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Abang Johari (second row, second left) and Jumaani (first row, left) paying their last respects to Ujang. With them are Elizabeth (front row, second right), her daughters, Nanta (second row, left) and other members of the state cabinet and dignitaries. — Photos by Chimon Upon
KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and wife Datin Patinggi Dato Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang represented the state government in paying last respects to the late Tan Sri Celestine Ujang Jilan at his residence here yesterday.
Abang Johari described the late Ujang as a statesman who had sacrificed a lot for Sarawak and his passing was a big loss to the state and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).
“I personally had the privilege of working with the late Celestine in PBB as well as in the state cabinet. He (Celestine) was not only a great leader but a friend and colleague who had made what Sarawak is today,” he said when met by reporters at the wake yesterday.
Abang Johari revealed that Ujang, who was a former Kemena assemblyman, entered politics at a very young age in 1974.
“Celestine was initially Minister of Youth and Sports and became the State Legislative Assembly Speaker and back again to the Cabinet as Minister of Housing and Land Development. Together with other PBB members he defended the state government and PBB during the 1987 Ming Court affair and he had contributed to the stability of Sarawak,” he added.
“As youth leader of PBB at that time, me and Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had the privilege to work under him as our youth leader. The late Celestine managed us fairly in the party and we learned a lot from him as a leader.
“When we had crisis, he volunteered to accommodate the members of another party (Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) by giving his cabinet seat to the party and he even resigned from his cabinet post and gave way to PBDS to have the cabinet seat in the state Barisan Nasional (BN) so as to make it a very strong BN party in the state,” said Abang Johari.
A Catholic priest leads Elizabeth (left) and family members in the prayer for the late Ujang at their residence during his wake yesterday.
“The sacrifice made by Celestine allowed PBDS to come into the BN fold at that time as part of our government. In other words, he set aside his personal interest for more stability of our government. Today, we really lost a great leader,” he added.
“The state government sympathises with the family of Celestine and hope his children will continue with their normal life,” he said further.
Earlier, the remains of the late Ujang arrived at his residence at 1.30pm from a private hospital and were received by his wife Datin Elizabeth Pawa, family members, relatives and friends.
Ujang will be buried at Nirvana Memorial Park, Jalan Kuching-Bau Siniawan after a memorial service at St Joseph’s Cathedral at 1.30pm tomorrow (Saturday, Jan 13).
He leaves behind his wife, three daughters Malvina, Angelina and Priscilla and five grandchildren and a sister.
Angelina, Ujang’s second daughter, is the wife of Rural and Regional Development Deputy Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi.
Among the state dignitaries paying their last respects were Deputy Chief Ministers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan and their wives and other state cabinet ministers.
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