Ushering In A New Era
Saturday, March 1, 2014 E1 U S H E R I N G I N A N E W E R A The new Chief Minister believes people have two ears and one mouth - so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Adenan is ready to listen By Lian Cheng I t is a hot afternoon. The Borneo Post team, including Senior Executive Editor Francis Chan and Head of Special Desk Peter Sibon, talk to new Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem at his residence in Santubong. Outside, against a blue sky and lush greenery, the birds are still chirping although it is late in the afternoon. Inside his sitting room, the journalists find themselves among shelves and shelves of books on a wide range of topics, ranging from those on astronomy to Sufism. Although the interview is in his own house, Adenan, clad in Burberry checked shirt and a pair of brown pants, is just as in control, enigmatic, witty and spot-on when fielding questions. There are long pauses when he takes time to listen with the intent to understand. There are times when he listens with the intent to reply. There are also long silences before he fields more questions with the journalists trying to comprehend his thought-provoking, direct, short and concise replies. He does not show impatience – not interrupting and jumping to conclusions. Neither is he defensive about questions posed, but is ready to share his knowledge. Whether at close range or from a distance, the fifth Chief Minister of Sarawak exudes the temperament of a hermit more than a politician. He likes fishing because in all the listening and silence, he can learn to be patient and he can meditate. He enjoys nature and likes wild and lonely places in particular; he likes light blue because the colour is that of water and sky, and he likes to read because books do not talk back. All his likings point to an introvert who happens to end up a politician just like Winston Churchill and Barrack Obama. In this age when we are bombarded with all kinds of noise, perhaps it is timely for Sarawak to have a Chief Minister who listens – a Chief Minister who listens with his eyes, a Chief Minister who listens with his heart, a Chief Minister who listens to people around him -- and one who is silent to listen. Adenan, a man of few words, is ready to embark on a new journey as the Chief Minister of Sarawak at the age of 70. ON POLITICS Q: Did you know you were the chosen one (to be the new Chief Minister) before the announcement by Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud? A: No, I was informed in the last minute. Q: What came to your mind when you first knew about it? A: Let me come up with an opening statement first. I am very grateful for the expressions of support from many people from all walks of life across the communities who wish me well in my new job. Of course, there are some negative comments, but then I don’t expect the opposition to be complimentary. For those who have confidence in me, I shall try to justify their confidence the best way I can. As I have said earlier, I will try to be a Chief Minister to all – the Malays, Chinese, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulu. And even the opposition, I hope they will accept me as their Chief Minister too. I am going to be the Chief Minister for Sarawak. There is no such thing as a Chief Minister for the Malays or for the Barisan Nasional. A Chief Minister must be for all. Q: So what came to your mind when you first knew about it? A: The first thing that came to my mind was – this is going to be a big responsibility. This is going to be a big responsibility which requires my full attention and devotion to duty. Q: Former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said he would not interfere with the state’s political affairs unless his advice was sought. Would you like to comment on his statement? A: That is the correct constitutional position of a Head of State because he is above politics. Q: There were a few developments following your first press conference at Yayasan Sarawak (after the announcement by Pehin Sri). Some had taken the cue, especially Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) president Tan Sri William Mawan. What is your comment? A: This is a very good sign – a very encouraging sign. In politics, you have to give and take. You cannot have it your way all the time. Sometimes, you have to compromise for the sake of unity. This is a very good sign. I shall be calling the parties involved and listen to what they have to say. Q: Are you going to take the same step with Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP)? A: I will try. Q: What are the formulae you have for this? A: I can’t be specific about the formulae. I would have to hear from them first. You see in politics, you learn not only to talk but how to listen. We have two ears and one mouth. We have to listen before we say anything. If we talk, we are repeating what we already know. And if we listen, we might learn what we don’t know. We might learn something new. Q: What about speculations on the appointment of Datuk Amar Abang Johari as the other Deputy Chief Minister? A: For the time being, everything goes on as before. I will consider that at the appropriate time. That speculation is not illogical. Q: Have you talked with Abang Johari and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah (Ali Hasan)? A: I am looking forward to working