The writer with Tok Nan and Brother Albinus in 1989 during the “Summer 1964” reunion dinner at Hilton, Kuching
“I live for my country, my life and my people” of Sarawak Would be Tok Nan’s legacy to be remembered for posterity, Walking the talk between Federal BN and Restoration of Sarawak’s rights impelled his exit from dear longevity.”
I had a dream, a dream so real and yet so surreal. It was not Martin Luther King’s dream of civil rights; it was an extraordinary dream of restoring the international, constitutional, historical, legal and economic rights of our beloved State in our beloved nation and a recollection of [golden] moments of tranquility.
In that dream from the fourth dimension in the early misty and surreal morning, Tok Nan, the former YAB Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, was flying with me in a black Mercedes car, like something out of Mary Poppins, gliding silently over his house and par 3 hole 17 of Damai Golf Course before landing on a mysterious golf course, with avenues of idyllic palm leaves, waving in the breeze, decked intermittently with clusters of bright flowers with varied hues. I was not sure whether Dick Van Dyck was the driver, who never showed his face.
Indeed, that was early morning on 18th February 2017, the polling date for his wife to fulfil his legacy in Tg. Datu’s constituency. Naturally, victory awaited her.
After entering the main hall of that prestigious golf club, we saw a small crowd gathered in front of a main notice board reading the eulogy – “Farewell to the Gentle Warrior of Sarawakians,” – pinned to a white board. Nobody knew us. I heard no voice nor sound. Yet, they looked like normal people, not zombies or floating like fairies or specters. All were strangers to us. Sitting on a cosy sofa, Tok Nan read his own eulogy, penned by me, chuckling away in his old familiar way when he was much younger and healthier, decades ago, punctuated with boyish grins; his shining face, looking much younger – relaxed but attentive.
“Look at my handsome smiling face. Why is my family photo is not there?” Tok Nan asked, curiously. “That is the editor’s discretion and choice.” I replied. “But you look great. You know who is the most handsome among all the Ministers except ………” He burst out laughing. “Let’s talk about the international constitutional, economic and legal issues on oil and other matters, although I am not in charge now. Explain the details again to me, you know, I have an excellent memory for forgetting things.”
So I began a weird encounter in this warped dimension, discussing my briefs on the amendments to the Constitution, to the Territorial Waters and Continental Shelf of the Borneo States, to the increment to a 20% royalty on oil and gas, the escalation and balancing grants, to removing the federal administrative controls on immigration procedures, to unconstitutional legislations and Hudud law related to the Act 355 amendment to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, as well as the constitutional rights whittled away by the federal waters and under currents.
In between, we recalled the spring of our lives in the achievements of the “Golden Age” of Joseph’s School in 1963-1964.
Pehin Sri Adenan’s life of poetry in motion began early. Ever since schooldays, he started gobbling up like Pac-Man memoirs of Sir Winston Churchill, J.F. Kennedy, Roosevelt, Aristotle, Shakespeare and the Romantic poets.
In “Summer 1964”, already a rising star in Sarawak’s dawn, he was in Form VI Arts of St. Joseph’s school, Kuching. Though not a sportsman, he was a scholar, unique orator, and crooner in the likes of Elvis, Fats Domino and Cliff Richard. Most of the time, he kept quiet, due to his arrhythmia, so he was wrongly perceived as walking with blind aloofness or just being “sombong”. But he was never arrogant; being soft spoken was his hallmark.
Every now and then, with his heart stable and good mood, blessed with a handsome face and a winsome smile, punctuated with infectious chuckles, he would flash his humorous anecdotes with a unique touch of his own class, believing that “humor is the first perfection of poetic genius”. For “science sees signs; poetry the thing signified”. Blessed with the great gift of the gab, he vaulted from school to the fountain of legal learning to his foray of politics after he was discovered by TYT Tun Pehin Sri Taib in 1964, a minister of our State.
“I tell you man!.. I am going to beat the hell out of the Yin (Robina) and Yang (Alex) in the class,” he vowed. He topped the class just for a term, beating me once by just one mark.
“Humor is the first perfection of poetic genius”. For “science sees signs; poetry the thing signified”.
