"There is a new fever in Sarawak. It’s called Adenan fever,” read the billboards in Sarawak.
That's quite right.
Tan Sri Adenan Satem, the incumbent Sarawak Chief Minister (CM) from the ruling side of the political divide, Barisan Nasional (BN), has been winning the hearts of Sarawakians ever since he took over from Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud two years ago.
Experts are predicting that Adenan is on the road to a victory in the 11th Sarawak state election this year
Sarawak is crucial to keeping BN in federal power, holding 31 (or almost 14 per cent) of 222 federal seats and this election is being viewed as a gauge of the level of support BN can expect to get from the state the next general election, due by 2018.
These polls are also Adenan's chance to earn his first real mandate from the people, and analysts have predicted that he will do this easily. BN could even win more seats than its previous two-thirds majority if people vote with him in mind.
1. The promise of getting back Sarawak's autonomous powers
Adenan has been outspoken about restoring Sarawak's autonomous rights since last June.
“Autonomy is really close in our hearts — a very important issue for all Sarawakians today. The people I met have all expressed their full support for Adenan and to them, the Chief Minister is a great defender of Sarawak’s rights,” political analyst Datuk Peter Minos was quoted as saying by Borneo Post Online.
On his achievements since taking office in February 2014, the caretaker chief minister said he had successfully negotiated the devolution of power to Sarawak by securing 13 provisions of administrative empowerment.
He said the provisions include the need for the federal government to consult the state government prior to the tabling any laws affecting Sarawak's interests.
2. He made English the official language in Sarawak despite criticisms and opposition from various parties
Last November, Adenan announced that Sarawak has adopted English as the official language of the state administration, apart from Bahasa Malaysia.
“I have been labelled as not being nationalistic or patriotic enough by others when I advocate for the use of English in Sarawak. I am just being practical and logical,” he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail Online.
Later in December, during a ceremony to hand over native land titles to residents in Serian, Adenan reportedly said, “Whether they agree with me in the Semenanjung (peninsula) or not, I don’t care."
3. He put a stop to having the 'lain-lain' option on government official forms
Adenan has played a significant role in helping Sarawakians earn their official race status in Malaysia.
The original citizens of Sarawak, better known as Dayaks, have been called ‘others’ or ‘lain-lain’ in race status classification on government official forms, relegating them to the same category as foreigners in their own land.
Adenan has championed and pushed for reforms and finally, after some 50 years, on 30 October 2015, the Cabinet finally approved ‘Dayak’ as a category on official government forms while also deciding to abolish the use of 'lain-lain' racial category on government forms last month.
4. His brave decision to lead the Sarawak state government to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC)
Last September, SUPP president Senator Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian made an announcement (with the approval from Adenan) that the Sarawak state government has decided to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).
The UEC is the Chinese independent school qualification equivalent of STPM.
The move by Adenan essentially made Sarawak the first state in Malaysia to recognise the UEC, while the federal government continued to resist the UEC as the qualification for entry into public institutions.
5. He defended and thanked the ethnic Chinese, slamming the use of the term "pendatang"
The Chinese should no longer be seen as immigrants in Malaysia as they have lived here for generations, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said last February.
In his Chinese New Year message this year, Adenan paid a tribute to the Chinese for their contributions to the state, and told the community that they should rightfully regard Malaysia as their home.
“You call Sarawak your home, and indeed this is your home just like for those from many other races,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.
"You are not pendatang. If any of your friends from the peninsula call you pendatang, to hell with them. You are Malaysians of Chinese origin, this is your land,” he reportedly said at the same function.
6. He allows Sarawak Christians to use the Arabic word “Allah” to refer to their God — a term which some Muslims claim to be exclusive to Islam
According to a survey by Merdeka Centre, Adenan’s policy of allowing Christians to use 'Allah' in their worship and prayers earned him an approval rating of 71 percent from the non-Muslim Bumiputera respondents.
“You can use ‘Allah’ any time you want. No problem. Just use it with respect,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.
“I will not tell you how to practise your religion. I am a Muslim and I try to be a good one."
“But I will not tell my Christian friends how to worship. It is their business,” he said.
7. He abolished all the tolls in Sarawak
Sarawakians celebrated a momentous occasion during 2015's New Year's eve as the toll collection at the Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Bridge in Petra Jaya, Kuching, ceased operations.
It was a momentous occasion as there was no more toll collection in Sarawak ever since.
The Tun Salahuddin Bridge was one of the three bridges in the state collecting toll before the new year.
The others were Lanang Bridge in Sibu and Asean Bridge in Miri. Toll at Lanang Bridge was abolished in May while Asean Bridge was made toll-free in June last year.
8. He is dedicated to fight timber corruption and preserve the remaining forests
Sarawak has been one of the hotspots of global deforestation and much of Sarawak's rainforests have been destroyed due to corruption and weak governance.
After decades of logging, both legal and illegal, Adenan has attempted to put a stop to this leading his State Cabinet ministers and assistant ministers to make a pledge towards fighting graft. He also made the state’s “big six” logging firms to sign “integrity pledges”.
Transparency International-Malaysia (TI-M) also praised Adenan's efforts in combating corruption and addressing the illegal logging issues in Sarawak.
BN will be banking on Adenan's popularity to win back voters who had begun swinging away from the ruling coalition in the past few years
According to a survey in January this year by the independent pollster Merdeka Centre, 81 percent of Sarawakians have given the thumbs up for Tan Sri Adenan Satem as their chief minister, a 13 percent increase from the previous survey in April last year.
The ruling party, Barisan Nasional, would probably ride on Adenan's huge popularity among locals to get back the voters they have lost to the corruption scandals raised by the opposition linked to BN chairman, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
"Even if you don't like the candidate, just think of Adenan, as we are one team. There are 82 people in the team. Please help them because a vote for them is a vote for Adenan," he was quoted as saying by The Star.