KUCHING, May 27: Former Deputy Chief Minister Dato Sri Daniel Tajem passed away this morning at the age of 82 at his residence at Jalan Urat Mata, here.
The man known for his famous statement “You row your own boat” was a political giant in Sarawak and made his mark known as a Dayak rights and native customary rights (NCR) fighter, according to Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) president John Cobbold Lusoi.
Cobbold told DayakDaily that he had known Tajem for the last 30 years since the time of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).
“He is my distant uncle on my mother’s side. However, we got really close when we were involved in the NCR land fight for our land in Pantu,” said Cobbold.
Tajem was born on March 15, 1936 in Sungai Tanju, Kuching.
Tajem was the first Iban lawyer after he completed his LLB in Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.
Upon returning to Sarawak, he joined SNAP in 1973 and won the seat of Lingga the next year, and defended the seat in the 1979 state election.
He was appointed Deputy Chief Minister in 1981, where he also held the portfolio of Agriculture and Rural Development.
In the 1983 state election, he stood again for election in Lingga but this time as a PBDS candidate and won.
In the same year, he and Tan Sri Leo Moggie left SNAP after losing their bids to take over SNAP leadership in 1981.
During the 1987 Ming Court Affair, PBDS stood by former Chief Minister Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub and lost in its bid to challenge former Chief Minister and present Governor Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Like PBDS, Tajem was in the opposition until the party rejoined Barisan Nasional seven years later.
In 1991, Tajem won the Bukit Begunan seat, the then new seat re-delineated from Lingga seat.
Between 1996-2000, he was the Malaysian High Commissioner to New Zealand.
Tajem was PBDS deputy president for two decades and became the party president in 2003.
When PBDS was de-registered, for a time, Tajem was active in PKR Sarawak. — DayakDaily