KUCHING, Jan 11 — Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who rose to popularity among Sarawakians over his efforts to reclaim state rights, died today at age 72 after just about three years in office.
He died at the Sarawak Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan this afternoon at 1.25pm from a heart attack.
“Yes, it is confirmed,” Sarawak Local Government Minister Professor Dr Sim Kui Hian told Malay Mail Online.
“We have lost a great son of Sarawak who devoted his whole life to the rakyat,” Dr Sim, who is also Adenan's personal physician, said.
Adenan, who came back from Australia where he was on a holiday with his family members, was admitted to the Sarawak Heart Centre last Sunday soon after he came back.
In last year's state election, he led the state Barisan Nasional (BN) to a landslide victory, winning 72 out of 82 state seats.
Adenan, who became Sarawak's fifth chief minister on February 28, 2014, has a history of heart problem.
Born on January 27, 1944, he took over from long-serving Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is now the state governor.
During his administration, Adenan had strongly pushed for state autonomy.
He initially said late last year that Sarawak BN would table a motion at the state legislative assembly to restore Sarawak’s 1963 status as an equal partner to the peninsula, but later decided against it, saying that his administration preferred to use diplomacy.
Adenan was in discussions with Putrajaya on the devolution of power from the federal to the state government.
The Sarawak state government had even issued a moratorium on work permits for Petronas workers from peninsular Malaysia last August following claims of discrimination against Sarawakian staff in the national oil and gas company.
Since becoming chief minister in February 2014, Adenan did what no predecessor has done, starting with taking an oath before the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) pledging never to award government contracts and allocate state land to his immediate family members.
In the process, he steered away from Taib’s administration, who was accused of corruption and abusing his power to enrich family members and crony companies throughout his over 30 years in power.
Altogether, Adenan introduced 53 measures and policies over the last two years, including recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate from Chinese Independent Schools and allocations for Chinese education.
It was these that boosted his popularity among the Sarawakians, including the Chinese community.
Adenan has also won praise for his stand on religious freedom, announcing just before the May 2016 state election that the National Registration Department (NRD) would not challenge a Sarawak Christian’s court application to remove the word “Islam” from his MyKad.
Adenan had also made a clear stand against hudud law, directing all Sarawak BN MPs last April to vote against PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s private member’s Bill on amending the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (Act 355).