Monday, July 30, 2007

Damage Control....

A day after Berjaya's launch, while party president Datuk Harris Salleh was busy campaigning away in Labuan, all Usno could manage was to come out with a statement which was seen by many as more of a damage control or public relations exercise. "Telegrams pour into Usno Hqs - Full support pledged", said the front page of the Usno-controlled Kinabalu Sabah Times on July 17, 1975, the day its rival Daily Express highlighted Berjaya's conquest of Labuan.

I say 'damage control', a public relations term because although the statement claimed that 16 Usno divisions throughout the State pledged their "loyalty and 100% support for Usno and its Supreme Council", the statement came from only one man - the Usno Information Chief, Datuk Haji Sulaiman Mokhtar who was also the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister. None of the 16 divisional leaders came out in the open to make their statements individually or had their photographs taken by the Press. In other words, Usno's claims were not verified. Also, why only 16 divisions when there were 32 State constituencies?

Through Sulaiman's statement, Usno also admitted for the first time since Berjaya's launch that Chief Minister Tun Datu Mustapha was not in the State when it said that he "will return soon from Kuala Lumpur" when in fact he was overseas. Thus, the earlier statement purportedly issued by the Chief Minister and front-paged by Daily Express on the eve of Berjaya's launch was in fact Syed Kechik's statement. (See my July 24th posting titled 'Just Rumours?') In fact too, it was to become part of Berjaya's campaign material that Mustapha was most of the time running Sabah using 'remote control' from overseas through Syed Kechik. And who was this Syed Kechik and why was he so powerful? Especially when his name doesn't sound Sabahan? More about this man in my future postings. Meanwhile, you would also notice that instead of the statement coming from the Alliance party, it was only from Usno, asking the people to continue to support Usno as if it was the sole ruling party. There was completely no mention of its coalition partners, the Sabah Chinese Association (SCA) and the Sabah Indian Congress (SIC). This was also used to Berjaya's advantage during the election whereby the SCA candidates lost heavily. There was no SIC candidate.

You would also notice that the front page also reported that Haji Ampong Puyon (now Datuk) and Mohd Din Jaafar (now the late Datuk) had been dismissed with immediate effect as Chairman and Deputy Chairman respectively of the Sabah Electricity Board or LLS. The short statement by the Sabah Cabinet did not say why but it was obvious that it was due to the two men's involvement with Berjaya. For a larger view of the press clippings, please click on the images.

I would like to end this posting by apologizing for not having filed any 'report' over the last couple of days. This was because I had dinner, dinner and more dinner over the weekend. On last Friday, it was the wedding dinner of a friend's daughter and Saturday it was installation dinner of a service club. More about these dinners in my next postings.

Yoku Boiti!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Exodus Begins!

16 July 1975: A day after launching Berjaya, party president Datuk Harris Salleh wasted no time. He got cracking, and got the ball rolling by visiting his hometown and constituency, Labuan island off the west coast of Sabah. "23 Labuan branches enter anti-Mustapha party - 4,975 USNO members join BERJAYA" screamed the frontpage of Daily Express the following day. (Please see reproduction above. For a larger view, click on the images.)

The Daily Express report claimed that the 4,975 Usno members from 23 branches in Labuan and Menumbok agreed to resign enbloc from the ruling party and join the infant Berjaya; converting Usno branches into that of Berjaya's in the process. (Note: The Labuan constituency then included the tiny township of Menumbok on mainland Sabah to make up the number of voters. Menumbok which comes under the Kuala Penyu district administratively is home to the ferry service which links Labuan with the mainland till today. A proposal to build a bridge linking the two points has been floating for more than a decade and more recently is being studied by Universiti Malaysia Sabah.)

Harris, accompanied by Berjaya secretary-general Mohd Noor Mansoor, while addressing the huge crowd at the Labuan community centre took the opportunity to reply to charges made by the State Cabinet which appeared in the Kinabalu Sabah Times of 16 July. (Please see story above under heading: "Harris hits back Cabinet's charges" and refer to my earlier article, The ALLIANCE Hits Back, posted last week.)

Meanwhile, also on the frontpage of Daily Express (17.7.75) was the report that Social Welfare Minister Datuk Yassin Hashim had also resigned from Usno to join Berjaya, following the footsteps of his Cabinet colleague Datuk Salleh Sulong who quit a few days earlier. Thus, Datuk Yassin (then Sipitang Assemblyman, his brother Datuk Kassim was the State Legislative Assembly Speaker) became the third Usno Minister to be involved in Berjaya, after Harris and Salleh. (Note: Harris had quit much earlier, even before the plot to form Berjaya was hatched, citing differences with the Chief Minister, the late Tun Mustapha. But he remained State Assemblyman for Labuan.)

