Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tuaran Tamu Besar & Cultural Festival 2007

The much-awaited Tamu Besar and Cultural Festival 2007 of the Tuaran District in Sabah was launched by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak this morning, Sunday, two days before the New Year. Tamu Besar literally means Big Market and is a culmination of the weekly open market held in Tuaran every Sunday. An estimated 20,000 people thronged the Tuaran town field where the major event was held since yesterday. Najib (son of Malaysia's 2nd prime minister Tun Abdul Razak) was accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah. Also present were Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and wife.

It was indeed a memorable day for the people of the Tuaran district (which includes the Tamparuli sub-district) as for the first time in the history of the Tamu Besar, it was officiated by the nation's No. 2 leader. And the crowd was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, ever gathered in Tuaran. On top of that, Datuk Seri Najib brought good news to the peope of Tuaran today. He announced that a new district hospital costing RM 120 million will be built in Tuaran while the new Water Treatment Plant and Water Supply Project at Telibong costing more than RM300 million will be completed in April 2008. The completion of the water project will mean that water shortage in the Tuaran district and nearby areas will soon be a thing of the past.

The happiest man this morning therfore must have been Datuk Haji Hajiji Haji Noor, the State Assemblyman for Sulaman (part of the Tuaran parliamentary constituency). The Tamu Besar & Cultural Festival was, afterall, prompted by him and and he personally saw to its success from the start; guiding District Officer and organising chairman Awang Shamsi every step of the way. Being Sabah's Minister for Local Government and Housing, Hajiji is the most senior politician from Tuaran.

Equally happy were the three other elected People's Representatives from the Tuaran District - Tuaran Member of Parliament Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau as well as State Assemblymen Datuk Louis Rampas (Kiulu) and Jahid Jahim (Tamparuli).
Pretty maidens, dressed in traditional costumes of the various races from the Tuaran District (Bajau, Dusun & Chinese) waiting for the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour.
'Host' Hajiji and wife Datin Juliah (left) getting ready for Najib's arrival.
A 'fruitful' souvenir from Hajiji (left) to the Chief Minister.
United Sabah Dusun Association (USDA) president Datuk Kalakau Untol (left) explaining to Najib and Musa and their wives the Dusun Lotud wedding ceremony while Hajiji (right) looks on.
Part of the Dusun Lotud wedding ceremony witnessed by Najib, where representatives from both sides are seen negotiaiting the dowry and other gifts.
This 'all-girl band' completes the Dusun Lotud ceremony.
Another mock wedding ceremony witnessed by Najib, from the Bajau or Sama community of Tuaran.
Najib and wife congratulating the Bajau 'couple'.
Bajau girls at the 'wedding ceremony'.
Pretty Bajau maidens accompanying the 'couple'. (Please click on all pics for larger view)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

JIAJA Drummer Turns 21

(Please click on the pictures for larger view) Welcome to my party, says birthday boy 'Karuk' Valentine.
The birthday boy and girl - Valentine and Samantha, flanked by family members.
The Hussin brothers, Ji and Aja, the backbone of JIAJA.
The birthday boy entertaining his guests. During Blast Off 2 in 2005, he won the judges' praise as a drummer.

Valentine Arthur Dangin, drummer of the then new and virtually unknown Sabah rock group JIAJA which took the Malaysian music scene by storm by winning Season 2 of Blast Off in 2005, turned 21 yesterday. His parents, Jim and Rita Dangin, threw a birthday party for him at their residence at Taman Delima along Penampang road in Kota Kinabalu last night.

Turning 21 is an important and memorable point in one's life as one is deemed to officially become an adult and 'FREE' (from parental control) in the eyes of the law; and that is why normally the present from parents is in the form of a golden key symbolising freedom. But what made the occasion even more memorable for Valentine was the fact that it was in fact a double celebration as his younger sister Samantha also celebrated her 4th birthday.

