Sarawak calls off governor’s birthday celebration

Desmond Davidson

Yang di-Pertua Negeri Abdul Taib Mahmud (centre) at an event to mark Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in Kuching on September 28. Taib is reported to be still recuperating from a surgery. – Sarawak Department of Information pic, October 10, 2023.

THE Sarawak government has postponed the main events that had been scheduled as part of the official birthday celebration of Yang di-Pertua Negeri Abdul Taib Mahmud on Saturday.

The announcement, made by State Secretary Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki, gave no reason for the postponement, but the ailing 87-year-old head of state is reported to be recuperating from a surgery he underwent while on holiday in Turkey.

Abu Bakar, in a statement, said the events were “postponed to a later date to be determined”.

The official birthday of the governor falls on the second Saturday of every October.

Despite the celebrations being put off, Abu Bakar said this Saturday will remain a public holiday for the state.

Taib, who made his first public appearance at the state’s Prophet Muhammad birthday celebrations in Kuching on September 28 since his return, was the subject of negative postings in the social media over his prolonged absence.

That had led to police reports being lodged against some social media posts.

On June 23, Astana Negeri lodged a police report against social media posts that Taib had died.

The report, made by Taib’s press secretary, Peter Sibon, was on the basis of him receiving a WhatsApp message on June 21 that claimed Taib was in an induced coma at Sarawak General Hospital.

On August 3, Taib’s private secretary, Junih Salleh Ahmad, was forced to issue a statement assuring Sarawak people that the governor’s health was “improving and that he will go home once his doctors approve him for travel”.

Rebutting continued social media posts – one “announcement” bearing the logo of broadcaster Astro Awani – that Taib had died, Junih appealed to the public not to be “easily hoodwinked by unverified news amid speculations on Tun’s (Taib) current health”.

Astro Awani has, however, denied ownership of the announcement and dismissed it as fake news.

The broadcaster, nonetheless, apologised to the governor’s family.

The Sarawak government on July 29 admitted that Taib had fallen ill while out of the country.

On July 31, Deputy Minister in the Sarawak Premier’s Office Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said Taib was still able to discharge his duties and, therefore, there was no necessity for the state to appoint an acting governor.

However, on August 17, the state government appointed Mohammad Asfia Awang Nassar, the state legislative assembly speaker, as acting governor. – October 10, 2023.

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