PETALING JAYA: After being Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) deputy president for two decades, Datuk Daniel Tajem is finally in charge of the party.
Tajem and the man he replaced as party president, Datuk Amar Leo Moggie, formed PBDS in 1983 after the two lost in their bid for the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) leadership in 1981.
They caused a split in SNAP when they insisted that the party be Dayak-based and should not be led by Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min.
This led to the introduction of the term “Dayakism” and the formation of PBDS.
Tajem was born on March 15, 1936 in Sungai Tanju, Kuching. He is married with three children.
His secondary education was in St Thomas’ School in Kuching.
He became the first Iban lawyer when he completed his LLB in Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.
Tajem’s colourful and controversial political career started in 1973 when he joined SNAP.
In 1974, as a SNAP candidate, he won the Lingga state seat and successfully defended it in the 1979 state elections.
On March 23, 1981, Tajem became Sarawak deputy chief minister with the portfolio of Agriculture and Rural Development. It was a post he held until 1987.
In 1983, as a PBDS candidate, he defended his Lingga seat in 1983 and won. And in the 1986 general election, he was elected the Batang Lupar MP.
Tajem became a pepper farmer when he lost his Lingga seat by 59 votes in 1987. Four years later, he regained the seat that was later re-delineated Bukit Bengunan.
In 1996, he accepted the post of Malaysian High Commissioner to New Zealand which he served until Aug 16, 2000.
During the 2000 party election, Tajem was challenged by Datuk Dr James Jemut Masing for the deputy presidency.
Tajem retained the post but Moggie appointed Masing as party information chief.
When asked yesterday how he felt now that he is president, Tajem said, “I don’t feel anything. It is a responsibility thrust upon me by party members who support me as an alternative to Datuk Leo.”