Like his peers, he was a playful and naughty little boy. He had fun playing cowboy and tarzan, and his feat in swimming across a river is a dare for most of the kids today.
That was a carefree and happy childhood for Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud in small town Miri, where he was born and raised.
“I was a busybody and a bit naughty. In a small town where everybody knows everybody, there is always something that gives you the reason to play. We played all sorts of funny things.
“We played rounders (similar to baseball), cowboys and tarzans just for fun. I had a free and happy childhood,” said Taib in an interview.
Just as Miri has come of age and reached maturity in development, Taib has risen to the pinnacle of his political career – as the country’s longest serving Chief Minister as he is into his 24th year in office – and still going strong.
Amidst elaborate celebrations for its city status today, the oil capital prides itself to have produced several prominent “anak Miri” at the helm of the state’s leadership and as top state administrators.
Among them were Taib’s childhood friends Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam (Deputy Chief Minister) and Tan Sri Bujang Mohd Nor (former state secretary). The other is Federal Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui (Plantations and Commodities Minister).
After primary school, Taib left Miri in 1951 to continue his secondary education in Kuching, and he later graduated with a law degree in Australia.
Going down memory lane to talk about his happy childhood moments and sharing his vision for a better Miri, Taib spoke of the privilege he enjoyed as his father worked for a Shell exploration team.
“In the old days as children of Shell employees, you can go once or twice a week for the movies (screened) at the padang (field).
“While watching and enjoying the movies, we start pinching each other and at the same time running around the field.
“We quarrel but five minutes later we laugh like hell and become friends again. There is no malice and spike in our relationship.”
Taib’s another fond past-time was shuttling between Miri and Seria, Kuala Belait, Brunei Darusalam to watch football matches between Shell employees.
During his school days, Taib said the pupils were not bothered about their different racial and religious background, and they had accepted racial differences as what they were having in the society.
“We mix well with each other even well before the concept of a multi-racial Malaysia is developed. We think that what is more important is to make life a success and more pleasant for everybody.
“What l cherish most about Miri is the free spirit that recognises us to work for the betterment all the times. Miri is the first place in Sarawak where the seed of modern economy has been planted and its people learn to become more resilient.
“In keeping alive the spirit of striving for a better life, we can build up the economics of scale to upgrade our purchasing power.”
Taib said Miri was a good example for towns aspiring to become a metropolis to emulate.
He said the city day celebration was a fitting occasion for people of Miri to realise that hard work and resilience did pay.
Well-planned Miri, he added, had the potential to grow into a grand city, if the people joined hands to upkeep its cleanliness and beauty, enhance its environmental quality and check social problems.
“We have to encourage social and cultural activities that make people interact in a healthy manner.
“We have to build an identity with a sense of pride that makes a city exciting.”
Expecting more tourists to flock into Miri which is home to famed eco-tourism attractions like the Mulu Caves and the Niah National Park, Taib said a marina would be developed, and the city’s beautiful coral reefs in South China Sea was being promoted for international diving lovers.
To his hometown folks, Taib said: “You have got the spirit to achieve betterment all the times, and the resilience to adjust to new situation.
“This is the biggest gift anyone can have. Keep it up as this is the secret of success.”
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