Even then, he shone in the school debate under the auspices of the St Joseph’s Literary and Debating Society, founded by me with the advice from our mentor, Brother Albinus, and TYT Tun Pehin Sri Taib as the patron. “Jesus went to the temple at 12 years old for the Passover, Luke 2:41”, he would recite proudly with equal profound knowledge of the Quran, with their parallels and similar teachings. He had no qualms using the words “God” and “Allah” interchangeably in Sarawak since school days.
“The female species is more deadly than the male”, Tok Nan thundered, quoting the femme fetale, such as Delilah, Eve and female mosquito.
“Well, if Adam were born Chinese, then today, we would all be living in the Garden of Eden,” retorted Kathleen, his protagonist, with disdain. “Adam would have eaten the snake!” Tok Nan jumped to his feet. “I see now, you are blaming God then. That’s sheer bad luck! Jesus already told his Disciples that one of them would betray him before the cock crow!”
The Adjudicator, Tun Pehin Sri, gave a diplomatic draw for fear of being accused of being chauvinistic! More importantly, he discovered a new fresh orator, scholar and a first rate politician to follow his steps to read law in the University of Adelaide. Tun Pehin Sri was the headhunter, choosing Tok Nan to be his personal assistant; netting him as his brother in law; crowning him as the 5th YAB of Sarawak; and recently awarding him posthumously with the title of “Pehin Sri”.
From academic politics in school and university, Tok Nan embarked on his firm stand on the critical issues at hand in the ever fluid political arena. He understood what government was, yet knew it would still need good politicians to run a government with shared values, visions, transparency in governance, and, most importantly, that our Sarawak’s international and constitutional rights, which had been whittled away, must be restored for Sarawakians to be treated amicably with mutual respect.
The first salvo was the firm demand for the increase of financial benefits in various forms for Sarawakians and an increase to 20% on the royalties on oil and gas from Petronas, among the 50 new directives in improving the transparency of the state government.
In ‘AD ASTRA’, our school magazine, sitting on the Editorial Committee under our famous Q.C. Denis Chang Kheng Lee, arguably the most illustrious academic star in the galaxy of our school, he penned: “An Imitation of Life”. “If we succeed through literature to put our sentiment on the same level as our intellect if we have felt life truly and profoundly, then we have come near to what Rabindranath Tagore called The Universal Man”.
“Politics without history has no roots, History without politics bears no fruits.”
Let us share his passion, scale of values and reflections in the following stanzas in my eulogy in hybrid sprung verse, “Farewell to the Warrior of Sarawakians”, published in Sunday Borneo Post on 12 Feb 2017.(Link http://www.theborneopost. com/2017/02/12/farewell-to-the- gentle-warrior-of-sarawakians/ )
Tok Nan wrote on ‘Democracy is the Worst form of governmentExcept others’, In Churchill’s words and ‘Anybody canRat but it takes certain ingenuity to rerat” toJustify his changing of his political parties five times. (56)Tagore’s philosophy of ‘the Universal Man’ piqued him
Babu’s quotation of an unknown author tickled him:“Politics without history has no roots,History without politics bears no fruits.” (57)He recalled those happy days, stringing his guitar with‘The Young Ones’ blended with crooning of ‘I can’t helpFalling in love with You’, suited him perfectly for raising funds, Rap music and poetry were new strangers to a romantic. (58)
Yea Santubong mouth turned tea to coffee by the surfing wind Decades-old shop houses had gone with the wind,Cultural village mud for crabs and mangrove trees in view Leaving Damai Golf Course embellishing oceanic view. (48)
From childhood he climb’d the hills and mounts with fingers of shadows That seemed longer till fifty at the plateau of his life inhalingHis second spring to autumn with misty maze ahead gasping Past glorious moments whilst skiing down his steep slope of destiny. (173)
I held my wife’s hand oozing my last love like the river flow In the lyrics of ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ — You are a great wife, loving mother, caring nurse. Thank you I am flying away, please fulfil my legacy! I love you. (53)
He loved and cared about nature recalling William Wordworths’s reflection: “recollections of [golden] moments of tranquility”; and “Little do we see the beauty of nature that’s ours.” The eulogy would reflect Tok Nan’s heroic feat against all odds, agony, conflict and sacrifice for our State which he knew would shorten his life. Yet he ran the gauntlet despite his ailing heart. Politics would be a joy killer, since schooldays. He always knew that.
