DPM Fadillah attributes the success to his late father

Photo taken in 2017 by Fadillah’s parents, Yusof Merais and Dayang Rosnah Abang Madeli. They passed away on Oct 23, 2018, and Jan 13, 2021, respectively.

KUCHING (July 21): Deputy Prime Minister Dato Seri Fadillah Yusof attributes his success today to his late father, Yusof Merais, who fought for the liberation of Sarawak from British colonialism in the early 1950s.

Speaking to The Borneo Post and Envoy of Borneo in an exclusive interview in connection with Sarawak’s 60th Independence anniversary, he said that his father was a man who was willing to fight for the people.

For him, the hardships and struggles his father went through during the anti-cession movement will be a constant reminder for him to always stay grounded.

“We came from very humble beginnings where as a family we were not all well rich. Life was hard then, everyone struggled to make a living.

“My father worked as a pump attendant who filled fuel for ships on the Rajang River,” he said.

Recalling his family’s struggles and hardships during British colonization, he said his father’s strong commitment to fight for Sarawak’s independence resulted in his imprisonment by the British.

According to him, his father was arrested on the 20th of April in 1950 and imprisoned for almost a year following the assassination of British governor Sir Duncan George Stewart in Sibu last year.

“My father always shared stories about how they fought for freedom. There were movements in Kuching, Miri and Sibu. So at that time, they secretly met with the Pemuda, not many of them. Even my father said he didn’t know about it.

“My dear mother led a very difficult life taking us all to herself, earning a living as an ‘amah’, washing clothes at other people’s houses and sewing,” she said.

Fadillah, who hails from Kampung Datu, also shared the political situation during the anti-cession movement from 1946 to 1950.

He said his father was a friend of Rosli Dhobi, who killed Stewart. He participated in the Malay Youth Movement, which opposed the handing over of Sarawak to the British.

“My father was implicated because the shirt worn by Rosli Dhobi (when he carried out the attack on British governor Duncan Stewart in Sibu in December 1949) was his shirt.

“During the trial, they were not represented by lawyers, so Cikgu Rambli (Awang Rambli Amit Mohd Deli, who is among the four people charged with murder) represented them.

Fadillah Yusof – Photo by Chimon Upon

“Rambli defended them by saying that Duncan Stewart died because of the knife used by the doctors in the operation, not the one used by Rosli Dhobi because he was still alive when he was sent to the hospital in Singapore. He said Duncan Stewart died in surgery in Singapore. That’s their defense.

“During the trial, they were all found guilty. Four of them were hanged, and the rest were imprisoned. Among those hanged were Rosli Dhobi and Rambli.

“Just imagine that everyone was involved in that anti-secession movement. Including my father, even women involved in the campaign!

“My mother was asked to give a speech even though my mother was illiterate. He can only read Jawi.

“There was a picture that showed her standing on a wooden box, speaking to encourage women to fight. But there was actually someone hidden behind a piece of cloth behind her reading a speech and my mother was just repeating what she heard.

But despite being illiterate and unable to speak or read, Fadillah said her mother, Dayang Rosnah Abang Madeli, shared that spirit when they fought for Sarawak’s independence in those days.

“I remember that every weekend, we had to go to the farm to collect crops like vegetables and fruits. After that, we sold in government quarters because in those days, only civil servants could afford to buy. In our family, everyone is involved in that process.

“That was a difficult time but it really taught me how to live, how to live. That was the advantage for us to know what life is about,” he said.

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