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Tun Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar From Kampung Boy to Governor!

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, presenting Tun Wan junaidi Tuanku Jaafar his instrument of appointment as Sarawak governor at Istana Negara on Friday.

By James Ritchie
Tun Wan Junaidi bin Tuanku Jaafar was born on February 1, 1945 in Kampung Pendam in Sadong Jaya.


Coming from a family of civil servants during the British colonial era of the 1950s, Junaidi’s maternal uncle Wan Abu Bakar and his cousin Wan Jamaluddin were the first Asajaya Arab-Malay to join the Sarawak Constabulary.


In the old days Kampung Pendam was a sleepy hollow in the backwaters and joining the police was the last thing their family expected. Reminiscing,

Wan Junaidi in his book entitled “A Policeman” said:
“The idea of searching for greener pastures in a far-off place like Kuching, was one thing but joining the least favoured government service was another.

The peoples view was that kampung boys were to stay with her parents …and not go looking for something new in the city.”


Wan Junaidi took pride that Sekolah Menengah Kampung Pendam was among the first few schools to be established in Lower Sadong enclave.


Sadly, his uncle Wan Jamaluddin who posted to Limbang police station where he was killed together with three other policemen.All four died unsung “heroes” and and were not awarded “decorations” by the British colonial government for their gallantry in defending the small Northern Sarawak town.


Wan Junaidi who described himself as young man boy “with a pale face and brown and wavy hair”, was admitted to Standard primary at the Pendam Primary school together with his youngest aunt Sharifah Rashidah who was two years older but was promoted to Primary 2 within six months.


In fact, both he and his aunt could read and write in Jawi and had read the syair and hikayat and knew the multiplication tables by heart.


In 1961, after his Standard Four exams, Junaidi continued his studies at Madrasah Melayu, Kuching’s premier Malay educational institution at Jalan P Ramlee.


“I was still very much a kampung boy when I started my stint (in Kuching). I was unexposed to the urban way of life and the Kuching Malays attitude.


“There was prejudice towards rural people whom they called orang laut and they considered us as rustic and inferior”.
His academic achievements continued at Madrasah Melayu where he excelled in Arithmetic, Geometry and Algebra and in 1962 he was recipient of the “Best Mathematical Student”.


However, he left school in March 1963 to join the Public Works Department a year later to join the Sarawak Constabulary’s “Commissioners’ Cadets” scheme in Kuala Lumpur.
After nine months of gruelling training and a study tour to Penang he returned to Sarawak eager to take on his new job as a policeman.
Based at the Central police station, Wan Junaidi’s first posting was to Miri before he returned to the traffic section in Kuching.

Tun Wan Junaidi as a young police officer in 1969

By August 1967, he had been promoted to acting Inspector and shortly after the first Commissioners’ Cadet to be promoted to the rank of Inspector.


In 1968 he became the first Malay personal assistant (Aide-De-Camp) to the commissioner of the Sarawak Constabulary Dato Sri John George Ritchie and was groomed the “old school” way.


Taken under the wing of Ritchie, Wan Junaidi said that unlike the colonial culture where there was a formal gap between a senior British officer and Sarawak officers of “other ranks”.


Ipoh-born John Ritchie was a role model in the Malaysian police force for 32 years, serving in Singapore as a probationary Inspector in 1938 as well as Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Kelantan before capping his exemplary career when Tengku Abdul Rahman sent to Sarawak.


Diplomat Malcolm G Kraal wrote in “The Penang Island Story” (2007): “Johnny was a much-admired personality and terrific sportsman and decorated high-ranking policeman and praised for excellent work during the Emergency by (Sir) Gerald Templer.”


As an officer with great potential Ritchie mentored the 23-year-old Junaidi in various aspects of policing such as formality and code of conduct.


One of the daily routines of Wan Junaidi’s to deliver the the newspapers by hand to Ritchie at Pengkalan Batu.


He recalled soon after being appointed PA, when he was accompanying the commissioner’s official vehicle to the Jalan Badruddin headquarters, Ritchie asked him about the news in the Sarawak Tribune.


