In memory of Taib Mahmud, the visionary who shaped modern Sarawak

WHETHER one is his admirer or detractor, Tun Taib Mahmud who died at the age of 87 in Kuala Lumpur early this morning (Ferb 21) will go down in history as the ‘father of modern Sarawak,’ transforming a backwater into a thriving state during his 33 years tenure as chief minister (CM)

The longest-serving CM left an indelible mark on the state’s history through his visionary leadership although his rule has also been marked by numerous alleged abuses.

Born into an aristocratic family in Miri on May 21, 1936, Taib read law in the University of Adelaide under the Colombo Plan before pursuing a post-graduate at Harvard in 1964.

Upon his return from studies, Taib quickly entered Sarawak’s political scene, displaying a keen sense of leadership and a deep understanding of the state’s needs. He was appointed a state minister at the age of 27, the youngest ever.

One of his most significant contributions was the introduction of the “Politics of Development”, a visionary strategy aimed at driving economic progress and improving the lives of Sarawakians.

Under his leadership, Sarawak experienced unprecedented growth and development across various sectors. Infrastructure development, educational advancement, and industry diversification became hallmarks of his administration, laying the groundwork for what ism deemed as a prosperous future.

Kuching’s iconic landmark with Fort Margherita, the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly and Darul Hana Bridge in the background (Pic credit: aereonwong/Instangram) –

Boosting economy growth

Taib’s focus on economic growth and rural development was particularly noteworthy. He implemented policies that allocated a substantial portion of Sarawak’s budget to rural areas, aiming to uplift marginalised communities and bridge the gap between urban and rural areas.

His initiatives led to the establishment of key institutions such as Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UMS) and various industrial parks, creating opportunities for education, employment and economic prosperity.

Furthermore, Taib’s efforts to harness Sarawak’s abundant natural resources played a crucial role in driving industrial growth and economic diversification. He spearheaded initiatives in sectors such as timber, oil palm, and oil and gas (O&G), hence transforming Sarawak into a thriving industrial powerhouse.

The establishment of Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) and the creation of industrial parks like Samajaya, Demak Jaya, and Samalaju were instrumental in attracting investments and creating job opportunities for Sarawakians.

Perhaps one of Taib’s most significant contributions to the Sarawak was the seeds of multi-cultural tolerance which he had planted among Sarawakians. He was astute enough to maintain cordial relations with the Federal government, offering support in exchange for keeping Peninsula-based parties like UMNO from entering the state.

His rule, however, was marred by allegations of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and wealth accumulation by his family members, all of which he has denied as no charges were brought against him.

Tun Taib Mahmud and his wife Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib received a courtesy visit from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (left) at their official residence in Demak Jaya Kuching on Jan 20 (Pic credit: Raghad Taib’s Instagram)

Upon his retirement as chief minister in 2014, Taib was made the state’s governor until last month when his health had shown signs of deterioration.

Taib had four children from his marriage to the late Datuk Patinggi Laila Taib who died in 2009. He married Syrian-born Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib the following year.

A state funeral will be held for Taib at the New Sarawak Legislative Complex, according to State Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah. – Feb 21, 2024

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