Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sabahan Becomes PM's Aide?

A Sabahan intellectual, Dr Oh Ei Sun, has been appointed Political Secretary to the Prime Minister, a local Chinese newspaper reported today.

According to the Overseas Chinese Daily News (OCDN), the leading East Malaysian socio-political analyst is now one of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's aides; presumably to advise the new PM on East Malaysian and Chinese affairs.

According to the leading Sabah Chinese daily, Dr Oh's appointment was prompted by the recommendation of Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman. Dr Oh used to be a columnist with the New Sabah Times, a local English daily whose Chairman is Datuk Ayub Aman, the CM's brother.

The OCDN reported that Dr Oh has actually started work but there has been no official announcement. Efforts by the paper to contact him for confirmation failed by press time last night.

The 35-year-old Dr Oh who hails from Kota Kinabalu was once described as Sabah's child prodigy. At age 19, he obtained Bachelor Degrees in Engineering, Aviation and German philosophy. He later obtained Masters in International Commerce and an MBA. He became a Doctor of Philosophy at age 24.

The OCDN concluded its short report by describing Dr Oh as "a UN consultant, university lecturer, researcher, current affairs commentator, columnist and speaker".

Only a few years ago, nobody in Malaysia or Sabah knew who Dr Oh was. But today, he is one of the country's most sought after socio-political commentator especially among the Chinese Radio/TV programmes and newspapers.

He had also appeared in many seminars, forums and conferences in and outside Sabah either as panelist or paper presenter; including as Moderator during the DAP-organised Public Forum held in Kota Kinabalu on 16 September 2008. Among the spekaers during the event held at the Kian Kok Middle School was SAPP president Datuk Yong Teck Lee and DAP adviser LimKit Siang. On 17 September 2008, SAPP officially left the BN.

Before he shot to fame, Dr Oh was closely associated with the SAPP. Following SAPP's departure from BN however, it is not known whether he is now associated with the Yong faction or Raymond Tan faction which remained in BN.

Dr Oh's sudden appointment as Pol Sec to the PM came as a pleasant surprise to Sabahans as this is the first time in Malaysia's 51-year history that a Sabahan is holding such post. Although Sabahans had been federal minisaters and deputy minisaters over the last few decades including in the PM's Department, Dr Oh's appointment raised eyebrows in view of the political clout that comes with the post.

A political secretary to the PM is seen as a very influential post as the holder literally walks among the corridors of power. Since the formation of Malaysia in 1963, many former Pol Secs to the PM had gone on to become Parliamentary Sec (a post abolished after the March 2008 election), then Deputy Minister and eventually Minister.

Dr Oh's appointment is also reminiscent of the appointment of Chinese lawyer Mathius Chang to a similar capacity by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. The senior lawyer-turned author retired together with Dr M a few years ago.

Dr Oh's appointment also came after new Home Minister Datuk Hishamuddin Tun Hussein appointed prominent Chinese social worker Datuk Michael Chong as Special Officer. Observers described the appointments of both Dr Oh and Chong as being in line with the new PM's "1 Malaysia" concept whereby no community will be left out. The BN lost heavily in Chinese areas in last year's general election.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 10)

More pics from Antakya (Antioch) on Pentecost Sunday, 31 May 2009.

 A group of Turkish youngsters 'lepaking' in front of a building on a lazy Sunday morning. Pic taken as we were walking from our hotel to the chapel; about 10 minutes' walk. Click to enlarge.

 Sabah pilgrims inside the Catholic church in Antakya. Click to enlarge.

Photo opportunities not to be missed out before and after the Mass. After all, it's not everyday that a Sabahan is inside a church in a foreign land where post-Jesus era Christianity began. Click to enlarge.

 More Sabah pilgrims inside Antioch church. Click to enlarge.
Rev. Fr. Dominique (standing) briefing us on the history of the Catholic church in Antioch as Rev. Fr. Fundes looks on before the Mass. Click to enlarge. 
Sr. Rita doing the 1st Reading on Pentecost Sunday. Click to enlarge.
Walking along the narrow street back to the bus. Click to enlarge.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 9)

More pics from Antakya (Antioch on Orontes, Hatay (formerly Alexanderette) province of Turkey. Taken on Day 2 (May 31 - Pentecost Sunday).

