What do we intend to pass on after we move on? Legacy is about ‘passing on’ things that have lasting value to those who live on after us. It involves living intentionally and to build for the future of the next generations to ensure their success.

Ideally, a legacy comes about when a leader does the right thing; this usually starts with creating a vision and working towards fulfilling it. This usually takes a conscious, committed and focused effort.

Everyone leaves a legacy. This could be in your past role as a team member, as a parent, past job, leadership role — political or business and many other roles. It is all about what you leave behind.

A few days ago, it was the third anniversary of the demise of our late fifth chief minister Adenan Satem fondly known as Tok Nan. Leaving behind a legacy is exactly what he did.

During his short term in office from 2014 to 2017, he made a major impact in the direction of the development in Sarawak. He also established strategies that were essential to Sarawak’s progress. He made many hard decisions but they were the right ones.

Central to his legacy was the fight he initiated for Sarawak’s autonomy, leading the journey to take back the rights as agreed upon in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 from the Malayan-dominated federal government. He also lobbied hard to restore Sarawak’s position as a founding member of the Federation of Malaysia.

In addition to fighting for Sarawak’s autonomy, he also came across as stalwartly safeguarding the rights of all the people in Sarawak, irrespective of race and religion. He often stated that there were no ‘pendatang’ in Sarawak, signalling that all had a right to call Sarawak their home.

There are many more instances of his decisiveness, such as English as an official language for our administration, recognition of UEC certificates from Chinese independent schools, the right to use the word “Allah” by non-Muslims, priority for Sarawakians to fill up positions in Petronas in Sarawak, strong support for mission schools and setting his administration apart from that of his predecessor.

The above is Tok Nan’s strong, good and lasting legacy, a committed and fearless Sarawakian to the end.

However, while some people leave behind good legacies, some leave bad ones. An example of a bad legacy would be the promotion of racism, discrimination or any form of policy measures that places particular or certain segments of society at a disadvantage. This will leave behind a legacy of inequality and injustice remembered by people for time immemorial.

Another person we have on the scene is the much talked about seventh Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. When he was the fourth prime minister, he oversaw a period of rapid transformation and overall fast economic growth. In this context he left behind a good legacy where Malaysia was classified as one of the Asian economic “tigers”.

His political track record was however littered by intolerance towards anyone he saw as a threat to him, both within Umno and the opposition. This saw several persons jailed for one reason or another. The ‘Rule of Law’ was not exactly his strong point. It could be said he left his fourth prime ministership with a mixed legacy.

Since his return to office as the seventh prime minister, he has not been doing too well. If he carries on performing the way he is, he risks poisoning his legacy with deeds unworthy of an elder statesman. Let’s just hope he makes a smooth departure to at least maintain a semblance of good legacy.

While in Sarawak, we have Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is taking bold steps to launch Sarawak into an era of IR4.0 with many worthy initiatives to transform the rural areas and enhance the towns and cities.

He has charted a course for Sarawak that will not only uplift many Sarawakians but also ensure its long-term economic growth and stability. This gives hope to people.

On a personal basis, we can build our legacy by taking small steps that will add positive behaviours and attitudes in our lives. However, we also need to eliminate bad behaviours.

The only time to build legacy is now. I am not advocating that you drop everything, go out there and do what might be thought of as ‘big things’. Perhaps, start with those close to you and people you spend time with.

Do your best at work. Think of service and making a difference. Do what you are comfortable with.

Your footprints and actions in the history of time count. Make sure they are good ones and in the minds of your family, friends and the people of Sarawak. Your footprints today are your legacy tomorrow. 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.