with them. They have said they would work with me. To us, in PBB, the party is more important than personalities. Q: With the Bumiputera Supreme Council members outnumbering the Pesaka wing in PBB, is there a possibility of a Dayak becoming Chief Minister of Sarawak? A: In politics, everything is possible. Taib’s choice is of someone who is quite capable. But I am not saying I am more capable than the rest. I want to make this clear. For instance, Taib is a Melanau. He is from a minority race but nobody has any qualms or raised anything. What is important for a Sarawak leader is to ensure the races are working together within the context of the parties in BN and whatever race one belongs to, the voice will be heard. Q: You have been working with the former Chief Minister for the past 33 years. How would you describe him? A: I think I have been working with him since 1972. There is only one Taib Mahmud. He is one of a kind – his imagination, originality, intelligence. I mean words are not enough to describe him. I think he is one in a million. There is only one Taib. You know the song Lagenda? There are one thousand stars in the sky but there is only one that shines – and that is Taib Mahmud. Q: What would you like to achieve as the Chief Minister of Sarawak? A: I have already said it. I will continue what my predecessor has started. When you are on a good thing, you stick to it. You don’t just change horses midstream - you don’t simply change because people will ask: change for what? So I will continue with my present team. I do have ideas of my own but I will put them on the back burner first until I see the total picture. I have gone through a series of briefings given by government departments, ministries and Adenan and wife, Puan Seri Dato Jamilah Anu statutory bodies to keep tabs on what is going on. I can make policies only after I have the assessment and have known all the facts. Q: What do you think will be your biggest challenge as Chief Minister of Sarawak? A: I don’t envy the person who succeeds Taib Mahmud because his shoes are much too big for me to fill. The biggest challenge is unity within Barisan Nasional (BN). I will need to strengthen the component parties to overcome certain issues raised with regards to the approach to development. I don’t think I can measure up to my predecessor but I will try. Q: What is your stance on Umno entering into Sarawak – which we believe is the biggest fear of most Sarawakians? A: I am relieved to hear some Umno leaders say they will not come to Sarawak. Alhough there might be a necessity in Sabah, there is no necessity to come here. Q: It’s an enormous task to fulfil Pehin Sri’s vision, especially the economic thrust of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). So are you going to get people like Datuk Seri Dr Effendi Norwawi to help in the state’s economic development? A: Effendi can be an unofficial advisor. He said he has retired and is not interested in politics anymore. But that does not mean I can’t use his expertise in economics and finance. I will invite him to come over to advise me on certain economic and financial matters. Continued on Page E2 E2 U S H E R I N G I N A N E W E R A Saturday, March 1, 2014 ON POLITICS Continued from Page E1 ON A LIGHTER NOTE Q: What do you like to do during your free time? What are your hobbies? A: I have been fishing since my youth. I used to fish in the drain, the river and at sea. I remember I first started with a small plywood boat with an 18 horsepower outboard engine. Q: Where do you fish? A: I fish most often especially at Pulau Lakei. I went there so often that my friends named the place Pulau Denan. So unofficially, it is Pulau Denan. Even until now, whenever I get the chance, I still go to Pulau Denan. I have a small boat of my own. I went with all my usual fishing friends. I like wild and lonely places. When fishing, you can exercise patience while sitting and waiting. And you learn to think because it’s quiet. I always appreciate Nature. You see, my house is surrounded by squirrels, monkeys, what more to say birds, especially in the morning. Every morning, I wake up, I hear birds instead of cars. I used to play golf but less often now, because I am getting quite old. But my main hobby is still fishing. And of course, reading. I don’t know how many books I have read. You just look around you. Q: I took a glance and notice that there is an amazing range of subjects you are reading, from Prisoner of Zenda to Sufism. Who is your favourite author? A: I have always loved books – since I was in school. My favourite author is James A Michener for fiction. But I normally read non-fiction books such as biographies, history, astronomy and all that. Q: What is your favourite colour? A: Light blue. Q: Is it because it is the colour of water? A: Yes. Q: One of the challenges facing state leaders is losing Chinese voters. What will be your take to regain the support of the Chinese? A: I wish I can appoint a Chinese Deputy Chief Minister – like before. But there are only two Chinese state assemblymen from SUPP. So unfortunately, I can’t do that. If the Chinese choose not to be in government, that is their choice. I wish though that they can rethink the matter of whether they want to be part of the government or not. If they choose not to be, there is nothing I can do about it except to explain to them in the long run that it is