Also quitting Usno to join Berjaya on the same day with Yassin was "Usno strongman and businessman" Haji Halik K. Zaman, Daily Express said. (Note: What the Daily Express report did not say was that Halik was the one who enticed Upko Assemblyman for Kiulu, (the late) Datuk Payar Juman to switch to Usno after the 1967 election. When Payar was made a Minister, Halik was appointed his Political Secretary as a reward. Halik was in turn enticed by Harris to join Berjaya in 1975. After Berjaya formed the government in 1976, Halik became Chairman of the Sabah Electricity Board and one of his first acts was to disconnect power supply to houses of Usno leaders who had unpaid bills including his former boss. Anyway, it didn't take long for Halik to fall out of favour with Harris; whom he challenged as an independent candidate when Harris (by now Chief Minister) stood on a Berjaya ticket in a parliamentary by-election so that he could become an MP in addition to being an Assemblyman just like his Sarawak counterpart. During the by-election campaign, Halik distributed salted fish to the villagers, saying he could not afford projects or money like Harris. What was the last straw for Halik? Harris had recommended to the Governor to withdraw his Datukship. After the withdrawal, Halik went to the National Registration Department to have his name changed to Haji Datuk Halik Zaman, taking advantage of loopholes in the National Registration Act those days. Now I don't think one can do that anymore. As you can see from the report above, Halik was practically cursing then CM the late Tun Mustapha, calling him a dictator among other names. But after he fell out of favour with Harris, Halik was among those who walked alongside the Tun (as the old man was affectionately referred to by Sabahans) to the nomination centre in Semporna in the early 1980s, accompanying the Usno candidate for the Kunak by-election caused by the 'resignation' of Datu Hamid (now the late), Mustapha's son, who was also present though he did not seek re-election. Just like Halik and Harris, what a reversal of fortunes as before his 'resignation' as Kunak Assemblyman , Hamid had himself deserted his father's Usno party to become a Berjaya Minister after an manipulative offer made by Harris. Coming back to Halik in Semporna, the young Sikmading was at the scene accompanying his boss, then a Berjaya leader. I can't recall exactly what Halik was yelling about or whom he was cursing when the two opposing teams passed each other during procession to the nomination centre, but for sure this time it wasn't Mustapha! Talking about reversal of fortunes, no wonder they say that in politics there is no permanent friend and no permanent enemy!

That's all for this installment, please come back for more. Thank you.

(Footnote: I just realised that there are Sabahan bloggers also using Aramaiti, so with immediate effect I'm changing my signature tune to Yoku Boti.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Just Rumours?

