Taib Mahmud dies

He was Sarawak’s longest serving chief minister, holding the post for 33 years.

(FMT) – Abdul Taib Mahmud, Sarawak’s longest serving chief minister, has died. He was 87.

Taib died at a hospital in Kuala Lumpur at about 4.40am. His death was confirmed to FMT by deputy prime minister Fadillah Yusof.

His body will be taken to the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur later this morning.

Taib was the longest serving head of a state government in Malaysia, heading the Sarawak government for 33 years from 1981 to 2014.

He was the country’s second-longest serving MP, serving Kota Samarahan for 38 years from 1970 to 2008.

He also served as Sarawak governor from 2014 until late last month.

Taib is widely credited with developing the state through numerous infrastructure projects. In January, he was described by Sarawak premier Abang Johari Openg as the “father of modern Sarawak”.

Johari called Taib the unifying force behind the state’s harmony and political stability, which he said could be traced back to when Taib assumed the chief minister’s post.

Taib also faced allegations of bribery and abuse of power, although authorities said they were unable to act on these due to a lack of proof.

The eldest of 10 siblings, Taib was born in Miri, Sarawak, on May 21, 1936 to Mahmud Abang Yahya and Hamidah Ya’kub.

He served as a judge’s associate in the Supreme Court of South Australia after completing his law studies at the University of Adelaide, before returning to Sarawak.

He started his public service when he became a member of the first state Cabinet after the British gave Sarawak the power of self-governance on July 22, 1963.

Taib was appointed Sarawak communications and works minister as well as its development and forestry minister before entering politics at the federal level in 1966, where he helmed ministries such as defence, primary industries and federal territories, before being appointed Sarawak’s fourth chief minister.

In a press release issued by Astana Negeri in connection with the celebration of Sarawak’s 60 years of independence last year, Taib said serving Sarawak was a “calling” which he chose over several options after graduating with a law degree in 1960.

He also called on Sarawakians to respect their leaders as they would their parents.

“This way, we will be able to continue to transform Sarawak, which aims to achieve developed status by 2030,” he said.

Taib had four children from his marriage to Laila Taib, who died in 2009. He married Syrian-born Raghad Kurdi Taib the following year.