The corner terraced-house of the Dangins were overflowed with guests either from the parents' side or Valentine's own friends including JIAJA fans. On hand to sing the opening hymns including saying of grace were members of the Benevolent Ministry of the Bethel Prayer Group from the Sacred Heart Cathedral of which Jim and Rita are members. But the highlight of the evening was of course an appearance by, who else, JIAJA. Although keyboardist Jim (not Valentine's dad) could not be present, nonetheless the three remaining members of JIAJA with Valentine on the drums of course thrilled the crowd with their rock music.

JIAJA, which is a combination of the first names of its members, was formed when a group of Diploma in Music students at the Sabah Institute of Arts (SIA) met in 2005. They formed the band just to try their luck at Malaysia's premier battle of the bands, Blast Off Season 2 organised by a private TV station two years ago. Season One in 2004 was not open to bands from the two east Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak. Little did Valentine, Jim, Nazri and Naza Hussin (the latter being brothers) realise that their "joining for fun" debut shot them to fame nationwide when the won the contest with the top cash prize of RM20,000 plus recording and appearance contracts and other goodies. And the best part was that this group of young college students (most of them were still teenagers then) beat not only amateur bands from all over Malaysia but 'semi-pro' ones too including those who performed at clubs or pubs!

Most of JIAJA's members have since graduated from SIA and are either working or thinking of furthering their studies and are no longer teenagers. In the case of Valentine, who was given the nickname "Karuk" by his bandmates, he is a Drum Lecturer with a local music school. His ambition? "To be a rock star with my band," he said. That should not be too difficult an ambition to achieve, considering that JIAJA is currently busy recording their first album, expected out early next year.

Well, as a musician myself, what else can I say to JIAJA and Valentine except Happy Birthday and ROCK ON! You can count me in as a perspective buyer of your album.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Climax of Wedding of the Year

From left:- Arifin's father Arif, Musa, Arifin, Lenny and her mother. (Click for a larger view)My wife and I (this time minus our son) made our second trip to Membakut on Sabah's west coast, a good one hour-plus drive from Kota Kinabalu, in two weeks today. To be exact, we were back at Pimping village, the hometown of the Sabah State Legislative Assemblyman for Membakut, Tuan Haji Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif. To be more exact, we found ourselves back at YB (the Honourable) Arifin's house; this time as invited guests. We had invited ourselves during his Hari Raya Open House a fortnight ago, hoping to catch a glimpse of his charming wife (then fiance). Our disappointment then was compensated today when the beautiful bride, Lenny Natasha, finally showed up. She had to, for the occasion was her wedding celebration. The wedding proper was held in Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah last week near her father's constituency of Sungai Sibuga. The event there then was grander, with VIP guests headed by no less than Malaysia's Prime Minister and his deputy. After all, the bride's father is the Chief Minister of Sabah (one of Malaysia's 13 States), Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman. Today, it was the groom's turn to fete his relatives and friends in Membakut and that is why I call this post "Climax of Wedding of the Year". There was an air of festivity at Pimping with hundreds of people from the village alone and thousands from the entire Membakut constituency joining in the celebration; not to mention other guests from other parts of the west coast including the State Capital. The narrow road leading to Arifin's humble house was jammed by traffic from all over, especially when the Chief Minister's entourage arrived at around noon. What added to the carnival air was the fact that Pimping's Muslim majority residents were still in a festive mood, celebrating Hari Raya which started two weeks ago. Among the more notable guests present today were former Sabah Chief Minister (1976-1985) Datuk Harris Salleh and his family. Harris wife, Datin Rupiah is from Beaufort (next to Membakut) and is believed to be related to the Aman family who also originated from the district. It was a pleasant surprise for many and apart from greeting the newly-weds and their parents, they shook hands with Harris as well. After all,many benefited from his Berjaya administration for nine years.

In conclusion, once again, CONGRATULATIONS YB. The Most Eligible Bachelor of Sabah has found himself an equally-eligible bride. It has been no doubt Sabah's Wedding of the Year.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Raya spirit still on!

Yes, the spirit of Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (Muslim new year, sort of), although into its 2nd weekend, is still on. They can actually celebrate for one whole month, if they want to, i.e. the month of Shawal. After all, they have earned it, after fasing for one month. (My Muslim readers, please correct me if I'm wrong.)

