The story of Masing: Journey of a fry from the ancient Baleh river

Abang Johari (second right) among those attending Masing's service wake today (Nov 3, 2021).

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, Nov 3: ‘I am just a small fish from the Baleh River, why would a big fisherman come and fish for me?’ — this is the favourite quote of late Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.

Though the quote could be interpreted in many ways, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Women chief Dato Sri Doris Sohpia Brodie said she would like to see it as Masing being humble notwithstanding the brilliance he had shone upon Sarawak and its people.

“This quote has a very deep meaning, but I would like to interpret it to mean that despite his humble roots from far deep in the rural Baleh, he had shone like a precious gem that cannot go unnoticed, not only in Sarawak, but throughout the nation.

“His positive aura, his positive charisma and his humble leadership style had made him a true, blue Stateman the last 38 years of his life till his demise on Oct 31, 2021,” said Doris during the funeral wake at the Association of Churches in Sarawak, Jalan Stampin here today.

Born March 5, 1949 in Ulu Baleh to Masing Lasah and Gansau Isah, Masing was the second eldest among the eight siblings.

He obtained his early education at SK Lubok Mawang Methodist Primary School in 1955 and subsequently moved to Methodist Primary School at Ng Mujong (1956-1959) and later to Methodist Primary School Kapit (1960-1961).

His secondary years were at Methodist School, Sibu (1962-1969). There, he was remembered as very active in school plays, musicals, debate and Methodist Youth Fellowship.

He then pursued undergraduate studies at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand on a Methodist Mission Scholarship and completed his PhD at Australian National University. Masing was the first Iban to have ever achieved such high education.

After his graduation, he became a temporary teacher for three years (1970-1972) at Methodist Secondary School Kapit where he also became the Headmaster in 1976. Following that, he continued his career with SESCO as the Senior Research Officer from October, 1981 to November, 1983.

In 1982, he was the first young Malaysian to receive the Guiness Stout Effort Award. In September 1998, he received the Panglima Negara Bintang Sarawak and was conferred the title Dato Sri.

In June 2011, he received the Panglima Setia Mahkota from the federal government and was conferred the title Tan Sri.

“Tan Sri (Masing) loved reading and his collections of books are plenty. He also loved watching action movies, playing golf, going on hikes, and he enjoyed hunting and fishing too.

“He had interests in writing, taking walks, farming and he loves animals. He took great interest in birds and those who know him well must know that he often made escapades to Sunny Hill for his favourite ice cream,” Doris who is also political secretary to the Chief Minister reminisced.

From May, 2016 until the last day of October, 2021, Masing had served as Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak under the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem and current Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He was first elected in December, 1983 to Sarawak Legislative Assembly for Baleh where he had served for eight consecutive terms. He was also the Sarawak Minister for Infrastructure and Port Development since 2016.

Masing was among the pioneer members of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) and later Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), a component party of the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) where he was the founding president for 17 years since it was formed on Oct 21, 2004.

Masing passed away on Oct 31 at the age of 72 at Normah Sarawak Medical Centre due to heart complications.

His latest Covid-19 test results were found to be negative despite his previous Covid-19 infection verified on Sept 28.

Following the funeral wake which ended at 2pm today, Masing’s remains were taken to Nirvana Memorial Park, Kuching.

The Iban paramount chief from remote Baleh is survived by his wife Puan Sri Dato Corrine Masing and three children, Karen Julan Masing, Ashley Layo Masing, and Emma Maria Masing. He has two children, Anna Sulan Masing and Rachel Lian Masing, from a previous marriage.

Among those who attended the wake to pay their last respects to Masing were Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, and other Sarawak cabinet ministers. — DayakDaily