Abang Johari (seated right) speaks to the media while (seated from left) Uggah, Mohd Abu Bakar, (back row, from left) Hii, Ahmad Nadzri, Dr Sim, Fatimah and Abdul Karim look on. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Feb 21): The imposing Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex building overlooking the Sarawak River symbolises the late Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s devotion to democracy, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said Taib boasted an illustrious public service career that began in the 1960s and he had served tremendously in federal capacity under three Prime Ministers, namely Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn, for the betterment of the country and the state.

“Taib is a strong believer in mutual understandings among various religious groups for the development of humanity, particularly when Sarawak enjoys a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society,” said an emotional Abang Johari during a sombre press conference at the VIP terminal of Kuching International Airport here today.

Also at the press conference were deputy premiers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian; Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah; Women, Early Childhood and Community Wellbeing Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah; Sarawak Federal Secretary Datuk Ahmad Nadzri Mohd Hassan; State Secretary Datuk Amar Mohd Abu Bakar Marzuki; and Deputy State Secretary Dato Hii Chang Kee.

Abang Johari, who was holding back his tears, remembered Taib as a teacher who guided him throughout his political career, as well as working shoulder to shoulder in overcoming various challenges and stabilising local politics back in the days.

“The late Taib has always been very generous in sharing his experience with us,” he said, explaining the former head of state was a big fan of P Ramlee movies that highlighted the issue of inequality in a society.

Throughout the thirty-over years of holding the top office in the state, Abang Johari said Taib’s Politics of Development policy was anchored on lifting the standards of living of the people, particularly the smallholders, and realising the potential of natural resources uncovered in the state.

“I managed to pay a visit to Taib yesterday (Tuesday) and for me to see his face, I had such a strong feeling.”

On that note, Abang Johari underlined his commitment to continue the legacy of preserving racial harmony in the state.

With the passing of Taib, Abang Johari announced that the state is observing two days of mourning starting today, and all national and Sarawakian flags in the state are to be flown at half-mast.

Entertainment activities are to be postponed and houses of worship are encouraged to hold prayers in remembrance of Taib.

Taib passed away at 4.40am at a private hospital in Kuala Lumpur early this morning and members of the public can pay their last respect to the statesman at the DUN complex tomorrow starting 8am to 12pm.

He will be laid to rest at his family cemetery at Demak Jaya tomorrow (Feb 22).