KUCHING: Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud turns 85 today.

It also marks a lifetime of public service in a career that spanned more than half a century for the Miri-born Melanau statesman.

Born May 21, 1936, Taib is the eldest of 10 children. He is a lawyer by training and studied law at University of Adelaide in South Australia.

On July 22, 1963, he was appointed as one of Sarawak’s first six cabinet ministers led by then Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan (later Tan Sri Datuk Amar) at a tender age of 27.

Throughout his career in politics, Taib earned the distinction of being the state’s longest serving chief minister in a reign that spanned 33 years until 2014 on top of 13 years being a federal minister.

He then succeeded two-time governor Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng on March 1, 2014 and oversaw two serving Chief Ministers, Pehin Sri Adenan Satem and now Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Earlier this year, Taib had celebrated his seventh year as Sarawak’s Yang di-Pertua Negeri.

During his time in public service, he had introduced his brand of politics and by moulding development-centric policies, he has transformed Sarawak while at the same time preserved the core value of Sarawakians.

He changed the economic and political landscapes of Sarawak and left a lasting legacy, reflecting our unique identity and an unwavering resolve to preserve racial and religious harmony.

An astute politician, avid reader and a fan of Malay screen legend P. Ramlee, Taib was also fascinated by the local culture, exploring its depth through films and music.

Despite retiring from active politics, Taib continued to champion unity among Sarawakians, stressing that it must be in tandem with developments being made in the state.

In his Hari Raya message earlier this month, he said personal agenda and group interests must not get in the way of development policies for the greater good of the people.

“Our politics should be separated from trivial matters particularly those that smacks of personal agenda and group interests.

“What’s most important is that it must have the purpose of producing more fair and equitable development that is beneficial to the people regardless of race and religious beliefs and other differences,” he said.

He also took the opportunity to urge Sarawakians to pride themselves on the peace and harmony that they enjoy today which were the result of tolerance and the spirit of mutual trust among the multi-racial, cultural and religious people.

“This uniqueness is the strength of Sarawak which is the pillar of unity and political stability in this state and should be continuously preserved for the next generation,” he said.

Many happy returns of the day, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

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