'Golden son of Sarawak' laid to rest

'Golden son of Sarawak' laid to rest

Former Sarawak Chief Minister and Governor Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, who passed away on Friday aged 87, is remembered by people close to him as "a witty individual, outstanding public speaker and, above all else, someone who was fundamental to many things Sarawak - from the formation of Malaysia to the development of Petronas and the timber industry".

To his closest kin, Abdul Rahman, or Yakub as he was better know, was a father first. For him, his family was always the priority.

"He was the happiest when surrounded by grandchildren," said eldest daughter Norlia, who described him as a "big hearted individual".

"Our house was always, always, open to everyone. He never locked the house doors."

Norlia said her father's last moments were with his family. "He asked for a drink to clean his mouth and then he went off, just like that," she said, choking up with grief.

One of the earliest to pay respects at the family home was Deputy Home Affairs Minister Datuk Junaidi Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

"I should have known him better for I got married in his house (an older property, not Sri Bahagia, the current family home)," said Junaidi.

"My wife was one of his adopted children. He was very nice but I never got to know him well. He was a politician in those days and I was just a policeman."

Abdul Rahman was the state's third Chief Minister, serving between July 1970 and March 1981. He went on to serve as Governor from April 1981 until 1985.

His life story is one of rising from rags to prominence. Born into poverty, he was the sixth of seven children in a fishing family and he held many jobs during his early life.

He worked as an interpreter for the Japanese Governor during World War Two, a trainee oil tester for Shell, and as a toilet janitor at Sarawak General Hospital before securing a scholarship to read law at Southampton University.

He was in his mid-30s when he entered politics as one of the first MPs from Sarawak when Malaysia was formed in 1963. He served in the Federal Cabinet before returning to become Chief Minister.

He had very close links with Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, and later with Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Assoc Prof Dr Andrew Aeria of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak said Abdul Rahman was a very loyal man.

"His years at the helm of the state were considered the dawn of politics for Sarawak," he said.

Aeria said Abdul Rahman formed a coalition state government with the then opposition SUPP in the 1970s and ended the communist insurgency in the state by convincing one of its leaders, Bong Kee Chok, to surrender along with nearly 500 of his supporters.

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