KUCHING: Puan Sri Laila Taib, wife of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, succumbed to cancer at their residence in Demak Jaya here Wednesday. She died at 3.45pm.
Laila, 68, is survived by her husband, four children including Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, and 15 grandchildren. Taib’s press secretary Amin Sahmat said the burial would be held at the Demak Muslim cemetery Thursday morning.
Among the first dignitaries to pay their last respects at Demak Jaya on Wednesday were Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is currently on a two-day official visit to Sarawak, and his wife Puan Sri Norainee Abdul Rahman. The Polish-born Laila and Taib, then pursuing his law degree, were married in Adelaide, Australia on Jan 13, 1959. Three years later, she arrived in Sarawak. Her maiden name was Lejla Chaleck.
In paying tribute to Laila during their 50th wedding anniversary celebration here last January 13, Taib had said she was his pillar of strength and source of inspiration. “I must acknowledge that it is not easy for any woman to be a politician’s wife. Laila has played a major part in making my life very bearable,” he said.
A local writer, Christina Mamora, who was commissioned to write Laila’s yet-to-be published biography, A Story of Love and Compassion, described her as “kind and caring towards others.” “Having spent many long hours interviewing her (Laila) over the past year or so, I was very sad to think how nice and supportive she has been to me, especially in documenting stories about women, when I heard that she was sick,“ she told Bernama here.
In recognition of her active involvement in social work, including as Sarawak Badan Amal Dan Tenaga president, she was awarded the Darjah Utama Yang Amat Mulia Bintang Kenyalang, which carries the title “Datuk Amar” in 1988.She was also the Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia vice-president (women’s committee chairman) while the setting up of the Laila Taib Cancer Charitable Trust was one of the many testimonials of her keen interest to help needy patients and see that research activities could be carried out for the people’s benefit. -- Bernama