Titus' Tunnel at Seleucia Pierea near Antioch-on-Orontes (now Antakya). The tunnel was a tremendous canal dug to divert water from the Orontes River during St Paul's time. Considering that everything had to be done by hand at that time, it was quite an engineering feat. Seleucia Pierea was the port city of Antioch in ancient days from where St Paul set sail for his first missionary journey. Due to siltation, the port was actually a few miles further inland from the present coastline where we visited. So a little bit of imagination was required.
Entrance to St Peter' Church in Antioch, also known as St Peter's Grotto. Early meetings of the first Christians of Antioch were held in this cave church so as not to attract the attention of the Roman soldiers who were persecuting them. Inside the 'church' there was a hole for St Peter and his followers including St Paul to escape should the Roman soldiers come looking for them.See what the early Christians had to endure then? And yet nowadays it is not easy to ask young people to go to church! 
An aerial view of some old houses in Antakya/Antioch.
One of the displays at Hatay Museum, reputed for its large collection of mosaics, tombs, jewelry and other artifacts from around the Hatay Province which includes Antioch since ancient times.
The Bell Tower of the Catholic Church in Antioch.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 8)

I said in my previous posts that I would not jump the sequence for the sake of recording our pilgrimage to Turkey (Trail of St Paul) in conjunction with the Year of St Paul which ends this month - thus the timing of our pilgrimage.

However, on second thought I feel it's only fair that I at least inform my visitors/readers that we are home safely. The word safely is used because on our first night in Turkey, the TV news bulletin said an Air France plane flying from Brazil went missing! How's that for a welcoming news! That piece of news spoiled our otherwise happy journey somewhat - to the extent that I didn't bother to switch on the TV again starting the 2nd night.

The only thing which calmed my thoughts (I can't speak on behalf of my fellow-pilgrims) was the fact that I was on a pilgrimage and there was therefore no reason why I shouldn't have faith in the Lord in looking after us. The fact that we had Mass daily said by Rev Fr Fundes also helped. The daily Mass throughout our 12-day stay in Turkey was held either in the morning or afternoon, depending on circumstances. If the Mass had to be held in the afternoon, then we would say the Morning Prayer and Praise on the bus while travelling.

If the journey between two points is long enough, we also prayed the Rosary on the bus - in English, Bahasa and Kadazan, depending on who is leading. It was quite an experience in itself for me - saying the Rosary while travelkling in a bus and attending Mass in different churches/chapels/open spaces over 12 days! After all, it was my first pilgrimage.

Yes, time flies so that before we knew it we are home. We arrived in KK late Friday night after a few hours' stopover in Singapore. We had left Istanbul for Singapore the previous evening. Althought we spent the (Thursday) night on the Turkish Airlines plane, we arrived in Singapore only Friday afternoon due to the time difference (Turkey is 5 hours behind Singapore/Malaysia). Due to the tiring journey from Turkey to Sabah (not to mention the daily walking under the hot sun for 12 days), I didn't wake up earlier than lunchtime both Saturday and Sunday. Much as I wanted to continue blogging on Turkey soon as could, I was just too tired. Besides, after being away from home for two weeks, there were other pressing matters.

I do not want to touch on the details of the trip here so as not to jump the sequnce. My report will continue in the next Part. For the time being, I just reproduce here a Timeline of Turkish history which I downloaded from the Net. Hope it's large enough to be read. Hopefully you can enlarge it by clicking on it. I also reproduce another version of the map of Turkey for your easy reference.

I also reproduce a photo of the scenic port city of Iskanderun which I mentioned more than once in my previous posts. Iskanderun is the modern name of Alexandretta. If you look at this map, you will only find Iskanderun and not Antioch or Antakya where we spent our first two nights. Antioch-on-the-Orontes is south of Iskanderun. You will also not find Tarsus where we had our first Mass in this map. Tarsus, the birth place of St Paul, is near Adana to where we flew from Istanbul on Day 1 (Saturday 30 May).

Thank you for visiting. Please come back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 7)

Inside chapel at Antioch on Pentecost Sunday.

Group pix in Antioch with Fr. Dominique.

In the compound of the chapel in Antakya (Antioch) on May 31. From left:- Sr. Rita,Sr. Anna, Fr. Dominique, Fr. Fundes and Sr. Colette.

Trail of St Paul (Part 6)

After a good first night's sleep (after the tiring plane and bus journey) at the Narin Hotel in Antakya, we woke up refreshed on Sunday 31 May 2009. Everybody was anxious to begin our first full day in Antakya or Antioch on the Orontes in Biblical times. There are many Antioch cities/towns in Turkey but when they say Antioch in the Biblical context, most likely they are refering to this one which is in the Hatay province in south eastern Turkey and about 2-3 hours' drive from Adana and Tarsus, the birth place of St Paul.
Briefing for the Sabah pilgrims before they walked from the Narin Hotel to the church in Antioch.
Antioch is though to have been founded in 300BC. First to preach here was St Peter followed by St Paul and Barnarbas whose extensive efforts proved to be very fruitful for Christianity. Incidentally, the word Christian was first coined and used for the first time here. The strong and wealthy community of Antioch contributed to the Christian community of Jerusalem.

