Abdul Taib Mahmud: A long and illustrious career

KUCHING: For decades, Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud loomed larger than life in Sarawak’s political landscape.

A politician since Malaysia’s formation in 1963, he was Sarawak’s longest-serving chief minister from 1981 to 2014 and went on to become Yang di-Pertua Negeri for 10 years.

Taib was known as the father of modern Sarawak for transforming the state from a backwater into an economic powerhouse through what he called the “politics of development”.

According to him, this was a holistic approach that balanced the whole spectrum of socioeconomic development involving all strata of society regardless of race and religion.

The policy culminated in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), which was launched by Taib in 2008 to develop an energy-intensive industrial corridor by tapping into the state’s renewable energy potential.

Born on May 21, 1936, in Miri, Taib completed his education at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Kuching and won a Colombo Plan scholarship in 1956 to study law at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

In Adelaide, he met the Polish-born Puan Sri Laila Taib and they married in 1959. They had four children – Jamilah Taib, Datuk Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Abdul Taib and Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib.

After Laila passed away in 2009, he married Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib in 2010.

Taib’s political journey began in 1963 when he was appointed the youngest state minister in the first post-independence Cabinet formed by Sarawak’s first chief minister Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan.

In 1970, he was elected Samarahan MP and went on to serve at federal level, holding various ministerial portfolios including natural resources, primary industries and defence.

On March 26, 1981, Taib was appointed Sarawak’s fourth chief minister, taking over from his uncle Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub.

During his administration, he implemented major projects and transformed Sarawak’s economy from agriculture-based to industrialisation.

The state government also invested in education and human capital, with various universities and training institutions set up in the state.

In addition, he fostered racial and religious tolerance in Sarawak and was committed to protecting unity and harmony among the state’s various ethnic communities.

In 1987, Taib faced a political crisis known as the Ming Court Affair when an attempt was made to remove him as chief minister.

In response, he called a snap state election which was narrowly won by his Sarawak Barisan Nasional coalition, enabling him to consolidate his hold on power.

Taib considered his proudest achievements to be economic development, social integration and industrialisation in Sarawak.

After 33 years as chief minister, Taib stepped down in 2014 and was sworn in as the seventh Yang di-Pertua Negeri on March 1 the same year.

He served as the Head of State until Jan 26 this year.

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