better for us to govern this country together rather than separately. Q: What do you think will be the implications for the Chinese to continue to be left out of government? A: If possible, I don’t want the state to be ruled by Bumiputera with the Chinese in the opposition. We might end up like that – the government is made up by all the Bumiputera and the Chinese are all in opposition. I don’t think it is healthy situation and this is the situation I wish I can avoid. Q: Do you think what the Chinese have been asking is fair? A: I want to sit together with them and see what they have to say and see their problems in the new light. They are, in particular, very concerned about the schools and this is something close to their hearts. I have to listen to what they have to say before I can make any decision. Q: The Chinese community always appeal for annual grants for Chinese independent schools. Will you consider giving grants like Sabah, Melaka, and Johor? A: We can consider something equivalent. Maybe we can do it in a different way where the result is the same. That is why I want to hear from the Chinese community. But let me listen to them first. Q: I understand our government schools are funded by the Education Ministry. However, it seems whatever is allocated is not enough for repairs and rebuilding of our rural schools. Will the state allocate extra for our rural schools? A: Education is a federal duty. The Deputy Prime Minister has said they would allocate RM1 billion to improve 600 to 800 rural schools in need of repairs. I want to make it clear – it was the state BN who drew the attention of the federal government to this matter, not DAP or other opposition. The federal government has given us a very favourable response because the request came from another BN government. Whether it is adequate or not is another matter. If need be, we will request for more from the federal government. But if we had been an opposition government in Sarawak, I doubt if the federal government will give the extra funding. Q: What do you think of technical education, one of the concerns of former chief minister? A: I must say in years past, we had neglected the area of technical education. It is not too late to catch up. I am the chairman of the Yayasan Sarawak, which has some say in this regard. About 10 years ago, started sending students for technical education on three-month or six-month courses and supporting those having diploma to go for degree courses. We will intensify skilled education because we need manpower if we want to industrialise. We need the technicians, electricians – and we need our students to go for all these technical pursuits. Technical education will continue to be our emphasis. Q: You are sitting right in the heart of the Tourism Belt of Sarawak as the state assemblyman of Tanjung Datu. Do you have plans to continue developing it? A: Of course, tourism is an industry which can earn us a lot of foreign exchange. It can generate economic activities through the so called “multiplier effect.” All countries are promoting it, so why shouldn’t we? I am glad to know the number of tourists visiting Sarawak has been increasing over the years. Now, we are talking about accessibility with more flights into Kuching, Sibu and Miri. We are talking about open sky policy. (Datuk Amar) Abang Johari has done a tremendous job in this area. Q: The opposition is predicting a snap poll in September. Is that possible? A: They can continue with their imagination. I never suspect they would predict that. I was quite surprised when I read it in the newspapers. But they can continue with their wild imagination. Q: So who will be the next Balingian candidate? A: I cannot tell you now. Q: What is your vision as Chief Minister? A: To be a good one. Q: How do you define “good”? A: One who can bring development and unity to the state. I have heard rumours to the effect that I am fair-minded person; I will try to be true to this rumour. Q: You are entering a huge and challenging career at an age when most people are retiring. Can you see yourself retiring? A: In fact, I wanted to retire about this time last year. I was very sick. At the worst of times, I said to myself what is the point of carry on. I am useless to people when I am sick. I had better retire. That was what I thought before. By God’s grace and the care the doctors and my family gave me, I have recovered. But I am okay. I am not as young as I used to be. But at 70, I will try to be a 60. Adenan and wife are a loving couple. Q: Do you go into fashion? A: No. I am sorry I am not fashion-conscious. My wife (Puan Seri Dato Jamilah Anu) maybe, but not me. Q: How about food? What kind of food do you prefer? A: I like Japanese food, generally speaking, I like non-oily food. Once in a while, I like to have fish head curry and masak lemak. My wife is a very good cook but that is not the only reason I marry her. Q: Your car plate is 77. Does it mean you are going to totally retire at the age of 77? A: Que sera, sera. Q: Rumours say you will retire at 77; you will go through the next two years, then another term of five years and then call it quits totally to enjoy life. Is that your plan? A: Everything is in God’s hand. You can plan but it’s God who wills it. If God says you continue, no matter how much you don’t want to continue, you will continue. If God says you don’t continue, no matter how much