Some regular readers of my column asked me whether I am writing anything about the present political scenario. I told a few of them during our coffee time that I am not a political analyst or writer, but if I were to write anything, it will be focused on Defence Minister and Amanah President Ahmad Sabu’s jokes that I really enjoy.
Nevertheless, a lot of his jokes are already viral on KiniTV series, so viewers could look into these TV series to enjoy his jokes, including those he made on newly sworn-in Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed. So a firm ‘no’ to any political issues as these can be easily found written by newspapers’ reporters, feature writers and others. I rather go for items that are different, and hitherto, perhaps have never been written before by anybody.
My recent article on Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi just before GE14 polling day reminds me of his late grandfather Iban Paramount chief Tun Datuk Patinggi Temenggong Jugah anak Barieng (1903-1981) who also held the post of Federal Minister of Sarawak Affairs.
He was also the first Iban federal minister. It was in 1975 that I first saw Jugah in person but did not get to greet him as he was quickly escorted into the room of RASCOM (Rajang Security Command) Chief Executive Officer Abang Mohammad Sharkawi. He was brought in to RASCOM Sibu premises by an ambulance (belonging to Sibu Red Crescent Office) driven by a friend of mine.
Then I was serving as assistant editor of Berita Rayat, an Iban monthly newspaper in the Info/Psywar Section under the Information Department, Sibu. On that day, Jugah who was Federal Minister of Sarawak Affairs, was on a visit to RASCOM but was not accompanied by any other officer, except the helicopter pilot. It was the pilot who told the ambulance driver that ‘Apai Jugah’ (as he was fondly known) insisted that he was to be dropped at Padang Sukan Tuanku Bujang (Tuanku Bujang Sports Field) which was just across the RASCOM’s various offices.
“Tu RASCOM anak, turun ditu (This is RASCOM my son, we go down here),” he was quoted as saying by the pilot. However, according to an earlier plan, the helicopter was supposed to drop at the Sibu Airport (now known as Sibu Old Airport) whereby all the Sibu top VIPs were waiting for him (Jugah).
Then Sibu Resident Datuk Abang Zainuddin ( fondly known as Abang J ) , RASCOM CEO Abang Mohammad Sharkawi, Police chief SAC Ramsay Jitam, Army chief General Mohd Ali Hashim and others were among those at Sibu Airport on that day leaving their respective offices empty.
Upon Jugah’s arrival at the RASCOM CEO’s office with his pilot, the lesser officers hurriedly called Sibu Airport office – those were the days of fixed phones only – for Abang J and Abang Mohd Sharkawi as well as the others. So when the CEO finally made it back to his office, Jugah was already comfortably seated inside the airconditioned room and smiling widely, said an officer who was family with this case. According to the ambulance driver, he passed by Jugah and his pilot while they were just out from the back gate of the sports field on the way to RASCOM. From behind Jugah was easily identified by his signature Iban traditional hairdo. As such he stopped to give both a lift as the ambulance was empty.
“Apai Jugah was very thankful after being given a lift in my ambulance. In fact, he was the most important VIP ever to take a lift in my ambulance,” said the driver whose name is lost in the web of my memory. This story of Jugah going to RASCOM getting a lift in an ambulance reminds me of another story about another ambulance incident.
It happened a few years ago along the Serian-Kuching Road link where a man was being rushed to the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH), Kuching in an ambulance. He was accompanied by his daughter-inlaw. It was said along the way the sick man was asking for water and said he was very thirsty but there was no water. So the man politely requested the daughter-in-law to breast-feed him as she was still nursing a newborn. Out of respect, the woman did as requested but to the chagrin of her husband (the man’s son) who came to know the matter long after the incident. Obviously there have been few other interesting incidents in an ambulance that are privy only to the driver. It takes a talkative driver to make ‘ambulance driver’s confessions’.
So far I am privy to just two of them. I first met Jugah in August 1973 when he came over to our Kedap longhouse Gawai Antu. He was then accompanying my uncle Musa Giri who was his private secretary and stayed just a door away from ours. During the Gawai Antu proper, he was guest-of-honour together with then Tan Sri Datuk Gerunsin Lembat who was the State Secretary. Jugah stayed overnight while Gerunsin (my father’s cousin) left after a few hours.
It was during the night that Jugah was invited into our humble room and that I had the privilege to serve him as well as guiding him back to Musa’s room later in the night. He and Musa became the second and third Iban ever to visit China – the first Iban to visit China was Temenggong Bangau Renang who came for the 1960 Canton Trade Fair – when they accompanied then Prime Minister Tun Razak for the China visit where they met Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse Tung and Premier Chou En Lai.
We met again on 27 June, 1975 when I needed his signature as a witness for my Federal Scholarship Agreement form. I am privy to where he sampled his signature but am not willing to share such information with readers. “Anang pulai ngapa enti enda bulih degree universiti (Don’t come back without a university degree),” he told me. I took heed of Jugah’s wise advice but never got to meet him after 1975.