It's back to politics folks. As promised, I will continue with the story of what happened to the newly-formed Berjaya party and the reaction of its rival, the ruling Alliance party in 1975. As reported earlier, Berjaya was launched in Kota Kinabalu (at the now defunct Borneo Hotel by the Tanjung Aru beach which was then 'the hotel' in town) on July 15 although it was registered in Kuala Lumpur days earlier. But the irony was that on the eve of that launch, the Daily Express which was to become Berjaya's mouthpiece carried a frontpage headline story with the heading "New political party? Just rumours: C.M." and thus the title of my article today. In other words, those involved were still hoping to keep it a secret even right up to the last minute. The fact that a three-sentence statement from the Chief Minister's office can also make the headline testified to this. Another way of looking at it is that it was perhaps to hoodwink the Alliance leaders and supporters into thinking that everything was still OK and that whatever they heard were just RUMOURS. Infact, having lived in fear (of arrest ) for years, most Sabahans would understandably think that way. Little did they realize that their fear was no longer necessary as the power of detention without trial had been withdrawn. Yet another way of looking at it would be that the Daily Express (or rather Berjaya) was just being sarcastic, knowing the truth. To read the full statement please enlarge the image by clicking on it. Meanwhile, joined to the short statement was a Bernama report from Kuala Lumpur saying that one of Malaysia's then top opposition parties, Pekemas, had resolved to go all out to contest in the coming election in Sabah. Its popular president, Dr Tan Chee Khoon said the party would give all assistance to members and branches in Sabah for the coming election. Dr Tan's statement, coming on the eve of Berjaya's launch, certainly made the political scene in Sabah more colourful. Suddenly the political and election mood was there, although most Sabahans still lived in fear of being sent to 'Kepayan University'. For the information of younger Sabahans, Dr Tan was the opposition leader in the Malaysian Parliament then and was dubbed 'Mr Opposition'. A medical doctor, he was well-known for giving free medical treatment to his poor constituents in his clinic at Kepong in KL. Infact, the present 'Mr Opposition', Lim Kit Siang of DAP only rose to prominence after Dr Tan retired due to his age and health. In the absence of a viable opposition in Sabah in the early 1970s, Pekemas saw the opportunity to make an in-road into the State, oblivious to the fact that the majority of Sabahans, much as they might want to support the opposition, dared not do so, not openly anyway. Although Pekemas never did win any seat and soon closed shop in Sabah as people later opted for the much more influential Berjaya instead, it had the distinction of being the only opposition party (independents included) to actually succeed in fielding a candidate against the then mighty Alliance in the 1974 parliamentary election in Sabah; with the remaining 15 seats 'won' by Alliance due to 'no contest' on nomination day. Pekemas candidate, MA Rahman polled a respectable number of votes against Buja Gumbilai of Usno in Tuaran and did not lose his deposit, despite being handicapped due to lack of financial resource and campaign machinery. Infact, thoroughout most of the campaign period he was hiding in a remote village for fear of arrest. However, Dr Tan who came to Sabah to campaign managed to give a mini rally (rather just an open-air talk, Hyde Park Corner style, using only a loudhailer) at the Tuaran tamu (bazaar) ground, taking advantage of the tamu crowd. After all, they wouldn't arrest Mr Opposition of Malaysia as it would affect the image of the country. I was 20 years old then, just started working and had a chance to listen to his speech. He said, among other things, and I quote: "If you go to any government office in KL, you would find names on doors with the prefixes Datuk and Tan Sri. I don't need any Tan Sriship, my name is already Tan." Anyway, for the record, when he retired the Malaysian government offered him a Tan Sriship in recognition of his long service as the Opposition leader. He accepted, perhaps out of respect for the King and the Prime Minister. To end my posting on a lighter note, on the frontpage you would also find a caption story with the heading "Sedco deputy GM weds" which is self-explanatory. However, the caption did not explain why the Governor or Yang di Pertua Negara hosted a reception for the newly-weds at the Istana, the State Palace. The reason was that the bride, the former Miss Patricia Sinidol was a niece of Tun Haji Mohd Fuad Stephens as the Negara's consort and the bride's mother were sisters. By the way, the bridegroom, Awang Hussein eventually rose to became Sedco general manager and was later made a Datuk. The bride's father, the late Datuk Fred Sinidol, a former Kadazan broadcaster and former Kinabalu Sabah Times general manager became the Berjaya Assemblyman (Legislator) for Kawang after the 1976 election, defeating the Alliance candidate. That's all for today and thank you for your patience. I know I have been long-winded but I can't tell just half-a-story. Till then, Aramaiti!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy Birthday LPPB

Hajiji (middle) blowing the candles before cutting the anniversary cake of LPPB flanked by Yong (on his left) and Rubin. Others in pix are (from left) Jenar, Datuk Kalakau Untol, Wong, Datuk Surinam Sadikun and Ujang. Ex-Senator Kalakau and ex-Assistant Minister Surinam are chairmen of LPPB subsidiaries.

Hi friends, I'm back after taking what I thought was a well-earned short break over the weekend. "Well-earned" because yesterday (Sunday, Malaysian time) marked the end of my first week as a blogger.

As I enter my second week, I wondered what would I deliver to you. I then realized that for the entire week last week, I had been bombarding my readers with nothing but politics. So in order that you are not overdosed with politics, I have decided to start this new week with something non-political. After all, politics is not every man's cup of tea and this blog is supposed to be anything concerning Sabah. Which partly explains the title of today's posting and where I went over the weekend instead of filing a new posting. But before I continue, I would like to assure those eager to know what happened to the new party, Berjaya, and rival Alliance's next move in July 1975; that I'll carry on the story tomorrow.