you want to continue, you can’t. Q: Is there anything special about 77? A: The number seven is quite significant. There are some myths about the number seven for most people. Q: Why did you choose 7? A: It was my wife who chose for me. Not me. Q: What is your favourite number then? A: I don’t have any favourite number. Apart from ﬁshing, Adenan enjoys reading. He reads all subjects, all titles but has a special fascination for astronomy. U S H E R I N G I N A N E W E R A Saturday, March 1, 2014 E43 BACKGROUND Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem DA, PSM, PNBS, JBS, PPB, PPD Education: LLB University of Adelaide Date of Birth: 27 January 1944 Place of Birth: Kuching Marital status: Married to Puan Sri Dato Hajah Jamilah bt Haji Anu, PSBS (2003), PPD (2003), PBS (1996) Career Prosecutor, Crown Law Office, Adelaide (1969-1970) Magistrate (1971-1972) Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Primary Industries Malaysia (1972-1974) Private legal practitioner (1975-1985) Member of State Legislative Assembly (1978-present) Assistant Minister for Land Development Sarawak (12 July 1985 – 12 March 1987) Minister for Land Development Sarawak (12 March 1987 – September 1992) Minister for Social Development Sarawak (Sept 1992 – Jan 1998) Minister for Agriculture & Food Industries Sarawak (2 January 1998- 29 March 2004) Minister for Natural Resources & Environmental Malaysia (31 March 2004 – 14 February 2006) Special Advisor in the Chief Minister’s office 2 April 2010 Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office and Minister for Special Functions Sept 2010-present Awards Johan Bintang Sarawak (JBS) – 7 July 1986 on TYT’s Birthday Pingat Peringatan Bakti (Silver)(PPB) – 31 August 1988 in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Sarawak’s Independence within Malaysia Panglima Negara Bintang Sarawak (PNBS) – 16 September 1990 which carries the title ‘Dato Sri’ Pingat Peringatan Delima (Gold) (PPD) – 22 July 2003 in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Sarawak’s Independence within Malaysia Anugerah Kedoktoran from University Technology of Swinburne – 4 July 2006 Darjah Utama Yang Amat Mulia Bintang Kenyalang Sarawak which carries the title ‘Datuk Amar Bintang Kenyalang’ (DA) – 24 October 2009 in conjunction with the TYT’s 88th birthday celebration Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) which carries the title ‘Tan Sri’ – 5 June 2010 in conjunction with DYMM Sri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s birthday celebration Other experiences: Deputy Chairman Sarawak Land Development Board (SLBD) 1985-1987 Deputy Chairman Land Custody & Development Authority (LCDA) 1985-1987 Deputy Chairman Sarawak Land Consolidation & Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) 1985-1987 Chairman Sarawak Land Development Board (SLDB) 1987-1992 Chairman Land Custody & Development Authority (LCDA) 1987-1992 Chairman Sarawak Land Consolidation & Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA) 1987-1992 Board of Trustee for Sarawak Heart Foundation (SHF) 1997-2004 Chairman Sarawak Foundation 1998-present Chairman Sarawak Scouts 2004-2006 Chairman of Board of Trustee for Sarawak Malay Culture Foundation (AKYBMS) 1995-present Chairman Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus Council 12 October 2004-present Protem of Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus Miri 1999-2000 Council Member of Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus Miri 2000-2012 Chairman Sarawak Stadium Board 1992-1998 Chairman Sarawak Sports Council 1992-1998 Board of Directors for Sarawak Higher Education Foundation (SHEF) 1992-present Board of Directors for Malaysia Australia Foundation (MAF) Board of Directors for Kumpulan Wang Kawasan Konsesi Hutan (pemulihan & Pembangunan) Chairman of Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) 1992-2004 and April 2012-present Chairman of Natural Resources & Environment Board (NREB) April 16, 2012-present Chairman of Lembaga Pengurusan Mineral Negeri Starting September 2010 E44 Saturday, March 1, 2014 U S H E R I N G I N A N E W E R A Adenan’s heart with people, state By Philip Kiew H E REGARDS Sarawak as heaven on earth, cultural diversity and harmony. As a former Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries Sarawak, he knows every nook and corner of the state, having intimate knowledge of their needs and peculiarities. His continuous call for unity resonates throughout the state in multi-racial and religious settings, while his efficiency in the public service makes him stand out in the state’s political and social landscape. Everyone has a different idea of who or what he is, but everyone agrees that he has a sharp analytical mind, is a brainy and decisive leader and an experienced hand in affairs of the state and it’s state of affairs. After 35 years as elected representative and 28 years holding state and federal cabinet posts, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem is now ready to write the next chapter in leading Sarawak with effect from his swearing-in yesterday. He is as public a figure as it gets in Sarawak, but has strangely remained an enigma to many who do not know him up close. To those close to him, he is also known as a hotshot in game hunting in his younger days, a fishing enthusiast, an avid reader and a sci-fi movie buff. To his immediate circle, he is a wonderful