--- Story on Adenan Satem, a James Ritchie special report for hegehegeh.com 

BORN in Kuching on January 27, 1944—at the tail end of the Second World War—Adenan was the son of Customs officer Haji Satem bin Haji Sulong, a Kuching Malay from Kampung Bandarsah 2, just off the present Jalan Ajibah Abol. 

Haji Satem was no less a rare breed—he had excelled as a civil servant in the British colonial government and received a long service award. During the run-up to the formation of Malaysia in the early 1960s he was also appointed as a Counsellor with the Cobbold Commission.

 Adenan’s mother Hajjah Rabiah binte Usman who was of Indian-Muslim and Chinese descent and the second wife of Haji Satem, also a religious teacher in their village, was also a great influence in Adenan’s life.

Both husband and wife were of the opinion that their seven children would be sent one either one of the top schools in Kuching St Joseph’s and St Thomas, and chose the former.

Adenan’s oldest brother Amin was the first to attend St Joseph’s School while Adenan, who was the second youngest of the siblings, followed in older brother’s footsteps and spent eight years in the Catholic institution.

 An avid reader Adenan first attended St Anthony’s in Sarikei followed by the Sacred Heart School in Sibu. On his return to Kuching, Adenan attended primary five at St Joseph’s school where he remained until he completed his Upper Six examinations.

Adenan gave credit to his mother for encouraging and guiding him from childhood until he earned a scholarship to study law at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Adenan was proud of his alma mater because two of his seniors Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub and Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, had also excelled at St Joseph’s school and eventually became lawyers. Both eventually became Sarawak chief Ministers.

In 1964 after completing his Higher School Certificate (HSC) with distinction, he worked as a temporary teacher and then joined the Sarawak Tribune as a reporter for six months.

 A prolific writer, he wrote several articles, one of which was “The Burden and the Glory” on the holding public office.

Adenan explained that in his article he wrote that when an individual assumes public office it was a “burden” which one that could be rewarded with “glory”.

But glory always came with a price. “After a while, the glory fades and it is always the burden that remains.” 

After Taib returned to Sarawak as a crown counsel from the Adelaide university in 1962, it was Adenan’s turn to emulate his mentor. 

On July 22, 1963 Taib was appointed one of Sarawak’s first cabinet Ministers.

Little did Adenan realise that his destiny and Taib’s would be intertwined.

After returning from Australia where he served as prosecutor in the Crown Law Office of Adelaide from 1969 till 1970, he tied the knot with Taib’s sister Aisha Zainab.

In 1972, a year after his appointment as a Magistrate in Kuching, Adenan and was invited to Kuala Lumpur to become an assistant secretary in the Natural Resources Ministry under Taib.

Three years later Adenan returned to Kuching and ventured into legal practice.

His political career took off in 1976 when he was appointed as the legal advisor and a committee member of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).

In 1978 he contested in the Muara Tuang State constituency (now called Samarahan) by-election and won by defeating Razali Sabang of the Opposition party PAJAR by a majority of 2,797 votes.  

He retained the seat in Sarawak's third state election in Sept 1979 when he defeated opposition Pajar candidate Bujang Ali Nor by 3,422 votes.

In December 1983, Adenan continued his winning style and became the Muara Tuang incumbent for another term by beating Abang Ibrahim Abang Othman.

During 1987 political crisis where a group of assemblymen led by former governor Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub he was a “key” member of Taib’s team who had a narrow 28-20 victory.

My first book entitled “A Gentleman’s Victory for Taib Mahmud” was inspired by the current governor who challenged Tun Rahman, his uncle, to challenge him if he dared.  

The headline in the Taib-backed newspaper The People’s Mirror on March 21, 1987 read: “Fight me in Sebandi if you dare..”

However, Tun Rahman contested in Matu Dato against another Melanau businessman and newspaper owner Dato Wahad Dollah and lost by a 1,625 majority.

Tun Taib had bigger majority of 2,194 against challenger Datuk Wan Yusuf in Sebandi securing 4297 votes to 2,203.

In the meantime, the Muara Tuang incumbent, beat Abdul Rahman Hamzah, a former political secretary and father of current Sarawak Minister for Tourism Dato Sri Abdul Karim by a 3441 majority. 

Adenan won again in the September 1991 State election doubling his majority of 8,272 votes; and due to his popularity won unopposed in the subsequent in September 1996. 

Five years later in September 2001, Adenan went on to beat Independent Suhaili Hamid with an even larger majority with 9,708 votes in the same constituency.

With that win Adenan became a record seven-term assemblyman for the Muara Tuang constituency. [Dated 25.4.2024]