Well, last Saturday I attended the 40th Anniversary Dinner of the Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (LPPB) at a leading hotel in Kota Kinabalu. This means that the State-owned agency was formed sometime in 1967, when I was still in Form One of a secondary school. It was initially known as the Sabah Housing Commission with the primary aim of providing adequate public housing for the lower-income group. Due to its initial success and the proven capability of the management, the Sabah Government in 1981 decided to upgrade the Commission to LPPB with the added portfolio of development of new townships. Since that humble beginning with only a handful of staff, LPPB (now with almost 200 staff) has over the last four decades built thousands and thousands of houses, especially those catering to the lower-income group, known popularly as low-cost houses. Similarly, numerous new townships or shophouses within existing townships were also created. The Guest-of-Honour at the dinner was Minister for Local Government and Housing, Datuk Haji Hajiji Haji Noor who represented Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Haji Aman. Also present were Hajiji's assistant minister, Mr Edward Yong; LPPB chairman Datuk Rubin Balang, the Ministry's permanent secretary Datuk Ujang Haji Sulani; LPPB general manager Mrs PS Wong and her deputy Mr Jenar Lamdah. Also on hand were former Housing Minister Datuk Yap Pak Leong, former LPPB chairman Datuk PK Lau and former LPPB general manager Sylvester Disimon. The Chief Minister in his speech read out by Hajiji expressed overall satisfaction with LPPB's performance thus far but pointed out that there was always room for improvement. The 800-odd crowd at the grand dinner were entertained by Malaysia's latest singing sensation, Farawahida, winner of the Most Promising Female Artiste award (seen on the left in 2nd picture obliging a fan at the dinner). The curtain raiser by done by Sabah's version of Elvis Presley, lawyer Suresh Singh. As the VIPs cut the anniversary cake, LPPB's recently-formed choir sang the government agency's anniversary theme song and corporate song in public for the first time.
Earlier, the VIPs' arrival at the venue were welcomed by a Malay kompang group formed by LPPB staff including non-Muslims (please see bottom picture). Also on hand to entertain the early birds was LPPB's own band led by one of the agency's managers, Mr Michael Lansing (seen in 3rd picture conducting the choir).
Mrs Wong in her speech meanwhile thanked the organising chairperson Puan Hajjah Rosnani Haji Asmat who is also LPPB's Admin and HR Manager for a job well-done.
She added that since it's LPPB's anniversary, everything at the dinner were 'in-house' except for the food of course; meaning apart from the band, the choir, and the kompang group, even the three MCs (Arnold, Ahmadshah and Marudin) were the agency's own staff despite their lack of professional experience. A sourvenir book in conjunction with the anniversary was produced in time for the dinner, thanks to editor Monsu. A short documentary film on LPPB produced by DGM Jenar was also shown at the dinner.

That ends my posting for today, so until then, once again Aramaiti!

(Footnote: To see a larger view of the photos, please click on them.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

The ALLIANCE Strikes Back!

Yes, the Alliance party wasted no time indeed. On the same day that the Daily Express published the launch of Berjaya, the only other local English daily newspaper, the Kinabalu Sabah Times (now New Sabah Times) aligned to the ruling party also headlined the government's reaction. "Cabinet hits out at new party" and "Be Calm Call to People"- screamed the frontpage of the broadsheet. Thus, a war had begun between not only two political parties but also between the only two English newspapers that Sabah had at that time. Over the next few months in general and few weeks in particular, Sabahans were to be fed daily with more juicy news from both sides; with each making their accusations, denials and counter allegations or what have you. Sabah newspaper readers had a field day, each day reading more disclosures, something which they could not possibly hope to read only days or weeks before. The editors and reporters too for the first time need not have to worry whether they had enough materials for their next day's issue. (Remember, this was 1975 when newspapers did not have the technology of 2007. The Internet, E-mail and even fax machines were not yet invented. Computers or word processors were almost unheard of and reporters were still using typewriters!. News articles were sent to Sabah by teleprinter or by phone while photos were either sent through the post or by hand which sometimes took days.)

Again, you can read the entire frontpage by clicking on the images. You will notice that next to the headline there was a side-bar which said that the Yang di-Pertua Negara (Governor, as the post was called those days, now it's called Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah) had denied that he had accepted the resignation of Local Government Minister Datuk Salleh Sulong a couple of days earlier. "It was impossible for His Exellency to accept the resignation of any member of the Cabinet before receiving notification of such a matter from the Chief Minister's office," the short statement from the Istana (palace) stressed. At the same time, both the Director of Broadcasting (which operates the government-owned TV and radio stations) as well as the Kinabalu Sabah Times apologised to the Head of State for saying that the latter had accepted the resignation.