Junaidi did not reply, because he had not read the newspapers because it was not entitled to read the Commissioner’s newspaper.


Ritchie quipped he said “Junaidi, you must learn to know what is around you. The newspapers are the nearest source available to you so you must read them.”


Reading became a habit


After that Wan Junaidi became an avid reader.
“From that morning I promised myself I would never be caught by surprise. John Ritchie had shown me the value of a newspaper (and) after the admonishment I began to read his newspapers before he came,” Wan Junaidi joked.


On one occasion he accompanied Riitchie to visit the Sematan police station before going to the beach where Ritchie took off the top portion of his uniformed.


Wan Junaidi said it was a hot day and he was sweating profusely added: “When he saw that I was still in my uniform he said: “Junaidi take off your shirt. You don’t wear a uniform on the beach.”


With that, Wan Junaidi said that Divisional Supt Dublin Siju who accompanied the group on the visit said : “Wan, CP has ordered we better take off our shirts!!
“So, both of us took off our shirts, but kept our trousers on,” Wan Junaidi laughed.


In another interesting story Ritchie tried to become match-maker when he visited Betong police station and a friend who had a beautiful daughter.


However, the daughter was not in and Ritchie quipped tongue-in-cheek: “Our luck not so good today, ya Junaidi. We will try again next time.”


Wan Junaidi continued: “We never tried again, of course. But I found that commissioner John Ritchie was unbelievably nice. He was a true leader. I learnt humility, kindness (from him) and how to enjoy myself.”


At the end of his apprenticeship, Wan Junaidi was told he was being transferred to the Police Field Force to fight the communists.


Junaidi who was caught by surprise, said: “I replied that’s very good Sir’. Of course, I didn’t have a choice. The Commissioner was simply being polite and diplomatic.”


A platoon commander of the Sarawak PFF
That was the beginning of his “baptism of fire” when he was hand-picked by PFF commander Johnny Mustapha to lead a section of 28 men on the infamous “Operation Hentam”.

In the muddy and mosquito-infested swamps of Muara Tebas.


Accompanied by experienced officer Inspectors Rentap ak Jemut and Alfred Brayan, they trekked for 10 hours before reaching their jungle location where Junaidy faced his first fierce fire-fight.


He was involved in other operations where his squad secured several kills.


After a short stint at the Rajang Security Command (RASCOM) in Sibu he returned to Kuching in 1972 and married Feona Sim before sent back to Kuala Kubu Baru for an advances Traffic Management course.


Unhappy with his educational qualifications sat and passed his MCE exams followed by the Higher School Certificate (HSC).


After 10 years in the police, five of which was roaming “roaming the jungles in search of communist terrorists” he decided become a lawyer.


But that too was a major challenge because he had a wife and daughter to support while literally begging for scholarships from Yayasan Sarawak and MARA with limited success.


After four long years in England, it was worth the sacrifice when he returned to Kuching with two Law degrees and the burning desire to leave the government and venture into politics!!


In the 1990 Wan Junaidi has is first taste of elections when won the Batang Lupar parliamentary and successfully defended his position in the two following elections.


In the 2004 he contested in Santubong and retained the seat in the 2008, 2013 and 2018 general elections.


On April 28, 2008, Wan Junaidi was elected as one of the Parliament’s Deputy Speakers and served for one term.


He was appointed the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs on May 16, 2013 and two years later became Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.


President of the Dewan Negara and Senator
On June 19, 2023 Wan Junaidi was officially be appointed and sworn into office by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.


His candidacy as President was nominated by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and seconded by Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Tengku Zafrul Aziz


In his speech outlining his agendas after the swearing-in ceremony, Wan Junaidi expressed his commitment to prioritise the implementation of the code of ethics for Senators, reintroduce the Parliamentary Services Act, amend the Houses of Parliament (Privilege and Powers) Act 1952, and revise the Dewan Negara Regulations to strengthen the role of committees in Parliament.


These efforts were aimed at improving and transforming the institution.


On January 26, 2004 Tan Sri Wan Junaidi was sworn in as Sarawak’s seventh governor succeeding Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud; Malaysia’s longest serving politician-cum statesman since 1963. – Talantang

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