With the Raya spirit still on, Open Houses (or Rumah Terbuka in Malay) are still held everywhere in Malaysia and Sabah. In Tuaran, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Hj Hajiji Hj Noor held his at the local community centre. Among the thousands of people who turned up to wish Hajiji and wife Datin Juliah 'Selamat Hari Raya' were Cabinet Ministers, Assistant Ministers, and other dignitaries.

In the picture, the Minister is seen in a group photograph with his Permanent Secretary, Datuk Hj Ujang Hj Sulani ad Datin (on Hajiji's left) and Sabah Housing Tribunal president Hj Ahmad Sedik (on Hajiji's right). Also seen is Sabah Housing and Town Development Authority (LPPB) general manager Mrs PS Wong (on Datin Ujang's left).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sabah's Wedding of the Year

It's finally here folks - Sabah's Wedding of the Year between the State's most eligible bachelor , State Legislative Assemblyman Haji Arifin Arif and his equally eligible daughter-of-the-Chief Minister bride, Lenny Natasha finally took place at her father Datuk Seri Musa Aman's constituency in Sandakan yesterday, Oct 18 2007 after weeks of speculation by the Sabah public. The religious part of the ceremony or wedding proper took place in the morning according to Islamic rites while the civilian or blessings part was done in the evening over dinner. To reflect the importance of the occasion, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and wife Jeanne flew all the way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, to attend the dinner. Also present were Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and wife Rosmah. Needless to say, State leaders of Sabah led by Musa's Cabinet members were also on hand for the big occasion. As I had predicted yesterday, Sabah's papers gave front page coverage for the auspicious event. However, the official reception to be attended by hundreds of dignitaries and officials will only be held in Sandakan on Saturday. Another reception will be held at Membakut, the groom's hometown and constituency on Oct 28. Much has been written or said over the marriage since I first broke the news on my blog on Sept 12 so I will not bore you with a long essay here. I will let the pictures below do the talking. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. So here goes:- The Prime Minister, popularly known as 'Pak Lah', blessing the newly-weds while his wife Jeanne looks on.

"With this ring I, Arifin, take you, Lenny as my wife..."
The engagement photo of the couple published by the Borneo Post on Oct 17.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Breaking News is Confirmed!

It's confirmed! The Breaking News is confirmed. On September 12, 2007, my posting was titled "Breaking News: Assemblyman to Wed CM's daughter!".

This morning, the Membakut Assemblyman tied the knot with Lenny Natasha (not Jenny as reported earlier) at her father's residence in Sandakan. Tonight, a 'Bersanding' ceremony was held. Among the VIPs present were Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, and of course the host Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman.

However, the official reception for Sabah's Wedding of the Year will be held on Saturday Oct 20.

The groom, Haji Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif, whom I dubbed Sabah's most eligible bachelor is 44 while the bride Lenny is 28. (I finally got to know her age)

Sabah's local newspapers, for that matter Malaysia's national papers, are expected to publish photographs of the wedding ceremony tomorrow. For the benefit of foreign readers, I will try to reproduce the photographs. Alternatively, please log on to the web sites of Sabah papers as listed on the left column.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Most Eligible Bachelor's Raya 'do'

You would recall that just before the fasting month started in mid-September, I wrote the Breaking News that one of Sabah's most (if not the most) eligible bachelors was about to end his bachelorhood. I reported that State Legislative Assemblyman for Membakut, Haji Arrifin Ariff would marry the equally-eligible daughter of the Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman after Hari Raya (culmination of the fasting month). I also wrote that Sabah's marriage-of-the-year is to take place in Sandakan near Musa's constituency of Sungai Sibuga on Oct 20. However, at the time of writing then no one was willing to confirm nor deny my report. Neither did the local papers dare to 'lift' my story, preferring to wait for the official announcement by the CM's office. At that time I was also unable to give you the lucky girl's name (of course Arrifin is equally lucky if not more lucky).