The Governor (affectionately called Negara for short by Sabahans those days) then was the late Tun Mohd Fuad Stephens (the former Datuk Donald Stephens). Why did he deny that he had accepted the resignation when Salleh Sulong himself had made known publicly his resignation? Please tune in to Sikmading's Sabah again to find out.


(Footnote: When I reproduced the Daily Express frontpage in my last posting, some readers might have thought I was only telling the Berjaya side of the story. They can be rest assured that I'll be 'reporting' for both sides and will strive to be as fair as possible, in line with my training as a reporter. Thanks and hope to have you back again.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Birth of a New Political Party

Welcome back friends and thank you for coming back. With the reproduction of the above front page of the July 16, 1975 edition of the Daily Express (of Sabah, not Britain), the answer as to why Salleh Sulong resigned as a Minister two days earlier has been answered even if I don't tell you. For a larger view, please click on the images. Sorry folks, I had to split the frontpage into two because the photostat machine at the archive that I went to couldn't fit the entire page.

So after days or perhaps even weeks of speculation, a new political party was finally born in Sabah to challenge the then ruling Alliance Party, a coalition comprising the United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) and the Sabah Chinese Association (SCA). In a normal democracy, this would have been no big deal; just the birth of yet another political party; so what. However, in this case it was 'big deal', something which took Sabahans by storm or at least a big surprise. This was because until the birth of Berjaya, to actually form a new party to challenge Alliance (to be exact Usno which was the dominating partner) was almost unthinkable in the minds of Sabahans. Unthinkable not only because Alliance was firmly entrenched in power but also because no one would risk going to jail (the famous Kepayan 'university') as the government of the day then still had what was known as 'special detention power'. This power came about in the aftermath of the unfortunate May 13, 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Following the riots and chaos which spread to neighbouring Singapore and some major towns of Peninsular Malaysia, a state of emergency was declared and Parliament suspended. A National Operations Committee was created instead, with the then Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tun Razak as Director of Operations. And as Director he was also in charge of the army and the police and among the special power that he had was to detain any 'trouble maker' (or suspect) without trial (not unsimilar to the present ISA). In the case of Sabah and Sarawak, this power was delegated to the Chief Minister in his capacity as the Director of the State Operations Committee. Although normalcy later returned and Parliament reconvened, somehow this power remained in the hands of the two Chief Ministers. Whether it was an oversight on the part of Kuala Lumpur, I don't know, but it was something which the central government seemed to regret later on and had the power quickly withdrawn from the Chief Minister just before the formation of the Berjaya Party. The State Commissioner of Police was also transferred. (The fact that Berjaya was formed with the blessings of the federal government was an open secret.) In Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), the national language of the nation, Berjaya means success and it cerainly was a good choice as the young party went on to win the election and formed the state government only nine months later.

Just to illustrate how powerfully entrenched the Alliance Party was as the State Government and how effective the special power of detention had been, the ruling party won all 32 seats 'uncontesed' in the 1971 state general election. It first formed the state government in 1967 after Sabah's first direct election, winning 19 seats (Usno 14, SCA 5). The other initial member of the Alliance, Upko (United Pasok Momogun Organisation) won 12 seats and was left out of the new government. Upko was eventually dissolved and its members encouraged to join Usno. The remaining seat was won by Yap Pak Leong (now Datuk), an accountant and independent candidate who held the distinction of being the first person to defeat the incumbent Chief Minister (lawyer Peter Lo, now Tan Sri, of SCA). But Yap paid a heavy price for he soon became an 'undergraduate' at the 'Kepayan university'. In the 1974 nationwide parliamentary election, again the Sabah Alliance managed to deliver all 16 federal seats to help the National Alliance Party formed the Malaysian government again. Out of these, 15 seats were won 'unopposed' on nomination day.

Thus, Sabahans since 1969 were 'not used to' opposing the government. For years, neither were they used to seeing the Alliance government being criticized in the newspapers. So one could imagine their surprise or perhaps even disbelief but at thesame time joy, when they woke up on July 16,1975 to find the entire frontpage of the Daily Express (which hitherto had been pro-government) dedicated to the launch of a new party the previous day, July 15 1975. Although the majority of the Sabahans welcome Berjaya's birth as evidenced by its election victory, they were however still very careful and dared only to whisper to each other in coffeeshops and had to look behind their shoulders while discussing the latest political developments. This was because they still did not know that the Chief Minister's power of detention had been withdrawn and this news was only conveyed to them days later. Once the news was out, it was all systems go as people joined the new party in full force, no longer fearing detention. Meanwhile, Daily Express dared to go against the state government as the central government had also withdrawn from Sabah's Chief Minister's Department the power delegated to them to approve newspaper licenses which had to be renewed annually.

