She was a patriot and a voice of the people. She was also affectionately regarded as the ‘mother’ of the party having struggled and braved the odds since the early formative years of PANAS till the time when it merged with BERJASA to form PartiBumiputera and later, united with PESAKA to form what is today PartiPesakaBumiputeraBersatu (PBB). These remarks epitomise the woman leader she was -DatukPadukaHajahJorkinahHashim.

Also known as MakSitom or MakItom, her father, Hashim Abdullah was a Hakka from China and he worked at the Bau gold mine during the reign of the second White Rajah. He embraced Islam when he married her mother, NormahbintiAbok, a Malay from KampungNombor 5, Sungai Lazim, Kuching. Not long after they got married, they moved to Sibu where MakSitom grew up. Later, the family moved back to SungeiLazim in Kuching where Hashim was known as an exponent in the art of self-defence and hailed as orang kuat (strong man) by the Malays in the area. In many ways, MakSitom was like her father – astute, bold and courageous.

Her foray into politics was largely influenced by Datu Bandar Abang Haji Mustapha, the prime mover behind PANAS. Abang Haji Mustapha was an influential Malay leader who supported the move by Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke to cede Sarawak to the British crown in 1946. He believed that Britain’s assistance was needed to develop Sarawak socially and economically. He founded PANAS in 1960 and personally recommended MakSitom to join the party where she later assumed a leadership position.

By the time PANAS reached its first year, MakSitom had won over a significant number of people to be members of the party. Initially, women outnumbered men in the party. However, new challenges emerged ahead of the state election and the birth of the new rival party BARJASA (BarisanRa’ayatJati Sarawak) in late 1962. BARJASA was led by (Tun) TuankuHj. Bujang bin Tuanku Othman, and one of its founding members was AjibahAbol who was then a vice-president of the Sarawak Malay National Union (MNU) and a former anti-cession activist.

MakSitom’s commitment to her party work had developed in her a person who was confident, forthright and courageous and who was not afraid to stand for the truth. With her charisma and charming personality, she grew to be a popular figure among her party colleagues. In 1966, she and Ajibah played a key role in bringing PANAS and BARJASA together to form PartiBumiputera.

MakSitom went from house to house campaigning for her party and at the same time encouraging women to attend the literacy and home science classes provided by the women’s groups in their villages. She urged them to make the best of the opportunities that had come their way. Most of the women in MakSitom’s generation did not have formal education. For one thing, most families in the early days were still bound to the traditional norm that a girl’s place was in the kitchen. This was compounded by other factors such as the poor infrastructure, the lack of schools and the poor socio-economic conditions then.

MakSitom would take the opportunity at kampung weddings and funerals to mix with the local womenfolk and share with them her message on education and the upliftment of the social-economic well-being of the people. She was forthright about her views on important issues and would not compromise her stance especially if it was to be at the expense of the interest and welfare of the local people. She was held in high esteem for her far-sightedness and ability to guide and inspire members to stay the course of the party struggle and agenda.

In recognition of her vast contribution, she was awarded the Johan Bintang Sarawak (JBS), AhliBintang Sarawak (ABS), SijilKehormatanNegeri (SKN) and the DarjahUtamaBintangKenyalang by the state government. A road near Jalan Haji Bolhassan, Kuching was named LorongSitom in honour of the veteran politician.

Datuk Paduka Hajah Jorkinah Hashim was one of the early patriots featured in the book Sarawak Women in Politics – The Pioneers written by Christina Thomas-Mamora and published by the Women and Family Department of Sarawak. The book was recently launched by His Excellency the Governor of Sarawak TunPehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud.

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