Weeks passed and nothing happened. Finally a reader e-mailed me to ask what happened to the follow-up on this story which I was supposed to do. This gave me an instant reminder of my promise and prompted me to drive all the way to Arrifin's home at Pimping village in Membakut, this morning to attend his Hari Raya open house (for which one does not need an invitation, that's the beauty of Malaysia); hoping to take a glimpse of the bride-to-be and hopefully take a picture of the duo. But alas, how disappointed was I as she was not there. According to her fiance, she was in Kota Kinabalu (KK), Sabah's state capital, apparently busy preparing for the big day. Mind you, it was more than an hour's drive from my house near KK and by the time we (my wife and son accompanied me) arrived we were thoroughly hungry, having missed breakfast as we didn't want to be late or miss the all-important picture. However, our disappointment was compensated by the good food as we were invited to eat even before we could sit down, another unique feature of Malaysian hospitality.

But all was not lost. I managed to ask the YB (the Honourable in the Malay language) her name and he gave it as Miss Jenny Natasha. I even got the Assemblyman to reveal his age and he said 44. I don't think he was joking as a mutual friend had told me that the eligible bachelor was around that age. I however did not ask for her age as it may be impolite. As they say, never ask a lady her age. But I think you and I can make a good guess because the YB told me that she is a final year student at a local university in KK. I didn't get to ask how they met but don't worry as the big day is only a week away so all the details will by then come out in the local press. For the benefit of non-Sabahan readers, I will also of course update you on this matter from time to time.

In the picture above, Ariffin (center) is seen with a group of well-wishes at his Hari Raya open house today. 2nd from the right (with dark glasses) is veteran Beaufort district (under which comes Membakut) politician Datuk Haji Thaufeck Haji Asneh. Thaufeck had been both Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman at the height of his political career between the Usno and Berjaya eras during the 1970s-80s. (For a larger view, please click on picture)

In the meantime, heartiest congratulations to the groom and bride-to-be and Selamat Hari Raya to them and all my Muslim friends wherever they may be. May God continue to bless us all so that our beloved country Malaysia and beloved State Sabah will continue to prosper and continue to become a shinning example to others by way of our racial harmony and religious tolerance despite our multi-ethnicity.

(Footnote: Apart from being an Assemblyman, Ariffin is also the Chairman of the powerful Sabah Native Affairs Council whose duties include appointing/firing Native Chiefs and Village Headmen and endorsing a Sabahan's native status.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The 1961 Malayan Cabinet

The following is the composition of the 1961 Malayan Cabinet headed by Tunku Abdul Rahman (pic) who had been Chief Minister of the new Federation from August 1955 to August 1957. Obviously this was not the immediate post-Merdeka (Independence) Cabinet but this was the closest I could find. I will of course publish the 1957 Cabinet list as soon as I found it.

1. Tunku Abdul Rahman (Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs) 2. Dato' Abdul Razak Hussein (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence & Rural Development) 3. Dato' Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman (Internal Security) 4. Tan Siew Sin (Finance) 5. Tun Leong Yew Koh (Justice) 6. V.T. Sambanthan (Works, Posts & Telecommunications) 7. Dato' Sulaiman Dato' Abdul Rahman (Interior) 8. Abdul Aziz Ishak (Agriculture) 9. Sardon Hj. Jubir (Transport) 10. Dato' Ong Yoke Lin (Health and Social Welfare) 11. Bahaman Samsudin (Labour) 12. Mohamed Khir Johari (Commerce and Industry) 13. Abdul Rahman Talib (Education).

As can be seen, there were 13 Ministers. Out of these 9 were Malays (UMNO), 3 Chinese (MCA) and 1 Indian (MIC). While the number of Chinese and Indian ministers remained the same as compared to 1955, there was an increase of 3 Malay ministers. While the Tunku (prince) had been elevated from Chief Minister to Prime Minister, his trusted lieutenant Razak was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister. All of them belonged to the ruling coalition of the Alliance Party, the precursor of the National Front (BN) which has ruled Malaya (later Malaysia) since.

