Kelabit community, Mulu rep mourns passing of paramount chief Pemancha Freddie Abun

Gerawat (right) in a photo with Pemanca Freddie (left).

KUCHING, Feb 23: The Kelabit community is grieving the loss of their esteemed paramount chief, the late Pemancha Freddie Abun, whose remarkable journey from adversity to leadership exemplified sheer determination and dedication.

Pemancha Freddie Abun, born in Long Lelang, passed away peacefully after a brief illness at Borneo Medical Centre in Miri on Wednesday (Feb 21), leaving behind a legacy of service and excellence.

Despite facing early hardships, including the loss of his father before his birth, Freddie’s unwavering determination led him to pursue education, braving dense jungles and enduring long boat rides through treacherous rivers to complete his primary education in Bukit Sabun, Long Lama.

Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Department Datuk Gerawat Gala, himself a former student of Freddie, recalled his former teacher’s dedication and impact.

Freddie’s career as a teacher and education officer spanned various schools in Miri and Limbang Divisions, where he was respected for his firm yet caring approach to discipline and education.

“Despite the difficulties, his dedication and perseverance saw him complete his primary education in Bukit Sabun, Long Lama and subsequently excel at Tanjong Lobang School in Miri where he passed his Senior Cambridge examination.

“He could have furthered his studies but he chose to become a teacher and enrolled in Batu Lintang Teachers Training College. After graduating he was posted to many different schools in Miri and Limbang Divisions as a teacher, principal and district education officer,” he said in a statement today.

Recalling his impact, Gerawat, who is Freddie’s former student on Bario Primary School in 1967 when he was in Primary Four, reminisced about his dedication as a teacher who loved his students and is always concerned about his student’s welfare.

“He was very firm and strict when it comes to matters of discipline. He was very well liked and respected by us students, our parents and his colleagues. I remember he was very good at sports and it was years later that I found out he played hockey for Miri Division when he was a student at Tanjong Lobang School,” he said.

Freddie had an outstanding career as evidenced in the awards and recognition given to him, among include the Excellent Service Award (PPC) from the Education Department in 1993, the PPN or Pingat Pengkuan Negara in 1993 from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Long Service Award from the State government in 1994.

He was elected to the highly prestigious Malaysia Headmasters Council as an executive member by virtue of him as the Yang di-Pertua of the Sarawak Headmasters Council.

Beyond his educational endeavors, Freddie continued to serve his community fervently. His involvement in community affairs led to his appointment as Penghulu in 2012 and eventual elevation to Pemanca and the prestigious position of paramount chief of the Kelabit community in 2019.

“Throughout his term as Penghulu and Pemanca he served with dedication and distinction mentoring and coaching our Kelabit community leaders under his charge and as figure head for our community. He was very well regarded by his other colleagues and fellow community leaders in Baram,” added Gerawat, who is also Mulu assemblyman.

Freddie’s legacy extends beyond his professional achievements. He built a family with his wife Rinei Iwat, and together they raised four successful children, all of whom are graduates and professionals contributing to various sectors.

“In my career as an elected representative, he (Freddie) helped me so much in uniting the community, organising and motivating our community leaders and raising the needs and issues of the rakyat to me and other government departments and agencies. Whenever I visited Long Lellang I always stayed in their home,” he said.

On behalf of the Kelabit community and also the Sarawak government, Gerawat extended deepest appreciation and gratitude to Freddie for his immense contribution and sacrifice in serving the the community and the government until his very last day.

“Your legacy will always be treasured and remembered. May you rest in eternal peace and glory with God who loves you so much. Our prayers and love to Pn Rinei Iwat and children, grand children and in laws as you mourn the loss of your beloved,” he said. — DayakDaily