The highlights of our first full day in Antioch included a visit to the museum which houses a superb collection of mosaics from Antioch, Daphne and Seleucia Pieria dating back to hundreds if not thousands of years. So you can imagine how priceless or precious they are today. We also visited St Peter's Grotto, the cave church came to be known as the meeting place of the early Christians.

The next site we visited was Seleucia Pieria which was the port city of Antioch in ancient days. The most interesting monument here is the Titus Tunnel which was a tremendous tunnel dug for the diverting water the Orontes River. Another highlight here was the rock tombs with their impressive facades pertaining to the Hellenistic period.

May 31 was a special day for Sabahans especially the KDMs and the Christians in general and the pilgrims in Turkey in particular. First, as we all know it was the highlight or closing of the State-level Tadau Kaamatan (Harvest Festival) at Hongkod Koisaan in Penampang. Secondly, it was Pentecost Sunday. In other words, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday in a foreign land related to the Biblical times especially St Paul; thus making our pilgrimage even more meaningful. It was the first time I celebrated Pentecost Sunday overseas.

Rev. Fr. Fundes said Mass for us in the only functioning Catholic church (or rather chapel) in Antioch. It is run by the Capuchin friars headed by Fr. Domenico. It caters to the 'little' parish of Antioch with about 70 Catholics - slightly better than Tarsus.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 5)

The Narin Hotel as seen from my camera. The hotel declares itself as 4-Star. The symbol of 4-Star is even printed on its front door. However, even before the trip we had been briefed back in KK that the grading system of hotels in Turkey is one grade lower than Malaysia. Meaning if it says 4-Star, you can expect it to be equivalent to 3-Star in Malaysia. Even then, most 4-Star and below hotels in Turkey do not have coffee/tea making facilities in their rooms, unlike Malaysia. It's not that we want free coffee/tea that badly, but Malaysians in general and Sabahans in particular, need the boiled water in the rooms for for their Maggie Mee or quick noddles. Amen?
The Narin Hotel at Antakya (Antioch on the Orentes in Biblical Times) in Hatay Province where we spent our first night in Turkey. This photo is taken from the hotel's web site when it was still new.
Our First Night in Turkey.

After lunch at Tarsus, we drove to Antakya (Antioch on the Orentes in Biblical times) on the south eastern part of Turkey bordering Syria. It was a long drive and we had to have a brief stopover on the way at Alexandretta along the coast. Alexandretta was named after Alexander the Great after he conquered the important port city.

We stopped at a petrol station for our 10-minute break. One thing I notice, by the time we are about to go home, is that most if not all petrol stations, especially those along the highways, have convenience store and even cafe incorporated into them. This is so that apart from using the toilets, passers-by especially tourists can gave a cup of Turkish coffee or tea while the ladies, as usual, do their 'shopping' at the 'market' (souvenir shop) next door.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 4)

A Sabah pilgrim washing her hands with water drawn from St Paul's well.

Turkish chef preparing minced lamb meat for the Kebab.

Mrs Juliet Lui (left) of Faith Tours of Singapore. On the right is Selahattin, our tour guide. Looking on is our tour bus driver.

Don't leave us out lah!

Rev Fr Fundes (right) sure seems to have enjoyed his Turkish meal. On the left is Mr Linus Tokuzip, organiser of the pilgrimage from the Sabah end.

"Take your time and hurry up!", as our tour guide was very fond of saying.

Ini baru lah, smile for the camera! Kebab kambing sedap agaknya?

Why so serious, Sr Anna Dolores? Don't like Kebab?

OK I'm done...Sr Colette seems to be saying.

Family affair...Pilgrim Thomas with his family members.

Sabah pilgrims enjoying the Kebab. In the middle is Sr Rita.

Minced lamb meat, the main ingredient for the Kebab. However, by the time I remembered to take this pix, the rest of the food was gone. I was hungry. Lamb meat is served either minced or sliced in Turkey. The minced version is spicy while for the sliced version you select your own spices.

Turkish boys peddling delicacies to locals and tourists alike at Tarsus.

Selahhattin, our Turkish tour guide who speaks good English. Despite being a Muslim, he knows more about the Bible than me. It didn't take him long to learn Sabah words like Aramaiti!

Sabah Times on sale in Turkey? No, sabah means morning (paper) there. However, in most Arab countries Sabah is a common surname. e.g. Al-Sabah. Just google sabah and you will know what I mean.