However, the Chinese representation saw a new face in Tan Siew Sin (later Tun) who replaced Col. Sir H.S. Lee, one of the Independence fighters who flew to London together with the Tunku. Tan was the son of another freedom fighter and MCA founder Tun Tan Chin Loke. Notice that Leong, a minister since 1955, had been made a Tun (Malaya's highest civilian award) by 1961 and was the only Tun in the Cabinet then. Notice also that Khir was promoted from an assistant Minister in 1955 to a full minister.

And of course since Malaysia was not formed yet in 1961, there was no federal minister from Sabah and Sarawak. Unfortunately, the list that I obtained did not include any Assistant Minister (known as Deputy Minister today) and of course those days there were no Parliamentary Secretaries yet.

In 1961, there were 104 elected seats in the Dewan Rakyat (Lower House of Parliament) of Malaya. I was only 7 years old then and due to communication difficulties those days, most people in Sabah (then North Borneo) and Sarawak probably never heard of Malaya. They only began to know Malaya after the Tunku broached the idea of Malaysia and as fate would have it, Sabah and Sarawak eventually merged with Malaya and Singapore to form the new nation in 1963.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The 1st Malayan Cabinet 1955

Do You Know? That although Malaya officially achieved Independence on Aug 31, 1957 when Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed the declaration of Independence and led the crowd to shout 'Merdeka' 3 times at the Merdeka Stadium (pix above), the British actually granted the would-be new federation self-rule in 1955 as a preparation for full independence.

Thus, the first ever Malayan Cabinet (also known as the Pre-Independence Cabinet) was formed on Aug 3, 1955. However, as full independence was yet to be granted, the Tunku was initially known only as Chief Minister. He only became Prime Minister after Aug 31, 1957.

Apart from being Chief Minister, the Tunku (prince) was also Minister for Home Affairs. Unlike today when we have more than 20 Malaysian ministers, the first Malayan Cabinet only had ten, including the Tunku. Out of these, there were three Chinese from the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and one Indian (Malayan Indian Congress). The rest were Malays from the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO). MCA, MIC and UMNO were members of the Alliance Party which won the first ever local elections handsomely in 1955 and thus the trust of the British in them.

The other Ministers were Dato' Abdul Razak Hussein (Education), Datuk Sulaiman Datuk Abd Rahman (Local Government and Housing), Datuk Ismail Datuk Abdul Rahman (Land and Mines), Col. Sir H.S. Lee (Transport), Sardon Hj. Jubir (Works), V.T. Sambanthan (Labour), Leong Yew Koh (Health), Ong Yoke Lin (Posts and Communications) and Abdul Razak Ishak (Agriculture).

Dato' Razak, father of present Malaysian deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Najib, went on to replace the Tunku as PM in 1970. Datuk (later Dr) Ismail was chosen Razak's DPM while Sardon eventually became Penang Governor. Ong (later Omar) later became President of the Malaysian Senate, the Upper House of Parliament. Razak, Dr Ismail, Sardon, Col. Lee, Sambanthan, Leong and Ong were later conferred the Tunship, the highest award for civilians in Malaya (later Malaysia). To the best of my knowledge most, if not all, of this pioneer batch of Malayan ministers had died.

You would notice that there were no Finance, Defence and Foreign Affairs ministers. This was because these portfolios were still handled directly by the British High Commissioner to Malaya and his officials. Defence especially as the Malayan army was still small and not well-equipped and after all, independent Malaya would continue to become a British protectorate for some time even after 1957.

In this first Malayan Cabinet there were also two Assistant Ministers: Mohd Khir Johari (UMNO) and Too Joo Hing (MCA). Khir went on to become a full Minister. In 1957 the Malayan population was a mere 6 million and of course I was only 3 years old.

On Sept 16, 1963 Malaya teamed up with the city-state of Singapore and the Borneon states of Sabah and Sarawak to form the enlarged Federation of Malaysia. Singapore however left in Aug 1965 to become an island-republic. Today both Malaysia and Singapore are members of ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Like A Breath of Fresh Air

'Like A Breath of Fresh Air' says the heading of the caption story on the front page of the Daily Express, Sabah's leading English broadsheet daily, on Tuesday Oct 2, 2007, a day after the launch of MASwings' services to Sabah and her east Malaysian neighbour on Borneo island, Sarawak.

