Thursday February 7, 2013
Our absence at funeral nothing to do with politics, says Masing
KUCHING: The absence of state ministers at the funeral of former police officer, ASP (Rtd) Wilfred Gomez Malong, on Tuesday has set tongues wagging especially in the political circles.
Although the funeral was attended by Home Deputy Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop and Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, the most senior state official present was said to be Deputy State Secretary Datuk Ose Murang.
There has been plenty of speculation about why the state leaders were missing from what is certainly a very significant moment for the state and indeed the country as the youngest ever recipient of the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) was being laid to rest.
In particular, people wondered why Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, since he is the most senior Iban minister, and Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing with whom Gomez had had a history with in the now defunct PBDS were absent.
On Tuesday evening, an online news portal arrived at the conclusion that Wilfred’s funeral was being “snubbed” by the state government because of his political past.
Wilfred had contested against Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas in Betong in 1986 and Layar, where Jabu is the assemblyman, happens to be one of three state constituencies under the seat.
However, Jabu and Masing were apparently both occupied the morning of the funeral.
It is learnt both Jabu and Masing were to fly by helicopter to Julau with Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud for a meeting with Information, Communication, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum but were grounded by heavy rain which also poured down on the Kampung Entinggan Christian Cemetery in Kota Samarahan where the burial was held.
Masing, when interviewed by The Star yesterday, vehemently denied that there was anything “political” about their absence. He said they were in fact stranded here from the morning until the skies eventually cleared at about 1pm.
Expressing his condolence to Gomez’s family, Masing said: “Our absence during the late Gomez’s funeral was because of work commitment. It was not a show of disrespect for him.”
He added that he could not vouch for the other state Cabinet members but as far as Taib, Jabu, Salang and him were concerned they were unable to attend the funeral because of their engagement.
That said, he emphasised that Gomez’s contribution to the country should never be forgotten.
“All of us appreciate what Gomez did for this country and we honour him for that. He has made it possible for us to enjoy what we have today.
“I hope our young also remember what he fought for and who were the enemies. Gomez stood up against terrorism and extremism, let us not forget that.”
Their absence aside, there is then the question of why Gomez, who died at the age of 63 on Saturday from colon cancer, was not buried in the Heroes’ Grave here where Datuk Temenggong Kanang Langkau was recently laid to rest. Kanang is the only holder of the PGB and the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP), the country’s highest medal of valour.
This has been the cause of much dissatisfaction too from across the political divide with Sarawak Ex-Policemen Association chairman and Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar being among the most vocal.
He was saddened by the fact that until today, gallant cops were still not given due recognition compared to their counterparts in the military.
“As far as I am concerned, there ought to be a policy stating that every recipient of gallantry awards like the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) and Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) ought to be automatically buried at the Heroes Grave. When there is such a policy, then it is left to the executives to implement it,” he told reporters when met at Gomez’ wake on Monday.
Masing, when asked about this, had no answers as to why Gomez was not buried at the Heroes’ Grave.
“That is beyond me. But I think that the Heroes Grave could have been located in a bigger area and since most of the recipients of the gallantry awards from Sarawak are Dayak, I believe we have enough Dayak businessman who can come together to find a better place for our heroes. It doesn’t have to be in the city, we have so much native land,” said the PRS president.