KUCHING: Sarawak lost its Grand Old Man of Politics when former Deputy Chief Minister and one-time longest-serving politician Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min passed away yesterday.
Wong, 89, suffered a sudden heart attack and was rushed to Normah Medical Specialist Centre at about 10am where he died shortly after. He leaves behind his wife Datin Valerie Bong and eight children – five daughters and three sons – as well as 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Wong played an instrumental role in the formation of Malaysia as a member of the Sarawak delegation in the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee in 1962, a precursor to the Inter-Governmental Committee that led to the nation’s birth a year later.
Born on Aug 6, 1922, in Limbang, Wong began his political career as a member of the Limbang District Council in 1951 when Sarawak was still under British colonial rule.
He was elected to the Council Negri (now State Legislative Assembly) in 1956, a position he held until 2001 when he did not seek re-election.
With nearly 50 years in the legislative body, he was the state’s longest-serving assemblyman.
He was Environment and Tourism Minister from 1987 to 1994, Environment and Housing Minister from 1995 to 1997 and Environment and Public Health Minister from 1998 to 2001.
He was conferred the prestigious Langkawi Award in 2001 for his contribution to environmental protection, including launching a reefball project and satellite tracking system to increase the population of sea turtles.
Wong also became SNAP’s third president in 1981.
Wong was also a poet and published several collections of his poems including A Special Breed (1981), Shimmering Moonbeams (1983), Buy a Little Time (1989) and Beautiful Butterfly (2009).
When Sept 16 was declared a public holiday last year, Wong saw it as a dream come true.
“It is my hope that Malaysia Day will be celebrated every Sept 16. People should remember it because it’s a historic occasion,” he said during a book launch last year.
Wong will be laid to rest in his hometown of Limbang in accordance with his request.
Our condolence to the family.