'Greater Heights for Tourism in Sabah' screamed the banner headline on the front page of the New Sabah Times on the same day. In fact, the state's only English tabloid daily devoted the entire front page to this story including a picture; except for advertisements of course.

The Sabah edition of the Borneo Post, a Sarawak-based English broadsheet daily, also gave frontpage treatment to the launch; with the heading 'MAS Wings launches flights to better link Sabah to world' with another story titled 'Air Services to Boost Rural Sabah Tourism: CM' and a large photograph of the launch by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman squeezed in between the two stories.

'Sarawak's Wings of Hope, says CM' was the heading on the front page of the Sarawak edition of the Borneo Post, with a picture of Sarawak Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud launching the service in Sarawak. The Sabah and Sarawak editions of the Borneo Post combined make up the largest English daily in Borneo or East Malaysia.

Just as a picture paints a thousand words, the headlines say it all. The headings reflect the aspirations and hopes of Sabahans and Sarawakians over the new service provided by MASwings and perhaps at the same time even the frustration over the lack of and unreliable service of its predecessor, FAX.

Although after reading the Daily Express story twice I still could not establish who said 'Like A Breath of Fresh Air' and therefore it was probably put there by the editor, it does not matter. What is more important is the heading sums up the frustration over the poor service in the past one year which hampered tourism promotion and at the same time new hope (fresh air) with the new service provider, MASwings.

The frustration on the part of the Sabahans and Sarawakians is understandable. Both States have been trying hard to push tourism especially since the start of the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 in January. Sabah's main tourism draw include Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia and a UNESCO World Heritage site; Sipadan island, billed one of the best diving spots in th world; and the Orangutan Rehabilitation centre. Sarawak's attractions include the famed Mulu Caves and the Cultural Village in Kuching which stage the annual Rainforest International Music Festival. But the lack of and unreliable flights have put the spanner in the works, with many potential tourists canceling their trips.

Hence, the Borneo Post's heading, Sarawak's Wings of Hope, could not have been more apt. 'Hope' for a new start, now that the Visit Malaysia Year had been extended to 2008 as well. It's better late than never, they say. 'Wings' as a vehicle to attain the hope to be provided by MASwings. With the entry of MASwings, Sabah and Sarawak can once again go about promoting their tourism products confidently to the overseas markets. The fact that the Sarawak launch was done in Mulu (next to the caves) again reflects the seriousness and enthusiasm the state government places on promoting the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourism, after all and if managed properly, can be a major revenue earner that racks in millions and perhaps even billions of dollars yearly. In fact, certain countries' main revenue come from tourism!

In conclusion while both the Malaysian, Sabah and Sarawak governments as well as MAS (the parent company) are to be congratulated for bringing in MASwings to both States, special mention should perhaps also be made of one particular person for making it possible. This man is none other than Datuk Idris Jala, the MAS CEO and chairman of MASwings who happens to be a Sarawakian. Although he is from Sarawak, we in Sabah too are proud of him for it takes a east Malaysian to understand the needs and aspirations of the people of Borneo.

Even Sarawak Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud mentioned Idris in his speech at the launch in Miri. Saying that the (Malaysian) government does not want to see the rural people left behind, the RAS (Rural Air Service) pioneered by MAS had enabled the rural children to go for higher education like MAS CEO Datuk Idris Jala. "I am very touched to see a Kelabit (a Sarawak native) there," said Taib, referring to Idris who was made the national carrier's top man on Dec 1, 2005 and has turned the once financially ailing company around.

Well, to wind up, I must say that the Datukship given to Idris by the Malaysian government is too small. He should have been given a Tan Sriship. What he has achieved for the national interest within a short span of time far out-weighed what some Tan Sris had done. I hope the Malaysian government would consider it next year. Similarly, the Sarawak government should confer on Idris at least Datuk Amar if not Datuk Patinggi. There may not be another MAS CEO from Sarawak within our lifetime.

