KUCHING: Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says he has lost a "beloved brother" in former Sarawak minister and Speaker Tan Sri Celestine Ujang, who passed away on Wednesday night (Jan 10).
"I have known him since 1987 when he was in PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputra) Youth and I was in Umno Youth.
"We were close friends in Barisan Nasional Youth," the Deputy Prime Minister told reporters after paying his respects at Ujang's home in Tabuan Jaya here on Friday night (Jan 12).
Ujang, 70, died at a private hospital here after a long illness.
He is survived by his wife Puan Sri Elizabeth Pawa and three daughters.
Dr Ahmad Zahid conveyed condolences from himself and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to Ujang's family.
He said he last saw Ujang at the latter's 70th birthday celebration last July.
"Before that, I visited him a few times when he fell ill. To Puan Sri (Elizabeth), I regard your family as my family too.
"If you need anything, please let me know."
Dr Ahmad Zahid also said Ujang was a person of good character who began his political career at an early age.
"He set a good example which should be emulated by young political leaders."
A six-term Kemena assemblyman, Ujang held various ministerial positions before serving as Sarawak Legislative Assembly Speaker from 1981 to 1987.
His last portfolio was land development and housing.
He was also a long-serving Youth chief of PBB and retired from politics in 2001.