Sarawak political icon Dato Sri Tra Zehnder dies at 84

Posted on July 23, 2011

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Blogger Parochial Sarawakian alerted me of the death of Dato Sri Tra Zehnder yesterday in the posting DATO SRI TRA ZEHNDER — REMEMBERING A TRUE SARAWAKIAN OF SUBSTANCE.

Dato Sri Tra died at the age of 84, at about 9pm on July 22 (Friday), at the Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching.

At first I couldn’t believe it because just barely a week earlier Sarawak had already lost one of its great leaders – former SNAP president and our first DCM Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min.

In fact, earlier that day, he was laid to rest at his family’s burial ground at Jalan Pandaruan in Limbang.

As I’ve said in my previous posting I celebrate SARAWAK DAY on July 22nd!, July 22nd was supposed to be a special day for our beloved State.

A celebration for what we had achieved on that exact day 48 years ago.

This year, however I feel it’s more appropriate for us to celebrate the life of two of Sarawak’s greatest leaders and remember the contributions they have made for our beloved State and country.

They will be missed not only by their family and friends but by true Sarawakians everywhere.

 

 

News of the late patriot’s death as reported in The Borneo Post Online:

Dato Sri Tra Zehnder passes away

Posted on July 22, 2011, Friday

KUCHING: Patriot and female pioneer of Sarawak politics as well as the champion of local women’s rights, Dato Sri Tra Zehnder passed away at the age of 84 at about 9pm tonight at the Sarawak General Hospital.

Tra was born Philomena Tra in Miri on Oct 25, 1926 to Inting Jemat and Sara Unang, both Ibans from the old Simanggang division.

Tra boasts the envious record of being the first lady member of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN), known as Council Negeri back then. She served from 1960 till 1963.

She was also the first woman Temenggong in the state following her appointment as Iban Temenggong of the First Division from July 1988 till February 1996.

Tra was also the first woman to head the Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak, from March 1996 to 2002.
In May 1957, she founded the Sarakup Indu Dayak Sarawak (SIDS) and served as honorary secretary till 1960 before being appointed president from 1964-1966.

In 1962, she represented the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) at the Cobbold Commission meeting.

One very significant contribution of Tra to the Dayak community and the state today was her untiring efforts to get the annual Gawai Dayak recognized as an official celebration.

She had wanted June 1 of every year to be set aside to be called Dayak Day in recognition of the Dayaks’ existence in the state.

She has received numerous State and Federal Awards over the years, and last year she was honoured with the Datuk Patinggi Laila Taib Award.

Although she has made history by being a first in many things, she will ultimately be remembered as an Iban woman patriot in Sarawak.

http://www.theborneopost.com/2011/07/22/dato-sri-tra-zehnder-passes-away/

 

The last news article I read about the late patriot in The Borneo Post:

The life of Iban patriot Tra Zehnder penned

Posted on July 14, 2011, Thursday

A LIFE CHRONICLED: Tra (seated centre), holding a copy of her biography, has her picture taken with Jabu (centre), Empiang (seated left), Khairuddin (right), authors Rokiah (fourth right) and Hew (fifth right) together with her children and their respective spouses.

KUCHING: Decades before phrases such as ‘empowering women’ and ‘gender equality’ became common currency like it is today, a dynamic and visionary woman named Datuk Seri Tra Zehnder was already blazing the ‘equal rights’ trail.

Here untiring work for the people of Sarawak in general, and the well-being of Iban women and the rural communities in particular, are nothing short of legendary.

It is thus only right that her significant contributions, achievements, leadership and colourful life be saluted, appreciated and chronicled in a biography for future generations to emulate.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang, who launched the book here yesterday, commented that Tra’s role in nation building was impressive, especially in the formative stage of Malaysia.
He noted that she possessed the innate ability to transcend all borders when interacting with people of all races.

“She was very much a grass-roots leader with the ability to mobilise rural folks from the longhouses, while at the same time feel completely at home when dealing with state issues,” Jabu said.

The biography, ‘Tra Zehnder: Iban Woman Patriot of Sarawak’, was unveiled in a simple yet colourful ceremony at the Riverside Majestic Hotel, witnessed by some 100 invited guests and family members.

Jabu, who is also Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, added that Tra is an inspiration for all the women leaders of today.

“She took up leadership positions not for self-interest but to contribute towards the cause of women, family and education.

“Yet, our dear Dato Seri Tra never lost the sight of her roots. She remained true to her identity of being an Iban woman – ever gracious and polite. She can be firm and persuasive when the occasion calls for it. Those who have worked with her only have fond memories of her kindness and hard work in wanting to help people,” said Jabu, who urged women to emulate her leadership style.

The 147-page biography is penned by Dr Hew Cheng Sim, an associate professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Rokiah Talib, a retired professor of Universiti Malaya.

The masterpiece was commissioned by Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) at Unimas and facilitated by the university’s vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Khairuddin Abdul Hamid.

Tra was born Philomena Tra in Miri on Oct 25, 1926 to Inting Jemat and Sara Unang, both Ibans from the old Simanggang division.

Tra boasts the envious record of being the first lady member of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN), known as Council Negeri back then. She served from 1960 till 1963. She was also the first woman Temenggong in the state following her appointment as Iban Temenggong of the First Division from July 1988 till February 1996.

Tra was also the first woman to head the Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak, from March 1996 to 2002.

In May 1957, she founded the Sarakup Indu Dayak Sarawak (SIDS) and served as honorary secretary till 1960 before being appointed president from 1964-1966. In 1962, she represented the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) at the Cobbold Commission meeting.

One very significant contribution of Tra to the Dayak community and the state today was her untiring efforts to get the annual Gawai Dayak recognized as an official celebration. She had wanted June 1 of every year to be set aside to be called Dayak Day in recognition of the Dayaks’ existence in the state.

She has received numerous State and Federal Awards over the years, and last year she was honoured with the Datuk Patinggi Laila Taib Award.

Although she has made history by being a first in many things, she will ultimately be remembered as an Iban woman patriot here.

Among those present at the launch were her children, Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan, Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) deputy president Dato Sri Celestine Ujang Jilan and SIDS chairperson Dato Sri Empiang Jabu.

http://www.theborneopost.com/2011/07/14/the-life-of-iban-patriot-tra-zehnder-penned/