KUCHING, Feb 22 – Often described as a serious leader, outgoing Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud today showed a lighter side when he openly shared various sentiments and his hopes for Sarawak to the media, just days before his scheduled retirement at the end of this month.
Among the things that drew the media’s attention an the press conference which Taib deemed as “probably his last interaction with the press”, was his avowal that he is retiring with happy feelings.
“I am retiring by the end of this month with a happy feeling and confidence that the country will be in safe hands and that I will be able to witness continued development.
“I will not be very active after March 1 in terms of active service because I know it’s time for the other generation to take over. I am very confident that the team that I am left behind will be able to train the younger people,” he said.
Taib on Feb 12 had announced that he will be stepping down as chief minister effective February 28 and would be succeeded by Special Functions Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) supreme council member Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who is also the assemblyman for Tanjung Datu.
The swearing in ceremony for the new Sarawak chief minister is scheduled for Feb 28. At the media session which lasted nearly an hour, Taib, who had led Sarawak for 33 years, also admitted to his willingness to share his thoughts and experiences with his successor upon request.
“I don’t know whether he will need any advice from me but if there is new situations coming up and if the new leadership think that they want my views , I am willing to give them for all its worth…but I am not sure whether he (Tan Sri Adenan Satem) should ask me for public advice,” he said.
Indirectly confirming rumors of him taking over as Sarawak’s Head of State (TYT) from current head Tun Aband Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng, 92, after the latter’s tenureship is over on Feb 28, Taib pointed that his advice to his successor “would be in a different sense” from that of Adenan to him (from the chief minister to the TYT).
“Mine is just advice in a difference sense from his advice to me, because his advice to me is quite mandatory…I must follow as a head of state,” he said.
Earlier, Taib who is Sarawak’s fourth chief minister and assumed office on March 26, 1981, also expressed his gratitude to have the opportunity to serve the state.
“I did not expect it to be that long but I am happy to say that I have been able to see our state develop and become a cohesive society with very serious efforts to better our future. Our politics is quite moderate and I do believe it shaped the character of the people of Sarawak,” he said.
He is also proud of the unity and understanding shown by Sarawak’s multi-ethnic and religious communities which he viewed to be the enabling factor for all the problems to be resolved collectively as well as to spur the progress of the state.
Touching on the Sarawak community’s potential and human capital, Taib believed the setting up of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) would bring change to Sarawak, particularly in terms of population demographics.
“I believe SCORE will draw more people into the midddle part of Sarawak and infact I do believe the interior of Sarawak as result of SCORE will open up for better development,” he said.
He said the overflow of projects is expected to boost the tourism industry with the opening up of more towns, in which, at the same time, would make Sarawakians to be more mobile and with better levels of income.
Speaking on the state’s political scene, Taib said he had and ‘eye’ on a couple of promosing political talent among the younger generation of leaders who “are currently in the circle”.
“There is already one or two talents I had already spotted among the younger generation and I am sure there will be more. As you can see the quality of our YB’s (elected representatives) that we have has been improving over the years from one election to another.
“I believe that when the Chinese-based BN party (SUPP) has sorted out their politics, probably in the next two to three years, we will have a good younger generation who can run the state very well,” he said. Taib concluded that Sarawak people were very conscious of the fact that they would like to remain united and to have stable politics as it was a pre-condition towards achieving a better future.