RULING WITH A FIRM HAND: He is a fatherly figure to so many in the state
FOR workers who spent most of their lives serving under the state chief executive, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud was more than an iconic leader, a visionary and experienced politician.
To them, Taib, the man who experienced the early years before Malaysia was formed, is a fatherly figure and will always be one.
This was demonstrated clearly when he patted and hugged Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu junior members after Saturday's PBB supreme council meeting, surrounded by the faithful as he walked out accompanied by deputy, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu.
Slowly, one after another, shed tears to their patriarch but instead of maintaining composure, Taib returned the gesture like a father comforting a distressed child.
"Don't worry...don't cry. The party will be in safe hands."
These words don't seemed consonant with the leader who rules with a firm hand and other unflattering adjectives as he comforted a weeping elected representative.
|Abdul Taib Mahmud has an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah after being sworn in as assistant minister
in the Prime Minister’s Department at Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 10, 1970. Also present is then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. File picture
Pak Uban or Pek Mo (white hair in Hokkien) are favourite nicknames synonymous to Sarawakians who grew up with the only leader they know in the manner peninsula Malaysians regard Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
But little is known of the man who served 33 years in office, who loves to take his wife for a 40km joyride in his free time, sometimes without any visible escort, to the discomfort of his security detail.
"He would tell us to follow him from behind in another car and try not to be conspicuous," said Corporal Murad Ngadimun, 50, who had been Taib's main escort rider for 17 years.
"He just wants to have a private moment with his wife."
Taib is also a sharp wit when it comes to word games, making sure he is always has his game on, especially with a handy crossword puzzle, which he works on when time can be spared.
"He would always want me close," recalls Sergeant Jemaiee Yahu, 52, who served as security detail for 17 years. "I remembered him telling me that in solving puzzles, it keeps the mind sharp. I lost count how many puzzle books that he possesses."
Taib is a stickler for punctuality, instructing always his driver to be ready in 30 minutes before he leaves home.
"He never wants to be late. He even advice me to respect time because punctuality helps to make your day easier and you get more things done when time is respected," said Abdul Shukor Nazari, 52, who has been Taib's driver for eight years.
Regardless of the sometimes harsh criticisms leveled against Taib over the years, his economic chops is strong -- Sarawak has the third largest state economy and poised to the richest state by 2030.
State per capita increased 57 times from RM688 in 1963 to RM40,414 last year, reflecting Taib's benevolent leadership.
Socially, Sarawak's indifference to racial and religious segregation remained strong under Taib's careful management.
A key rule that Taib will insist on his successor as he would to all Sarawakians is that state and Sarawakian rights must be at all times protected.
This decree will not be compromised in Taib's patriarchal vision -- an advice passed down by a father to son so that his flock is fully entrusted to care for the good name of the family, which is called Sarawak.
DENNIS WONG NST Opinion Columnist10/02/2014