To Idris, congratulations and please keep up the good work. Don't care what other people say. Just do your work and make Sabah and Sarawak even prouder of you. May God bless you and your family. And of course, may God bless Sabah and Sarawak too, not forgetting MASwings. (For more infor on MASwings' services including fares and schedules, please visit

Sabah CM Musa (2nd right) with MAS chairman Dr Munir Majid (3rd right) at the MASwings launch in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 1. On the right is Sabah Tourism Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.
Sarawak CM Taib launching MASwings at Mulu. Behind him (in long-sleeved Batik) is Idris. Looking on are Sarawak Ministers.
The route map of the services provided by MASwings between major towns in Sabah and Sarawak using the Fokker-50 aircraft.
The route map of the Rural Air Service using the Twin-Otter aircraft provided by MASwings in Sabah and Sarawak. (For larger view, click on maps.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

October's many firsts

Today is the Oct 1, 2007, the first day of the last quarter of the year. For Malaysia in general and Sabah and Sarawak in particular, today also sees a lot of 'firsts'.

Firstly, today MASwings, a subsidiary of Malaysia's national airline, officially takes to the sky, taking over from Fly Asia Express (FAX), a subsidiary of MAS' rival and fierce competitor, Air Asia, in providing domestic flights within and between Sabah and Sarawak. In other words, yesterday (Sept 30) was FAX's last day of operating such services. (Click on image for a larger view)

When FAX first took over from MAS in the domestic sector for East Malaysia 13 months ago, the public, local travelers and tourists alike were full of hope and enthusiasm. This was partly because the public had by then become disillusioned with MAS' services and were looking forward to new and reliable services by Air Asia who had by then established a name for itself as a successful airline despite not having government support. MAS, the government airline, on the other hand did not mind 'giving up' the domestic flights then as these were after all losing concerns.

But alas, this was not to be, as after merely a year FAX practically gave up, passing the buck back to MAS. Instead of improving or providing reliable domestic flights, all FAX got almost every day was complaints, complaints and more complaints over flights delay and cancellations, non-reliability and so on. Tourism players had a nightmare due to this unreliability and lack of flights. This was despite the reputation of its parent company, Air Asia. MAS, on the other hand, being a government-controlled company had no choice but to reluctantly take back the domestic sector due to it social obligation and in this respect the formation of MASwings which was originally meant to serve the northern Peninsular Malaysia sector was indeed timely and welcomed.

MAS' agreeing to taking back the domestic flights and MASwings spreading its wings to Sabah and Sarawak is a big relief to the tourism industry and public in East Malaysia. The industry players can now once again push Sabah's tourism products especially Mount Kinabalu and Sarawak's Mulu Caves the promotion of which was hampered due to lack of flights. Also relieved were the people of Lahad Datu on the east coast of Sabah situated in between Sandakan and Tawau because there had been no flights for the past one year. Infact, the industry players in Lahad Datu were so happy that one hotel, ironically named Asia Hotel, placed advertisements in local newspapers welcoming MASwings to the coastal town.

Sikmading says: By now it is evident that this domestic flights thing is nothing but a pawn used by the airlines to get what they really want from the government. For example, "since the domestic sector is a losing concern give us compensations through other means, say more international routes or more landing rights or tax incentives and so on." After getting what they want, they begin to ignore their social responsibility on the domestic front. I pity MAS because apart from having to take back the domestic flights, albeit reluctantly, they had to fork out something like RM70 million to repair and put the Fokker and Twin Otter aircrafts back in running conditions which rightly should have been borne by either FAX or the government. Thank you, MAS.

The second 'first' is the fact that starting today Malaysians will need to dial only one number in time of emergency - 999 - and the operator will connect to the relevant agency like police, fire brigade, ambulance and civil defence. Before today, Malaysians had to dial 994 for fire brigade and 991 for civil defence and so on. Actually, we are only reverting back to the old system. My generation grew up knowing only one emergency number 999 but as the country developed and 'modernised' each rescue department wanted to have their own identity. The government finally decided that Malaysians should not be made to remember too many emergency numbers.

