By Hakim Hayat & Waleed PD Mahdini
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday morning offered his final respects to the late former Minister of Communications, Pehin Orang Kaya Amar Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Zakaria bin Datu Mahawangsa Hj Sulaiman who succumbed to a terminal illness early Tuesday evening. He was 74.
His Majesty participated in a mass prayer, which was led by the State Mufti, Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Aziz bin Juned.
Also present to offer their last respects earlier in the morning at the late former minister's residence in Jln Terunjing, Kg Lambak were HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah and HRH Princess Hjh Masna with YAM Pg Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pg Anak Hj Abdul Aziz.
Also attending the funeral were Cabinet Ministers and former ministers, some of whom worked alongside the late Pehin during his 16-year tenure as the Minister of Communications until 2005.
Pehin Orang Kaya Hamzah Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdullah, current Minister of Communications, said the late Pehin was a very patient, humble and kind-hearted person.
"Working with him for almost 17 years during my time as the Director at the Ministry of Communications, he was not just a leader to me, but also my source of guidance," the minister told the Bulletin.
The minister said the late Pehin came up with many initiatives during his tenure in office and had brought about positive development and transformation in the communications sector in Brunei and set the benchmark for ministers who followed him.
"He was also an avid reader and had a very broad knowledge. This was visible as he showed excellent leadership skills which were admired by his subordinates," the minister said.
"It is a great loss of not just a former leader but also a friend. He will always be fondly remembered," the minister added.
Meanwhile, Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong, Minister of Education, who took over the role of the Minister of Communications after the late Pehin Hj Zakaria retired in 2005 said, "I knew Pehin Orang Kaya Amar Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Zakaria as one of the first few early graduates to serve His Majesty's Government in the late 1960s. Although I did not have the opportunity to work directly with him, I had deep admiration and appreciation for his hard work, commitment and dedication in carrying out his responsibilities in different areas of government," the minister said.
"During the late Pehin Hj Zakaria's term as Minister of Communications, he was responsible in improving the infrastructure and services within the purview of the ministry, especially in the area of transportation and telecommunications," he added.
Among those who paid their respects yesterday morning was the Singapore High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam, Mr Joseph K H Koh.
"I paid my respects to the late Pehin Hj Zakaria and offered my condolences to Datin Jusnani at their residence (where I) also conveyed the condolences of Pehin's numerous friends in Singapore," said the envoy.
"Although I knew that Pehin Hj Zakaria had been sick for some time, I still feel a sense of loss. I knew Pehin since the pre-independence days. He was then at the Diplomatic Services Department, the precursor to the present Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
He was a witty and charming man, full of zest for life, and intellectually very engaging."
Mr Koh added: "Pehin will also be sadly missed by his many friends in Singapore, including some senior leaders and former ministers. Although they, like Pehin Hj Zakaria, have retired, we value the old friendship and do not forget old friends."
"I was therefore relieved that I was able to bid my final farewell to the late Pehin, and offer the condolences of myself and of Pehin Zak's friends in Singapore to Datin Jusnani."
The late Pehin Hj Zakaria's body was laid to rest at the Jln Berakas Cemetery late yesterday morning. He is survived by his wife, Datin Paduka Hjh Jusnani binti Haji Lawie, three sons, one daughter and 11 grandchildren.
- Borneo Bulletin
(3rd Novempber 2011)