Coming back to the press clipping above, the newly-born Berjaya party claimed that 7 out of 32 elected State Assemblymen (the State equivalent of Members of Parliament) had joined them. However, Salleh Sulong became only an ordinary Supreme Council Member, despite having resigned as a Cabinet Minister. The new party was to be led by Datuk Harris Salleh, another former Usno Minister. The three Vice Presidents were federal minister Datuk Ghani Gilong; Daily Express owner Datuk Yeh Pao Tzu and former Sabah Electricty Board chairman Haji Ampong Puyon. The secretary-general was former top civil servant Haji Mohd Noor Mansoor, assisted by Joseph Pairin Kitingan; both lawyers. The treasurer was former Assistant Minister and Kadazan nationalist Datuk Peter Mojuntin. Among the notable personalities named in the Council line-up was yet another Usno Minister, Datuk Yassin Hj Hashim, though he did not make an official announcement until a couple of days later. Yet another figure worth mentioning was a young university lecturer James Ongkili who was described in Syed Kechik's book as "who had been waiting in the wings of academia for the right time to jump into Sabah politics." I say 'worth mentioning' because in the mid-1970s Sabah still did not have that many university graduates and being the first Sabahan to be university lecturer he was considered one of the most educated Sabahans. At the time he lectured in the University of Malaya, the former District Officer (his childhood dream) held a Masters Degree from Australia. He was working on his thesis for his Doctorate in Philosophy when he came home to Sabah to join politics. He eventually obtained his Phd but by the time he was already Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah. Infact, with due respect, very few of Sabah's early Ministers had had the benefit of tertiary education, with the exception of Salleh Sulong and may be just one or two others. The first university in Sabah was only built in the mid-90s after the formation of the present BN government. Nonetheless, graduate or non-graduate, lawyer or no lawyer, young Sabahans of today should appreciate the contributions of our early leaders. It was because of them that we are able to enjoy the fruits of Independence today. Let's not take things for granted and continue to preserve the peace and prosperity that we now have. While tertiary education would certainly help build good leaders, it is not a pre-requisite anywhere in the World including advanced or western countries. President Reagan rose from merely being a film actor to President of the United States, the most powerful country in the World. So did another screen idol, Joseph Estrada of the Philippines.

To tell why Kuala Lumpur encouraged a new party to fight the Alliance and why ministers like Salleh,Harris and Yassin left Usno to be in the oppositon would probably fill an entire book. Over the next few days (or even weeks) I'll try to shed more light. However, if you enlarge the images above you would be able to read some of Berjaya's objectives and why it was formed and some of its accusations against the then state government. It's best that you read it yourselves, rather than I repeat or amplify it, to lessen possibility of me being accused of pro-this or pro-that.

Until then, once again thank you for your patience and Aramaiti!

(Note: Apart from newspapers, I also based my comments on political books on Sabah including The Politics of Federalism - Syed Kechik in East Malaysia by Bruce-Ross Larson, especially the part on power of detention. I was introduced to blogging early July. Although I was ready to launch my blog by the second week, I thought I might as well wait for July 15 so I will have a story to tell and an angle to begin with. Besides, Berjaya won the election in 9 months so I just want to 'tumpang' (share) the good Feng Shui (just kidding) with the hope that my infant blog will succeed, with your support of course.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lest We Forget!

Hi guys, I'm back but sorry I'm late though I promised that I'd be back real soon. Very frustratingly, my Internet connection was down. But there was a consolation, I was not the only one to face the problem. The guy (or rather the other veteran Sabah journalist-turned blogger) who introduced me to blogging faced the same problem so that he could not do any new posting over the weekend.

