Sabah Umno strongwoman, former state minister Dayang Mahani passes away at 72


Dayang Mahani (seated third from right) and Onn (seated second right) hosted a small gathering of close and family friends that included former chief minister Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee (seated right) at their Luyang residence during Hari Raya on May 7 this year.

KOTA KINABALU: Former Sabah minister Datuk Dayang Mahani Pengiran Ahmad Raffae, known for her hard work and charity efforts, has passed away. She was 72.

Dayang Mahani, who was the adopted daughter of Sabah’s second Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pengiran Ahmad Raffae, was survived by her husband Datuk Onn Ariffin and their four children.

According to Onn, his wife passed away due to sepsis shock due to a severe lung infection at the Gleneagles Hospital here at 10.30pm on Friday (Aug 5).

Dayang Mahani, who held the Lumadan state seat for four straight terms from 1985 to 1999, was buried at the Muslim cemetery in Kampung Likas here at about 10am on Saturday (Aug 6).

He said Dayang Mahani, who was also the Sabah Wantia Umno chief from 2000 to 2004, was also battling diabetes and had been diligently going for dialysis treatment three times a week before this.

He added the former state communication and works minister had been hospitalised since more than a month ago after first complaining of breathing difficulties.

She was first warded at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, he said, where she then contracted Covid-19.

After recovering, she then caught a hospital bug before the family decided to move her to the private medical facility.

“I have a heavy feeling in my heart because I just lost my loved one. We are interdependent on each other,” Onn said when contacted on Saturday.

“She’s actually the strategist for the family’s economy, she planned everything for us.

“She would cook for me and our family every day despite her illness,” he added.

He said Dayang Mahani was a cancer survivor, having beaten colon cancer following a procedure in China six years ago.

“I have cataracts so I have not been able to see clearly. I was scheduled to have an operation this month and was looking forward to seeing her, but my wish never came true,” said the 75-year-old, who himself is recovering from a stroke which he suffered over a year ago.

Onn said Dayang Mahani was known as a “great woman and a great leader of Sabah”, becoming the first woman to hold the state works minister position.

“It was very challenging and a tough job to handle because all the engineers were men but she did her job very well until she attained the respect of the then chief minister Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee,” he said.

When contacted, Yong said Dayang Mahani was most respected by politicians of all sides for her fairness and objectivity in her work.

He added that the quality of her debates in the Sabah Legislative Assembly will be well remembered for being informative and straightforward.

“Her work as minister of works in my cabinet (1996 to 1998) was most commendable.

“I can recall how she and her team at the ministry had to work very hard to repair the damages to bridges, roads and water pipes in the aftermath of Storm Greg in December 1996, which was the most severe natural disaster recorded in Sabah.

“I am aware that she had a struggle with illness. When she was well enough, she and Onn hosted a small gathering of close and family friends at her Luyang residence during the last Hari Raya.

“The late Dayang Mahani will be greatly missed by the people. May she rest in peace,” Yong said.

Meanwhile, Onn said his wife also held several other prominent positions in the Sabah cabinet such as the state rural development minister, local government and housing assistant minister, as well as being a two-term Dewan Negara senator.

He said Dayang Mahani started her career in politics by joining the old United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) in 1985.

She was named a candidate the same year and first won the Lumadan seat under an Usno ticket in the 1985 state elections.

“I always told her before when I was the Usno secretary-general that I wished I had 10 other assemblymen like her as it will be easy to win the election,” he said.

According to him, Dayang Mahani also single-handedly stopped the exodus of members from Usno, which was later dissolved in 1996, to local rival party Parti Bersatu Sabah during the period.

He said she was also named as one of the ten outstanding young Malaysians by the Junior Chamber International in 1985.

She was also heavily involved in charity work over the decades with various organisations including the Red Crescent Society, Persatuan Ambulan Yayasan Sabah, Sabah Girl Guides, St John Ambulance and Scouts and Princess Anne Orphanage Home, among others.

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