person; generous, compassionate, insightful and humorous. To the political circle, he is a no-nonsense, incisive leader with the knack of reading one’s mind. Adenan (second left) is at home in rural Sarawak in this picture taken in 2003. His eyes may be closed when the speeches are getting underway, but his brain is anything but idle. His collected thoughts, wits and message collate into rib-tickling but flourishing speeches without fail at many functions he officiates. His predecessor Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on one occasion managed to lace an explanation and advice with humour in addressing complaints of aloofness against the former. Saying Adenan had a heart of gold, Taib said this thinking minister was always so engrossed in his thoughts that he could literally walk into glass walls. The minister was officiating a function in Miri when it was reported in the press, and with a laugh, he later told this author that a reply was in order. His tongue-in-cheek riposte was: “I thank the Chief Minister for his kind words, and will try to remember not to walk into glass walls,” which was reported in the The Borneo Post and Utusan Borneo. A decade ago in Buduk Nur in Ba Kelalan, he publicly declared having a soft spot for the Orang Ulu communities in the interior of Sarawak. “I will always find an excuse to visit Orang Ulus ster Deputy Prime Mini en of appreciation to ndu as Deputy Chief tok a g tin en es pr ft) year in Lu Adenan (le ssin on Feb 14, this looks on. Tan Sri Muhyiddin Ya Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu (centre) tuk Da r ste Mini since the days of Datuk Balan Seling and Datuk Racha Umong because I like them- simple as that,” he said, agreeing with the remark of his close friend and then Ba Kelalan state assemblyman, the late Datuk Dr Judson Sakai, that the minorities in Sarawak have a friend in Adenan. Adenan is also a stickler for education and remaining true to one’s roots. SUPP publicity and inf ormation secretary Da Years back, he told tuk Sebastian Ting (le to then CM-designate ft) extending his cong Adenan. parents at a seminar ratulations in Lawas: “My mother was responsible for my becoming a minister, and she has always paid attention despite being The smooth transition and unity in PBB despite illiterate, making sure that I ate, clothed and went the three horse-race for the Chief Minister post to school.” involving him, deputy president Datuk Amar She also made it a point to monitor his conduct Abang Johari Tun Openg and senior viceand progress from primary school to university president Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan level, but letting him enjoy the freedom to play speaks of the inherent leadership policy of the after school. party he will inherit. On the political scene, he worked best “Our stand is to bring as many people with the behind the scenes with results which speak for same wavelength under one umbrella and that is themselves. He was instrumental in bringing back the reason why PBB is the most successful party Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) back into the in the state while SNAP split to PBDS, PRS and BN fold after the Ming Court Affair in 1987, paving whatever remains,“ he said in 2005. the way for political stability which has lasted to Adenan’s experience in the last 35 years this day. as elected representative and 28 years with Under his watch as Chief Minister in this ministerial portfolios has drummed home clearly challenging transition period, Sarawak can look the reality of minorities working together with the forward to responsible, matured and experienced majority to keep up with the mainstream.. leadership from Adenan and his team. “You have to go with the flow or risk being left His conviction and approach is reflected in high and dry like debris on the river bank,“ he a speech he gave in 2005 at the opening of said. the Triennial General Meeting of PBB Marudi, Speaking at a Rurum Kelabit function in Miri Senadin, Piasau and Lambir divisions. in 2005, Adenan said he made it a point that “The greater the power, the greater is the minorities tend to be marginalised, and he is responsibility to uphold political stability and with inclined to use whatever high positions held to power comes big responsibilities which you must reach out to them- irrespective of whether they carry as the biggest successful political party, “ he were Kelabits, Kayans, Lun Bawangs or even the said. small Indian community. A united front by PBB as the backbone of the His Kelabit name is ‘Maran Ribet’ meaning state BN is expected by the Chief Minister cum ‘Handsome Nobleman’. He was bestowed the party president in his call at the party’s supreme name over a decade ago, and the community is council meeting that all the senior leaders from likely to invite him for another name-changing president to vice-presidents should be returned ceremony to reflect his current status. uncontested for the sake of unity. Admitting his love for the highland countryside, “This is to avoid any split and unhappiness with its tranquility of nature in remote places, which is bound to happen no matter what he said the peace and quiet is a refreshing Hollywood (play-acting) and handshakes experience for the weary mind, away from the displayed before any contest,” said Adenan back hustle-bustle of the cities, the rat races and the then. madding crowd.