There was one other problem which caused the delay. As you can see, there is a reproduction of the frontpage headline story of a local newspaper above. I photostated this old newspaper cutting from the archives a few days ago and happily scanned it into my computer, and saved it in the 'normal' way (in bit map form). But when I uploaded it unto what was supposed to have been my 2nd posting this morning (Malaysian time) I found to my horror that all that 'came out' on my web page was a blank space where the image was supposed to have been. (Luckily Google's Blogger allowed me to delete the incomplete or malfunctioning 2nd posting before anybody could read it!) For reason of pride (I'm human) I didn't consult anybody except myself. Sabahans say 'kalah malu' which roughly means 'to be ashamed'. Thank God, after a few hours of trial and error and being patient, I finally solved the problem and at least my trip (in the rain) to the archives was not wasted. My computer 'told' me that I could only upload images saved either as Jpeg or GIF files. So the problem lies at the stage when I was saving the document into my computer. I had no problem uploading the map yesterday as it was downloaded from the Internet itself in the first place and thus I suppose 'they speak the same language'. I share this story openly though I may sound stupid (it's ok) for the benefit of would-be un-IT-savvy bloggers (like me) in order to save their time and energy. After all, another journalist friend of mine, Jaxon S in Singapore, also openly admitted in his blog his ignorance as far as IT is concerned. It pays to be humble, they say. After all, to err is human.

So now that I've given all the excuses of why I was late to deliver my 2nd posting, let's get to the 'main course'. As you can see, my 2nd installment carries the heading 'Lest We Forget!'. Why this heading? Well, as I was saying in my first article, the emphasis of my blog will be recent political history of Sabah. (By the way, did I tell you that my first boss or political master was a university lecturer in history and that he was very fond of saying "History always repeats itself'"?)

Sabahans have come a long way since 1963 and they have certainly matured politically. Infact, so matured (is there such a thing as over-matured?) that they had voted in four different State governments in as many decades. (Sabah's first 'direct' election was held only in 1967) This is a record among the 13 Malaysian states and I am just wondering aloud whether this also shows that Sabahans are more matured politically than their fellow-Malaysians, no offence meant to the others.

There must have been good reasons for Sabahans to change (State) government almost every decade since Independence. For the record, the present BN government has been in power since 1994, therefore breaking the 'zinx' which affected the previous PBS, Berjaya and Alliance governments (in reverse order). But man's memory is short, as they say, and therefore it is partly the purpose of this blog to 'refresh' the memory of Sabahans, hence today's heading. 'Lest We Forget!' will be a permanent feature in this blog, if not daily at least regularly. At the same time this blog is also dedicated to those Sabahans too young to know what went on in the local political arena between the 1960s-70s, or for that matter between the 1980s-90s. It is also hoped that 'Lest We Forget!' will also prove useful to students of Sabah's political history, in addition to whatever few books already written by others on this subject. Trust me, I know how tedious and frustrating going to the archives can sometimes be; not to mention the prohibitive photostating costs.

As stated yesterday, the writer had the "humble opportunity" (to borrow the words of the Kionsom boy, another Sabahan journalist-turned blogger) to serve four senior politicians under four different State governments and was therefore able to witness first hand or at close range what transpired and the political intrigue involved. Having said that, I do however realise that however or whatever I write, there will always be people who disagree with me or even accuse me of being biased. Or worse still accuse me of being a mercenary writer or opposition symphatizer. My experience as a reporter tells me so. But you can't please everybody, can you? (After all, it's the politicians themselves who are very fond of saying this.) A former Sabah deputy chief minister (whom I admire for his intelligence and efficiency and describe him as the (former Indonesian vice president and intellect) Habibie of Sabah) used to say (in private, of course): "I wasn't born to please any body, except God."

And now for the dessert, may we please come back to the document reproduced above. As you can see, it was taken from the frontpage of the 15th July 1975 edition of the Daily Express, a local English broadsheet daily in Sabah. (For a larger view please click on image) As you can also see, the banner headline reads: "Salleh Sulong Resigns" (the previous day). (Datuk Haji) Salleh Sulong was the Minister of Local Government under the Usno-dominated Sabah Alliance Government. Why did he resign (abruptly) on 14th July 1975 and why did Sikmading choose 15th July 2007 (Malaysian time) to start his blog? For the answer, please tune in to my next posting, hopefully tomorrow. Got to go to bed now, a bit tired after spending hours trying to figure out how to upload the newspaper article. Besides, tomorrow is another working day for me, if you will excuse me.

See you and don't forget, Aramaiti!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hello! Borneo calling...

