Continuing the legacies of Adenan

Jamilah and Adenan in a photo-call with family members after Adenan’s swearing-in as the state’s fifth chief minister in 2014.

On this day last year, someone we admire and love so much suddenly left us. We were shocked, saddened and scared, and we wondered why it had happened so fast.

Couldn’t he have waited till his dreams, your dreams and my dreams had all come true so that we all could continue to say: “Tok Nan, Tok Nan, we love you?”

But the Almighty must have had a greater purpose which we may not have immediately been made to understand. Perhaps, it is to make us stronger so that we can continue Tok Nan’s legacy of fighting for the rights and betterment of this Fairland of ours.

One year on to the untimely passing of former chief minister, Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, many Sarawakians are still grieving in their hearts whenever they remember his ‘Ooha’ and ‘You-you’ signature calls that he used each time he went down to the ground to interact with the people.

His tenure as chief minister of the ‘Land of the Hornbills’ was special because in a short period of just about three years, he had chalked up a number of firsts for the state – with the most talked about being his fortitute to broach and initiate talks on the autonomous rights of Sarawak and his determination to see them through.

On this day to commemorate the first year anniversary of Adenan’s demise, The Borneo Post was graciously granted an interview by his widow, Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu, in which she fondly recalled the memories of her life with the state’s fifth chief minister – the man known to Sarawakians simply as ‘Tok Nan’, the staunch champion of their rights.

How has she been managing since the passing of her husband – a question that is on the lip of Sarawakians since Adenan’s demise one year ago.

To this, she replied: “All human beings have to face the reality of losing a loved one sometime in their life. I still miss him everyday, and I always will till the day I go.

“My children and grandchildren also still miss him everday. But our lives have to go on. I do not think ‘Arwah’ (late Adenan) would want to see me dwell in sadness every day and I would like to believe that he would always want me to be strong.”

Jamilah said being married to Adenan for 37 years has made her a very strong person, adding that she realises it’s never easy being a politician’s wife.

There were days she would grieve his passing by listening to his favourite songs or going to his favourite places, but she keeps telling herself that Allah’s plans are never wrong.

“With every difficulty He puts us in, He will always give comfort. There is always a good in everything even at times, it doesn’t seem to be that way.

File photo shows the loving couple attending the Sarawak Barisan Basional Backbenchers Club Dinner 2016 in Kuching. — Photo by Chimon Upon

“One of Arwah’s favourite surah’s in the Quran is Al-Inshirah: ‘So verily, with the hardship, there is relief’.

“So, I truly believe that despite the deep pain I feel over losing him, God will always provide me with relief and happiness, God willing, in the years to come,” said Jamilah, who is now the assemblywoman for Tanjong Datu.

She noted that being a politician is something new to her. There is more work to be done and more commitments to make and keep but she is taking them all in her stride.

She was always by Adenan’s side throughout his political career – starting from his first election in the state constituency of Muara Tuang, then Batang Sadong and Tanjong Datu – spanning almost all the years of their marriage.

Jamilah said she had learnt first-hand all about being a politician from Adenan himself and being a supportive wife, she would always go down to the ground with him, doing what she could to ensure the success of his election campaigns.

“Being a YB (elected representative) myself now is also a wonderful opportunity to continue his legacies and what he wanted for the people of Tanjong Datu.

“His heart was always close to the people, and I, being the closest person to him throughout his life, know better than anyone else how much it meant to him to help the people of Sarawak.”

Sharing her views on Adenan’s legacies, especially on restoring autonomous rights for Sarawak under Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the use of English as an official language and Chinese education in the state, she said Adenan had made it clear that there was no talk of cessation from Malaysia, but ‘that does not mean we cannot fight for our autonomy as stipulated under the Malaysia Agreement’.

She pointed out that these remarks made by Adenan had ‘symbolically apprehended the Sarawak autonomous rights issues’, saying that her husband had been outspoken about restoring Sarawak’s autonomous rights.

Every human being has to face the reality of losing a loved one someday, says Jamilah, adding: “I still miss him everyday, and I always will till the day I go.”

“Restoration of such autonomous powers will see Sarawak having more say and freedom, and Adenan had proved himself capable when he successfully negotiated the devolution of power to Sarawak by securing 13 provisions of administrative empowerment,” she added.

Jamillah stressed that the use of English is necessary and unavoidable as it is also the language of science and knolwedge.

“Chief Minister Datuk Amar (now Datuk Patinggi) Abang Johari Tun Openg said on Jan 22, 2017, he would continue Adenan’s policy to make English the second official language in Sarawak, whereas the state government had already given recognition to the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) and also to obtain Yayasan Sarawak loans or scholarships as well as for those interested to enter the state civil service.

“All these decisions have made Sarawak one of the most, if not the most, progressive states in the country, particularly in terms of supporting Chinese-medium schools,” Jamillah said, adding that these are the legacies handed to Sarawakians by Adenan.

On Adenan’s stand regarding freedom of religion in the state, she said in a firm tone her late husband had always been a firm believer in religious freedom.

According to Jamillah, Adenan had always told her and his family: ‘I was educated in a mission school and I scored A+ in my Bible studies. All these don’t make me any less a Muslim than I already am’.

“To him, faith is something you hold yourself responsible to. It’s personal. If you are strong in your faith, nothing can take that away from you.

A collection of framed photographs of Adenan that Jamilah still keeps in the house.

“As he had said repeatedly in his speeches, Sarawak is a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural State and to live with one another, people have to understand and respect one another,” she said.

Elaborating on matters of religion, Jamillah pointed out that Sarawak, under the agreement on the formation of Malaysia in 1963 with Malaya, Singapore and Sabah, has no official state religion even though it recognises Islam as the national religion.

She said in some parts of Sarawak, Christian and Muslim families are living together under the same roof, adding that to them, religion is a non-issue because they believe ‘your religion is your religion and my religion is my religion’.

“That’s the way it has been for us in Sarawak for the last hundred years and that’s the way it should be now and in the future.

“That’s the way of our unity and we should always uphold and pass it to the next generation to come.

“For the sake of the bigger picture of unity among Sarawakians, we should be totally against bigotry and religious extremism.”

Jamillah said she is happy that the prevailing racial harmony in the state comes from the heart of Sarawakians who have once again found their love for their homeland.

“It’s like a newfound feeling of pride, togetherness and bonding which is what makes Sarawakians unique in Malaysia or even the world.”

Jamillah said what her husband did was reigniting this patriotic feeling by showing the people how much he cared for the state.

His heart was always close to the people, and I, being the closest person to him throughout his life, know better than anyone else how much it meant to him to help the people of Sarawak. Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu

“By simply sharing his sincere love for Sarawak, everyone could feel it. It brought the people together and despite their differences, the people choose to live in harmony with mutual respect for one another’s cultures and beliefs.”

Jamilah vividly remembers Adenan’s words during his last 48 hours: “You know why I want people of Sarawak to love Sarawak as I love Sarawak? Because if people love Sarawak, then they will take good care of her.”

She said she had many fond memories of their life together, but the one she holds most dear is what he told everyone at their marriage anniversary function: ‘The best thing that has ever happened to me is to be married to Jamillah. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me’.

“I thank Allah SWT for making him my husband and for making the last 37 years with him the best thing in my life too.

“Al-Fatihah, we love you, Daddy,” added Jamilah.

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