Muslim ladies from Indonesia on the same plane with us from Singapore to Istanbul. They were also on a pilgrimage to Turkey. They were on an Umrah (minor Haj) by visiting places like Haran (Abraham the Patriach's place before he moved to Canaan) and Mt Ararat where Noah's Ark is believed to have rested. They might also be visiting Mother Mary's house in Ephesus. Surprised? Well, according to our Muslim tourist guide, they also believe in the above. Mother Mary would be Mariam in the Quran, Abraham is Ibrahim, and so on.

More Pix From Tarsus

We have been in Turkey for more than a week now and I know I have so far blogged only about Day 1 (Tarsus). Despite so, before going to Day 2 (Antakya), I still have more photos from Tarsus to post. There are two reasons for this. First, it will serve as a pictorial record of our pilgrimage and trip to Turkey - least I accidentally delete any of those pix in my memory card or, worse still, have my camera lost. Second, it's to make things easier for everybody - so that all my fellow pilgrims got to do when they return home is to download or save the pics from my blog and print the pix themselves.

I know I'm behind time in filing my posts. We have in fact reached the 2nd last leg of our trip and will be home in a few days' time. However, as I have said, it's better late than never. Much as I would like to blog everyday (that was why I brought along my Netbook), circumstances prevented me from doing so. As they say, man proposes God disposes. Either I was too tired by the time we got back to the hotel or there would be a technical hitch when I tried to blog. Those who have experience traveling with tour groups will appreciate my situation - you only get to sleep for a few hours before you have to wake up, wash, have breakfast, check-out and move on.

OK, enough excuses. Here are the rest of the Tarsus pix. Please bear in mind that I'm not a professional pixman and that being a traveller, I can only take a certain pix at a certain time at a certain place from a certain angle and in a certain weather condition. I didn't have much choice. Besides, the camera I'm using for this trip is only a compact-sized digital cam. So if you want to see more professionally-taken or more exotic pix of Turkey, just google it. Just type the names of the places we visit until the end of our trip. For example, just type Tarsus or Images of Tarsus in the Google or Yahoo serach boxes and you'll get hundreds if not thousands of pictures.

Till the next part, see you. Thank you for visiting. May God bless you.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trail of St Paul (Part 3) (Updated)

The Sabah pilgrims on arrival at Istanbul airport. Squatting (centre) is Fr. Fundes. Click to enlarge.

The Italian nuns at Tarsus (centre) with (from left) Sr. Rita, Fr. Fundes and Sr. Dolores and a Sabah pilgrim. Click to enlarge.
A group photo with the Italian nuns inside the Tarsus Church. Click to enlarge.

The Sabah pilgrims led by Rev. Fr. Fundes outside the Church at Tarsus. Click to enlarge.

The Church at Tarsus where we had our first Mass in Turkey. Click to enlarge.

Some of the Sabah pilgrims at St Paul's well. Click to enlarge.

St Paul's well at Tarsus. Water can still be drawn from it. At left is Rev.Fr. Fundes. Click to enlarge.

Signpost at St Paul's well. Click to enlarge.

The ruins of the ancient Tarsus town as seen from the balcony where we had lunch. Notice the road in the middle. In background is the new town. The old town was buried a few meters below where it was discovered. Click to enlarge.

Where we had our first meal, the Kebab, in Tarsus. We were seated on the balcony upstairs overlooking the ruins of the ancient Tarsus town. Click to enlarge.

Signboard explaining Cleopatra's Gate In Tarsus. Click to enlarge.

Cleopatra's Gate in Tarsus, Turkey. Click to enlarge.

Map of Turkey. Click to enlarge.

I would like to begin by saying that I missed out something in my last post. I forgot to mention that after lunch at Tarsus and on our way to Antioch, we stopped by the famous and romantic spot where Cleopatra met Mark Anthony. It's called Cleopatra's Gate. I do apologise for this omission and to make up for it I post its picture in this part. Actually, as my fellow bloggers would know, I can still include it in my last post by editing it. But I choose not to do so because my visitors who had read Part 2 most probably wouldn't want to go back to it. But for the information of those who care to do so, I have updated Part 2.

For this part, I will post pictures from our visit to Tarsus, the birth place of Saul (later St Paul) on last Saturday, our first day in Turkey. I will write less and show more, as 'A picture paints a thousand words'. I know we have been in Turkey a few days by now but as I said it's better late than never. I also include a map of Turkey here so that you would be in a better position to visualise where Adana and Tarsus are in relation to Istanbul and Ankara (Turkey's capital). You may want to search the Net for more or better maps of Turkey.