Welcome to Sabah, the 'Land Below The Wind', so-called by early explorers and seafarers (Magellen included) who used her to seek shelter from typhoons which sometimes hit her neighbours in the South China Sea. As can be seen from this blog's title, this former British colony is now nicknamed Malaysian Borneo for easier identification purpose, although it's unofficial and only a geographical description. Even the Sabah Tourism Board uses this tag line, after all Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the World. Sabah joined Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya (now nicknamed Peninsular Malaysia) to form Malaysia in 1963; thus gaining Independence from Britain and changing from its former colonial name of North Borneo. (Sabah gained self-rule on 31 August 1963 but Malaysia officially came into being only on 16 September 1963 for reasons which I will explain in future postings.) But Singapore, a tiny island city-state just below the Malayan peninsular, left the Malaysian Federation in 1965 to be on her own and is now a republic. The oil-rich Brunei (whose Sultan was once the World's richest man until guys like Bill Gates came along) is sandwiched between Sabah and Sarawak on the upper portion of Borneo while Indonesian Kalimantan occupies the entire lower half of the island. Another thing to be noted here is that Sabah and Sarawak had in the past been variously referred to as East Malaysia, something which Malaysian politicians frown upon as it sounds rather like the former East and West Pakistan before the East side broke away to become Bangladesh while the West side became known simply as Pakistan after the split. To help readers, especially those from outside South East Asia, to better understand where Sabah is, I include here a map showing Borneo's location within the South China Sea, courtesy of Encarta. (For a larger view please click on map)

So who am i and why do i blog? Who I am is already partly answered in my profile, so the only questions that remain I suppose are why do I use a pseudonym and what Sikmading means. I use a pseudonym because it is more convenient as I am still an employee. But to my faithful readers (hopefully there will be some) don't worry, you will know my true identity when I retire in a couple of years and hopefully by then I would be able to compile my writings from this blog into a book for the sake of future generations. As for what Sikmading means, well, to be honest I myself do not know what it means but I first heard it when I was serving, as a young journalist, my first political master way back in the 1970s. A half-drunk villager in my hometown walked up to my boss (a senior Sabah politician who has since passed away) and just uttered, in the local dialect: Datuk, Datuk (a Malaysian title, just like Sir in Britain) "Sikmading pudol nga Tinompok do botilum ." Although there was no real meaning in it, we all had a good laugh. I sort of liked the sound of Sikmading as I found it funny and the nickname somehow stuck until today. But only my closest friends, especially those from my hometown, would know. (It is not my intention to disgrace my own countrymen but everywhere in the world, people do get drunk sometimes, don't they?)

Why do I blog? I was introduced to blogging by another veteran Sabah journalist, whose name I am not at liberty to mention here. Until my friend's introduction, I wasn't particularly interested in blogging, mistakenly thinking that it was only for mercenary writers or opposition party sympathizers or simply those who have nothing better to do than to write rubbish on the Internet or get a kick out of spreading lies, gossips or rumours about others, especially their enemies. But after reading my friend's blog and those of his friends, my perception changed. I now realise that not all bloggers are like that, and some bloggers simply write about themselves, not others. Of course there MAY still be mercenary writers (with due respect), not just in Malaysia but perhaps all over the World but their number is negligible compared to the millions and millions of blogs floating in blogosphere and the thousands and thousands of new blogs being created worldwide everyday . Besides, it is up to the reader what to make of from what he or she reads, after all we are living in a free society. I used to dream that I would start a newspaper of my own, probably an evening tabloid, when I retire. Something to call my own, no matter how small. But that would be too costly and beyond my means. So when I was introduced to blogging, I jumped at the opportunity. My own web page, although it's just a blog, is my new dream fulfilled, no longer the newspaper. And the best thing is that it's free, thanks to Google which bought Blogger in 1999 to provide a platform for us to blog for FREE, Thank you, Google.

So what will I write about? As I have indicated in my intro, well, basically all things Sabah including current affairs, culture, tourism, happenings, you name it. But I also said emphasis will be given to recent political history of Sabah. 'Recent' means starting with the formation of Malaysia in 1963, although not necessary in order of sequence. Why? Well, I would consider myself selfish (especially now that I have the free platform to do so) if, towards my retirement, I do not share my experiences, observations and thoughts after serving for more than 30 years as an information officer, pressman and PR practitioner under four state governments since 1973. I am of course not saying that I know everything. Learning is a life-long process and we learn until the last day of our lives. I realise I am no angel and stand to be corrected. I therefore welcome readers' comments including criticisms. This ends my first posting, to give myself a coffee break, but I'll be back real soon. Until then, Cheers! (or, as the Sabahans would say, Aramaiti!)