The cardiologist-turned-politician recalled joining the then Sarawak Chief Minister for a year-end break in Australia in 2016.
“It was just a few more hours to 2017. I asked him if he had any wish for the new year. He said none, but when I pressed on, he said he had only one wish – longevity,” said Dr Sim, who is Batu Kawah assemblyman and a state minister.
Eleven days later, said Dr Sim, “he was gone”. Adenan died on Jan 11, after barely three years as Chief Minister.
The pair enjoyed a close doctor-patient relationship that later turned into a political one. Adenan had once asked Dr Sim if he should accept the Chief Minister’s post and the blunt-speaking doctor told him that if he wanted to live longer, he ought not to take it.
“He made the sacrifice, he set the direction for us and he died for Sarawak,” said Dr Sim.
He said it is now up to Sarawakians to continue what Adenan started. He is asking Sarawakians to give the state Barisan a strong mandate so it can negotiate with the Federal Government on state rights. His slogan: A stronger Sarawak.
Sarawak, which held its state election in 2016, will only see parliamentary contests in the general election. The spotlight will be on the six parliamentary seats that Sarawak Barisan Nasional lost in 2013 – five to DAP and one to PKR.
DAP is finding it challenging to retain its five seats although the party will be using its rocket symbol in the state for the general election.
The party has the upper hand in Chinese seats in the peninsula but Sarawak is likely to remain Barisan Nasional’s fixed deposit.
The post-Adenan era, coupled with the delivery record of Barisan assemblymen and MPs, have helped change public perception of the ruling coalition in the state.
PKR, which won the oil town constituency of Miri in 2013, may be hard pressed to hold it if Barisan fields SUPP secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting, who has an awesome reputation as a people’s politician.
The mood has softened; it is nothing like in 2013, but the DAP brand is strong among many Chinese.
Most of the grandest homes in Sarawak’s towns belong to the Chinese. They drive nice cars, eat in expensive restaurants and the richer they are, the more complaints they have about everything.
What is driving this discontent? Voon Kai Chee, a young SUPP politician in Miri, summed it up best when he said that deep down, young Chinese are seeking equality.
They take pride in the state’s reputation for moderation, good race relations and religious tolerance.
Vernacular media have gone to town on the Chinese battleground seats but one in particular, Stampin, has emerged as the seat to watch.
Dr Sim is one of two possible Barisan candidates for the seat. The other is Lo Khere Chiang, the assemblyman for Batu Kitang.
The moment Dr Sim’s name was floated, state DAP chairman Chong Chien Jen declared he would move from his Bandar Kuching stronghold to take on Dr Sim in Stampin.
That immediately set the tone for what DAP has defined as its “king fight king” strategy – or what some Chinese critics have termed “Chinese kill Chinese”.
The potential clash will put the local community in a dilemma because both Chong and Dr Sim have a good image among local Chinese.
Chong, a lawyer who started out in DAP as a reluctant politician, has grown into a fierce state Opposition leader who dared to stand up to former chief minister and now Governor Tun Taib Mahmud .
Chong is the driving force in Sarawak DAP but his standing took a dip when his party failed to do better in the 2016 state polls.
He is frustrated by the fact that Sarawak will remain a fixed deposit state for Barisan in GE14.
He knows Pakatan is unlikely to gain more seats because the street talk is that Miri, Sarikei and Stampin, currently held by Pakatan, may fall to Barisan.
As such, Chong needs to take this risk. If he wins, it will compensate for potential losses elsewhere.
If he loses, it will not be a total loss as he is still Sentosa assemblyman.
Not many people thought Dr Sim, who came in with so much idealism, would survive in the dog-eat-dog world of politics but his sincerity and energy to bring changes to his constituency won him support.
He is also seen as a clean politician which is pretty rare in this time and age. He takes a stand on big issues and has brought a more people-driven agenda to SUPP.
Dr Sim also has his assemblyman status to fall back on. But if he loses, the repercussions will be greater because it will set back the recovery process of his party.
Lawyer Jonathan Chai, secretary-general of Sarawak Dong Zong, noted that the Chinese community has become very divided and it will be tough for them to chose.
“I feel most of us want to see healthy Chinese representation from both sides. We need to exercise our wisdom to make sure that capable candidates win,” said Chai.
Dr Sim’s father was a former deputy chief minister during the early years of Taib’s administration.
“My father used to say the wheel of fortune takes turns to go round,” said Dr Sim.
Which side will it favour this time around? Few dare make a prediction on the looming scenario.