British National Archives and the Commonwealth Library and Archive at Marlborough House in London.

“The government is studying them to ascertain the basis for the recommendations contained in the IGC Report regarding the constitutional safeguards for Sarawak and what further actions that need to be taken in order to have them fully implemented under Article VIII of the Malaysia Agreement — if they have not already been incorporated in the Federal Constitution or by executive, legislative or other action since Sept 16, 1963.”

Sharifah Hasidah also said the documents, obtained by the team, would add strength to the state’s position in discussions with federal government on devolution of powers (DOP) and towards resolution of various constitutional matters under deliberation in these discussions.

NCR Land

The Native Customary Rights (NCR) land issue continues to be a much-debated topic, and the state government has pledged to continue to assist in resolving it.

A special taskforce, headed by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, was set up to address the various issues affecting NCR land status such as ‘pulau galau’ (forest reserves) and ‘pemakai menoa’ (territorial / communal domain), which the Federal Court has ruled as having ‘no force of law’.

On Nov 13, some 1,000 people gathered at the Old Courthouse near Kuching Waterfront for a peaceful NCR land rally, aimed at creating public awareness of the frustration of the natives of Sarawak over the alleged exploitation of their native land.

Local opposition pact formalised

DAP Sarawak, PKR Sarawak and Amanah Sarawak officially formed a coalition called Pakatan Harapan Sarawak to take on BN in all the 31 parliamentary seats across the state in the 14th general election (GE14).

In a joint press statement, DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen, PKR Sarawak chairman Baru Bian and Amanah Sarawak chairman Fidzuan Zaidi also disclosed that they had concluded seat allocation negotiations among the three parties for GE14.

ICT quantum leap

The Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) was launched on Dec 13 with the unveiling of the first version of the Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy Book 2018-2022, heralding the digitalisation transformation of the state to be at the forefront of the digital world.

SMA, as the lead authority for Sarawak’s digital economy transformation, would oversee and regulate the state’s digital strategies and initiatives.

“2030 is the year we want Sarawak to be a developed state in Malaysia with a high-income economy. There must not be any rural and urban divide by then; hence digital connectivity is important,” Abang Jo said at the launch ceremony.

Sarawak’s O&G company Petros

The chief minister announced the appointment of Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr Hamid Bugo as chairman of the newly-formed Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros) on Aug 25.

Hamid is a former state secretary and has worked with Malaysia LNG Sdn Bhd in Bintulu.

The board members are Dato Mohammad Medan Abdullah, Sharbini Suhaili, Zuraimi Sabki and Heng Hock Cheng.

The primary object of setting up Petros is to enable Sarawak to participate in upstream oil and gas development, particularly the exploration and extraction of oil and gas within Sarawak’s waters.

This initiative is in line with the state’s aspiration to create better job opportunities for local talents and to attract Sarawak talents and expertise currently serving outside the state.

DUN revokes Dr Ting’s status

Dr Ting speaks to reporters outside the court in Kuching.

On May 12, the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) resolved to disqualify Dr Ting Tiong Choon (DAP-Pujut) as an elected representative over the issue of his purported dual citizenship.

This followed an overwhelming 70 votes from BN assemblymen in favour of a ministerial motion to the effect, tabled by Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh.

Dr Ting sunsequently filed an Originating Summons in the High Court on June 7 to challenge the decision.

The High Court overturned the ministerial motion and reinstated Dr Ting. An appeal by the government is pending.

Continuing the legacy

Sarawak is helmed by a seasoned and experienced politician who has embarked on a series of transformation initiatives, despite being in the office for less than one year.

Abang Jo’s repeated assurances that Adenan’s key achievements would serve as a strong impetus for the government to propel Sarawak to greater heights, should motivate and inspire the state to move forward and face the future with confidence.

Abang Jo will no doubt continue to administer the state with foresight and judiciousness to ensure continued development, progress and prosperity for the people in this ‘Fair Land Sarawak’.

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