Inaccessibility to Belaga is the real culprit!

Abang Johari (second from left) together with his wife Datin Patinggi Datuk Juma'ani Tun Tuanku Bujang (left), Ujang's widow Puan Sri Elizabeth Pawa (third from left) and family members standing over Ujang's casket at his house in Tabuan Jaya, Kuching.


Most of us would agree that in life, the most important occasions are probably birth, marriage and death. When you were born, people celebrated. When you get married, people rejoice. When you die, your family members mourn.

The more important you are, the greater the number of people who will cry. The more important you are, the greater the number of people will pay you respects when you lie cold inside your coffin. People will come to offer words of comfort to your family members. The size of the crowd turning up at your wake and funeral is therefore some sort of a ‘benchmark’ and acknowledgement of what you have accomplished as a person when you lived.

Surviving family members play an important role too. More often than not, when you have a son or a daughter who ‘counts for something’, your funeral will most probably be flooded with dignitaries, important members of society and covered by members of the media.

Recently, Sarawak has suffered many losses with notable political figures passing away. We suffered a huge blow when our late Chief Minister, Pehin Sri Adenan Satem passed away. Because he was so well respected and loved, Adenan’s passing a year ago was still acknowledged by members of the public without being prompted to, yesterday.

Two days ago, Sarawak experienced another loss. This time, it is another veteran PBB politician who was a State Cabinet member. At the age of 70, the late Tan Sri Celestine Ujang passed away. An Iban from Bintulu, Ujang had certainly accomplished many things, one of which was being a State Cabinet Minister for many years. Because of that, his contribution was not forgotten. His passing was showered with attention and care with free-flowing sympathies from well-wishers.

Our Chief Minister who is also the president of PBB has certainly not forgotten the late Tan Sri’s contribution. The Chief Minister offered his personal condolences to Ujang’s surviving family members. A State Cabinet visitation order was also issued by our Chief Minister. Tonight, as all of us can see, a grand wake with the presence of who’s who of Sarawak, all flocking to the same venue with Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as one of the well-wishers.

Ahmad Zahid addresses the gathering at Ujang’s wake.

Meanwhile, less than 24 hours ago, the late Dato Sri Nyipa Bato was laid to rest at his family cemetery at Uma Kahei, Belaga. Nyipa passed away on Jan 2. Being a notable figure in his own right, the late Dato Sri was a four-term State Assemblyman. Similar to Ujang, Nyipa was also from PBB and a former Cabinet Minister of Sarawak. On top of that, he has the President of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Tan Sri Dr James Masing as his son-in-law.

Being an Orang Ulu aristocrat (‘maren’), sufficient time was allocated from Jan 2 to 11 to allow relatives, good friends, peers and colleagues to travel from Kuching to Belaga. In contrast to the late Ujang’s wake, the late Nyipa’s wake was a humble one attended only by close relatives, friends and party members from PRS paying their respects to the prominent Orang Ulu leader and offering words of comfort to their party president, his wife and his mother-in-law.

Nyipa’s grieving family members are seen during his funeral in Belaga.

Notable figures from PBB who took their time to offer their personal condolences to Nyipa’s wife and surviving family members were Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, Dato Sri Empiang Jabu, Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi and Datuk Talib Zulpilip. The rest of the PBB friends were probably too far away and found the allocated eight days insufficient for them to make it there!

The place where the wake was held for eight days and seven nights was after all located in the hick lands of Sarawak, by the name of Belaga!

Ministerial friends who have access to government transport like helicopters and the likes could have found it too risky to take that helicopter ride, in view of unfavourable weather forecasts in the past few days!

Maybe there are even some colleagues who viewed it as ‘incorrect’ to use government facilities to attend a private wake of a former PBB leader.

Whatever the reasons may be — inaccessibility may be the only reason one can cite when asked why there were more State Cabinet members attending the wake of then opposition assemblyman, the late Wong Ho Leng, in June 2014.

Adenan (fourth right) and other state dignitaries paying their last respects to Wong in 2014. Photo taken from

If it’s any consolation to Datin Sri Hau Ngo and her Deputy Chief Minister son-in-law, most, if not all Cabinet members, Yang Berhormats, and BN colleagues did send wreaths in lieu of presence. It’s the thought that counts, after all! — DayakDaily