Taib — Father of modern Sarawak


This photo, taken in 1967, shows Taib traversing the swamp trail during a visit to his constituency in Samarahan. — Photo provided by Astana Negeri Sarawak

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KUCHING (July 17): Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud is one of those rare breed of politicians who has helped transform Sarawak from a mere backwater area in the 1960s into a modern and progressive region in Malaysia today.

The Miri-born, Adelaide-trained lawyer has been in Sarawak’s political scene since the formation of Malaysia in 1963 right until today, in his capacity as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak.

In a press release issued by Astana Negeri in connection with the Sarawak’s 60 Years of Independence celebration, Taib said serving Sarawak for him had been ‘a calling’, as he actually had options after having graduated in 1960.

His political journey in transforming Sarawak began when he was appointed Minister of Communications and Works under the first chief minister of Sarawak Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan’s cabinet.

Recalling those days, Taib said developing Sarawak was ‘a daunting task’ as it was a vast, geographically-challenging and under-developed state.

“On many occasions, we had to think outside the box in order to implement infrastructure development so as to ensure that we could maximise our resources to benefit the general populace,” he said.

Taib pointed out that in those days, beside the threat of the communist insurgency, Sarawak also lacked the necessary funding to implement projects to tackle the harsh environment and terrains especially in the vast interior areas of the state.

“But thank God, we have managed to overcome those challenges with capable people who were really hardworking, in order to implement basic infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges to connect major towns such as Simanggang, Sibu Miri and Limbang right up to Lawas,” he added.

After a stint at the state-level, Taib was called by then-prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, to be part of the Federal Cabinet, where he excelled in all the portfolios assigned to him such as Minister of General Planning and Socio-Economic Research, Minister of Primary Industries, Minister of Defence and finally, as Minister of Federal Territories.

Taib was appointed as the fourth chief minister of Sarawak on March 26, 1981.

Also serving as then-Minister of Resource Planning, Taib was able to implement major projects that brought maximum development to Sarawak through his ‘Politics of Development’, which formed the basis of his policy.

“The ‘Politics of Development’ was a holistic approach in balancing the whole spectrum of socio-economic development that involved the whole strata of society regardless of race and religion,” stressed Taib.

He also introduced the concept of ‘The Confluence of Rivers’ to educate the people about the need to respect one another in Sarawak’s multi-religious and multi-racial society.

Taib, now Sarawak’s seventh Head of State following his appointment on Feb 28, 2014, said the current peace and harmony must be ‘continuously encouraged and preserved’.

“At the same time, I would also like to urge our younger generation to appreciate the current political stability that we have been enjoying, which must not be taken for granted,” he advised in his message issued in connection with Sarawak’s 60th anniversary of independence within Malaysia.

He also said Sarawakians must continue to respect their leaders just like they respected their parents.

“This way, we would be able to continue to transform Sarawak, which aims to achieve a developed status by 2030,” he added.