Wednesday, January 19

The Big Shoes of Adenan Satem


“I LOVE Sarawak and I want the people of Sarawak to love and care for Sarawak as much as I do.”

The 5th Chief Minister of Sarawak had left this Fairland Sarawak with those parting words.

In his three-year reign, “Sarawak” and “Sarawakians” had meant much more to the people of Sarawak and the world at large than the last 53 years.

This Fairland and her people were on his mind until his last breath.

Correspondingly, the name “Adenan Satem” was carved in the hearts of all Sarawakians.

The outpouring of Sarawakian feelings for this honourable statesman and favourite son of Sarawak was unprecedented as far as my memory goes.

The sombre mood had enveloped Sarawak beyond the seven-day mourning period. Sarawakians everywhere continue to show their love for him in their social media postings, prayers and vigils, one and all, in his memory.

In his memory, the 50 principles and actions he adhered to and implemented.

In his memory, the multi-racial, multi-cultural and secular Sarawak is reinforced.

In his memory, Sarawakians stand united for the Sarawak we all love.

In his memory, Sarawakians dare to dream.

For want of a better expression, many praised and complimented him for his “big shoes that will be hard to fill.”

Within 50 hours, our accomplished governor, who hand-picked Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem as his successor, quickly appointed the longest serving member of the Sarawak State Assembly and State Cabinet, also an equally affable leader Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg to be the 6th Chief Minister of Sarawak. At once, people started to speculate and gauge the size of the new CM’s feet.

The English idioms are beautiful, but the combination of words or phrase are not to be taken literally. Indeed, someone who “bought the farm” did not really purchase any farm.

Most probably, my own constraints, I sometimes find the English idioms limited, comparing with those of the Chinese.

I am not comfortable with the “big shoes” because though it is complimentary of our beloved Adenan Satem, it inflicts injustice unto our incoming new CM.

In Chinese, there are more fitting words and phrases – from the countless poems, idioms and verses of authoritative teachings.

Coming immediately to mind are: Chang Jiang hou lang tui qian lang, fushi xin ren huan jiuren and Jiang shandai you cai ren chu, ge ling feng sao shu bainian.

Chang Jiang or the Yangtze River is the longest river in China and third longest in the world. The colossal 6,300km long river covers an area of more than 1.8 million sq kms or one-fifth of the total land area of China. Together with Huang He or the Yellow River, they are the mother rivers of China, cradle of the Chinese civilisation.

In or about AD 1050, during the Song Dynasty, famous poet and historian Liu Fu had in his collection of stories and legends recounted this famous ancient poem about the waves of the Yangtze River that they pushed forward incessantly, epitomising or symbolising the metaphor of people and things continuing to change and move forward.

The second poem came from Zhao Yi, a learned researcher and poet, who mentored scholars in the Imperial Academy during the Qing Dynasty. This reformist writer encouraged critical thinking and expression of the practice of everyday life in poems.

In this second poem, he referred to two most famous poets during the Tang Dynasty – LiBai and DuFu – who were contemporaries. They lived 300 years before Zhao Yi.

Praising the two, he said millions of the people had learnt their poems and adored their good works, that they would be remembered for years to come. But Zhao Yi, in his elegant words, expressed that more talented people have and will emerge in this country, in every generation, and their contributions will make them eminent and the people will equally honour them for hundreds of years.

It is worthy to mention that LiBai and DuFu were poets of different characters. LiBai was always optimistic about life, DuFu was very much a pessimist. However, because of them, the time of the Tang Dynasty was the heyday of Chinese poetries.

Were the Chinese more positive? Not really, I don’t want to bore readers with negative Chinese poems which numbered to hundreds, or even thousands. Again, I didn’t get to read most of them. The Chinese poems, idioms and verses run to hundreds of thousands.

The English idioms had and are developing through time, too.

Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of America, was obviously unhappy when people told him that his predecessor had left him with a “big shoe to be filled.”

Addressing the huge crowd who were there to cheer him at his inauguration, the prominent former president made this statement 200 years ago: “I’ve got big shoes to fill. This is my chance to do something. I have to seize the moment.”

When he was 13 years old, young Andrew Jackson refused to obey the humiliating order of a British officer to clean his boots and was almost killed for that. Through his life of defiance and perseverance, he became a major general who challenged the might of both the British and Spanish empires.

He took the chances to do anything for his beloved country, seized all the moments that came his way to do something for his motherland. He went on to be elected the president of a great nation. He was much loved and is considered one of the greatest American presidents.

With his built, I can only guess that our dear former CM had a few pairs of Size-11 Burberry dress shoes.

Why Burberry? You may ask.

My observant cousin sister told me about her ‘discovery’ one day – the beloved former CM’s jackets, shirts and polo-Ts were mostly from Burberry. She sent me close-up pictures to prove her ‘discovery.’

I was curious and became more observant over the last year. He did prefer apparels of that brand. But I must confess I did not observe the make of his shoes. I didn’t know there are Burberry shoes. I am more comfortable with my trainer and running shoes of any sporting brands.

I do not know what brand the new CM prefers but he surely has his tailor for his jackets and dress shirts.  With the difference in builds, the late good CM’s branded jackets and dress shirts will only appear as those “off-the-rack” apparels which are not perfect fit for our new good CM.

Likewise for the job, the new CM must tailor it to have a good fit.The late former CM had done a great job to earn the reputation and a place in every Sarawakian’s heart. He has made the tailoring of the job most challenging.

Datuk Amar Abang Johari appears to have made excellent few first cuts.

The new CM is of pleasant and gentle temperament – alike the former CM.

The new CM has expressed his vision and mission which closely matched those of the former CM, openly pledged to honour the predecessor’s legacy.

The new CM has kept the team and the structure which have worked well under the former CM.

The next cuts will be challenging. Those will show how the new CM is seizing the moments and taking the chances to make alignments, adjustments and to grow the job in order to bring Sarawak forward.

His jackets are not for the corporate realm. There is no board of directors or superiors to wow. But there are almost three million Sarawakians who are training their eyes on the jackets.

Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem’s parting words are nothing derogatory. He knew the people of Sarawak love and care for Sarawak as much as he did. It was his parting plea and prayer that Sarawakians would continue to love and care for Sarawak with the same spirit and grit, to accomplish all that Sarawak deserves and show the world what Fairland Sarawak can be.

“Yes, we love Sarawak as much as you do!” Showing their feelings for him, Sarawakians are telling the honourable statesman that in their prayers, vigils and messages.

“Yes, we will add glory to our fairland Sarawak.”

The way forward is pathed. The three million Sarawakians are helping to fill the “big shoes.” They are heading in one same direction.

Will Datuk Amar Abang Johari seize the moment to add his footprints in front of those of these three million Sarawakians, and be honoured for generations to come?

He will. He must.