His promise to bestow our mentor and the icon of the La Salle Brothers in the 1960s, Brother Albinus (as seen in the photograph with both of them in a jovial discourse) with the award of the title of “Datukship” remained sadly unfulfilled. But there is still hope for a posthumous award for his Yayasan LaSallian’s legacy on education for giving tuition to the academically weaker students in the rural areas in our State with some aid from Yayasan Sarawak and alumni to accomplish its mission. Seven tuition centers in the rural areas have been set up with three tuition centers in the outskirts of Kuching, to make a difference in the situations of their lives. So far, a few rural students have graduated from UNIMAS gratefully due to Yayasan LaSallian’s tuition.
Born he was a great orator scholar with smiling wit,Greatness was thrust’ed upon him by ‘Allah’ due to his goodness He achieved greatness by fighting for our State’s right under MA63 Not because he loved less his heart but he loved Sarawak more. (2)
When Tok Nan sneezed, the State coughed, whenKuching coughed, the State got sick, when Kuching got sick, the State has epidemic, but whenHe hailed ‘Autonomy’, Sarawakians jumped with kicking joy. (5)
He admired Emperor Tang Taison’s Three mirrors of history:The Bronze mirror one can adjust the clothes and cap; the mirror of Events past to comprehend the rise and fall of a nation;The human mirror a remonstration for success and missteps. (75)
The eulogy tells a simple story of a shining star, a political legend in our times, a classmate and a close friend whom we all miss. He was the gentle but intrepid warrior of all Sarawakians with the spirit of Ulysses: “to seek, to strive but never to yield.” Regardless, whether it is in politics or social life, he would always protect the outstanding religious and racial harmony in our State with the highest index of unity in Malaysia. How he wished that the beacon of the shining racial and religious harmony of Sarawak from TYT Tun Pehin Sri would shine through the hearts of our fellow compatriots in the Peninsula.
Tok Nan would want his visions and unfinished legacy toBe known as the starting point on his Holy Grail to restore, Review MA 63 rights and more funds, as the importance of historyIs not only what happened, but what people thought and said about it. (70)
Power, politics YAB Abang Zohari shall pursue with passion MA 63 inked by his father and three other Musketeers his way To restore our rights and empowerment under MA 63’s history To fulfil faster my promises and the State’s policy. (75)
Sarawak a plural society always ensure he willThat has no nativism nor bigots around usNor a Great Wall of China around usTo shine the light and not curse the darkness around us. (72)
“Yes, on 3rd August 1962, Sarawak Information Service reported that Tun Razak undertook three assurances that KL would not ‘Dominate the Borneo Territories’ ‘which will be equalPartners’, ‘KL has to consult them’,” bemoaned Tok Nan. (20)
Oh Death! Thou come to save the living and make all men equal Now the winter season of my life begins a new journey Yet, Nature renews itself at every Spring, so envious am I Why cannot I live as long as the Huon pine tree? (51)
Seeing the dark cloud hanging nigh was my final hour This is worst of time, perhaps the best of time for me Soon no more worry, no more stress, no more pain,Now I see a bright light in the distance bidding me. (52)
I held my wife’s hand oozing my last love like the river flow In the lyrics of ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ —You are a great wife, loving mother, caring nurse. Thank you I am flying away, please fulfil my legacy! I love you. (53)
The soul of Maran Ribed, Tok Nan, our fine handsome and noble, flew With the heavenly music from the Heart Centre while wavingTo his wife and children with a grateful smile and chuckle. “Please Go home… carry on living” before his final pilgrimage. (54)
Still, why such a cruel fate! Why can’t I finish my term? I need two To turn my dreams, my visions, my promises into realities,I just barely started! Oh Allah, how helpless I am with destiny,He flew from Damai to Heart of Borneo then to daystar. (55)
Those who opposed Tok Nan, respect and admire himThose who love him, grieve for himThose who support his politics, praise himThose in BN, a great loss of a gentle warrior and white shining knight. (74)
‘Don’t cry for me’ Sarawakians, ‘the truth is that I have never Left you, through my’ tough ‘days, my’ brief ‘existence, I kept my Promises’, so give all your assistance, to YAB Abang Zohari,My wife to refine and fulfil my dreams and State’s destiny.
“Shall I follow you?” Before closing the car’s door.“No. Write the true facts on the rights of our State KL’s assurances before and after election of Ministers In Rumah Malaysia in 1963 for the sake of our State.”
So silently, the black Mercedes glided and faded through the misty maze. Was that really a dream?
Alex Ling M A LLB (CANTAB)