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Sunday, 16 February 2014

End of an era

Goodbye and thank you Taib, congratulations Adenan

I WOULD like to congratulate Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who has been announced as the next Chief Minister of Sarawak.

Adenan will take over from long-serving Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who submitted his resignation effective Feb 28. He is widely expected to be appointed as the next Head of State.

His resignation and retirement as Chief Minister after years of speculation has been generally welcomed by most quarters.

While I quite often criticise some of his decisions and policies, I totally admire him for his political skills that have kept him in power.

I must wholeheartedly thank him for his contributions to the progress of Sarawak during his tenure.

No doubt we have achieved tremendous progress — he has brought political stability as well as racial and religious harmony that are the envy of the whole nation.

His longevity has been attributed by some quarters to concerns that there were no capable successors to fill in his undoubtedly big shoes.

I had written in this column previously that one of the greatest legacies a leader can leave behind is succession planning. Otherwise whatever hard earned achievements can disappear in a moment.

In this regard I think his choice of Adenan seems to be a step in the right direction, even though it may not go down well with some grassroots supporters of the other candidates. They may rightly claim that leaders should be democratically elected.

I am also very thankful to Taib for his views relating to the recent religious tension in Peninsular Malaysia arising from the use of the word “Allah”.

He has also successfully managed state-federal relations. While nobody likes outside interference, I don’t believe that the “Sarawak for Sarawakians” should be the clarion call for anything and everything.

The challenge is to strike a fair balance. What is in the national interest must also be in the state interest. I think Taib has managed this quite well. For these we owed him our gratitude.

For all his achievements I would like to believe that Taib himself would be the first to admit that much more can be done for ordinary Sarawakians.

Issues of corruption and cronyism are never far away during his tenure.

As a social activist and unionist, I was very disappointed when in 2005 he allowed exception to employers not to accord overtime, annual leave, sick leave and public holidays to those earning between RM2,000 to RM2,500.

In 2009, almost half of workers in Sarawak earn less than RM700, way below the poverty line of RM942. It was only this year that minimum wage was fully implemented, over the vehement objections of Sarawakian tycoons.

Thousands of Sarawakians have left the state to seek better paying jobs in the peninsula. At the same time we welcome tens of thousands of low wage foreign workers.

Efforts to generate higher value jobs must be the top priority. Household debts is worrying. Almost 300,000 people have sought the assistance of Bank Negara’s debt management agency to manage their personal debts.

Issues such as cheep beer must be tackled head on. I had my biannual medical check-up last Thursday.

The test revealed that I have early indication of fatty liver — most likely a result of consuming alcohol. While the doctor reassured me that my conditions are mild and not a major concern, he did say that more people are diagnosed with liver issues. He identified this as related to consumption of alcohol.

Smuggled beer is not only a tax avoidance issue, it is becoming a health issue. It has led to social issues, detrimental to productivity and contributes to domestic and family strife.

In all his years as CM, I never had the opportunity to meet Taib officially to present the views and aspirations of workers.

In this regard I noted that I had the opportunity to meet Adenan when he was Social Development Minister in 1992, when we presented a memorandum on the issues affecting workers.

The Union Yes Retreat had the opportunity to host his stay on a few occasions. We hope he was satisfied with our service.

We also hope his appointment as CM would bring more infrastructure development to transform Lundu/Sematan into a tourism destination for locals and foreign tourists.

Lack of affordable housing will be a big challenge for Adenan. More than anything the concern for ordinary Sarawakians is not political battles but the increase in the cost of living.

At the end of the day political stability, economic development, impressive growth figures, billions in foreign investments will account for nothing if we cannot afford to earn a decent living.

Income disparity has increased during the past 40 years. Sarawak is blessed with rich natural resources and vast land areas. The challenge is still to a find a better way to ensure that ordinary Sarawakians have a fair share in this wealth.

While I wish Taib long life and happy retirement, I am against hero worship so will not wish that we should clone him but all Sarawakians should forever be grateful to him.

Leading Sarawak for the past 40 years has taken so much of his time from his family and personal interest.

Let Taib enjoy his golden years and to reflect on his achievements in his quiet moments with family, grandchildren and childhood friends.

We must be confident in ourselves as a people, as a nation, as a state that there are others who are capable and will lead Sarawak to greater heights. Otherwise we are only insulting ourselves.

Congratulations to Adenan, and let us work together to make Sarawak better for everyone, especially the ordinary folk.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion , Sarawak , Goodbye Thank you Taib and Congratulations Adenan


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