The third 'first' is that starting today Astro, Malaysia's pay television, introduced a new set of numbers for their channels. If formerly the channel numbers started from 1, now it is 101 and I don't see the logic of it. I won't be surprised if one day, just like the Malaysian government, they would revert back to the old system. People tend to introduce new systems just to show progress but they should also remember: "When something is not broken, don't fix it." Along with the new numbers of course came a few new Astro channels including Awani which is meant to be Malaysia's version of CNN. Sikmading says: Awani is putting too much emphasis on world news and too little on local news. It should be the other way round. If I want to watch world news, there is already CNN, BBC, CNBC, CCTV, Al-Zajeera and so on. If the excuse is Awani is in Malay/BM, well, even RTM already has world news in Malay and it's free.
Also, the name Awani got no 'oomh' lah, how to compete with CNN? Think of something better lah!

Today is also the start of what is popularly known as the Golden Week in China. This is because Oct 1 is China's national day (their version of Merdeka), commemorating the founding of modern China and their holidays stretches for one week, thus the nick name Golden Week for it gives the Chinese a much-needed rest and the chance to go back to the villages (bearing in mind the size of China) and visit the many tourism sights that China has to offer and so on. Taiwan, China's estranged 'province', celebrates their 'Merdeka' on Oct 10.

Lastly, today is also the start of the Rosary Month for Catholics. Throughout the month of October, Catholics recite the Holy Rosary in honour of Mother Mary, Mother of Jesus, at the same time asking for her intercession for the needy. Not that Catholics do not recite the Rosary at other times of the year, they do, except during the Month of Rosary they do so even more fervently. Rosary sessions are held every evening at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu.
For details call 088-223618.

To wind up, of course not forgetting Oktoberfest, the month in Germany when beer flow 'freely'. If we have Harvest Festival, they have Beer Festival!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let Bloggers Thrill Themselves!

An old friend who is also a fellow blogger and fellow journalist ('ex' in my case) , Jaybee, in responding to my yesterday's announcement of my new and second blog on property, gave me this encouragement: "Keep up the spirit. Keep on blogging."

He also quoted veteran Malaysian journalist and ex-New Straits Times chief editor Datuk A. Kadir Jasin who once said (presumably in his blog, The Scribe): "Biar Bloggers Siok Sendiri" which means (more or less) 'Let Bloggers Thrill Themselves'. I suppose what he meant was that even if nobody reads your blog or agree with what's written, so what? As long as the blogger himself/herself is thrilled with his/her work, that is what matters.

Another friend and fellow-blogger, Ben, commenting on my post Happy Mooncake Festival (in which I explained and apologised for my not being constant or regular in submitting new posting) has this to say: "After a few years of blogging and still at it, my observations are:- 1) You must like to write and 2) blog about what you are passionate about. Passionate means you don't mind spending a lot of time researching & writing about it, and don't mind if nobody reads it."

Yet another journalist friend, while congratulating me on my becoming a blogger a couple of months back, said to be a successful blogger one needs a lot of discipline (to post regularly if not daily). Now I know what he meant and why to this day he is still not a blogger, to the best of knowledge.

Well, the comments/advice of Kadir and Ben more or less sums up what the attitude of bloggers should be and how others should view/treat them. In other words, leave them alone. They mean no harm. Let them thrill themselves, even if you don't agree with them.You don't expect everyone to agree with you just as everyone should not expect you to agree with them, not all the time. If they break the law, let the law takes its own course. Kadir and Ben could not have put it more succinctly when they said: "Biar Bloggers Siok Sendiri" and "Don't mind if nobody reads it". You hit it right on the top of the nail, guys.

Their advice and encouragement (including that of Jaybee's and the non-blogging journalist) are indeed most welcomed and infact timely for me. This is because, as I explained at the intro to the Mooncake article, I was going through what some new bloggers would experience, sooner or later - that of being 'burnt-out' or going out of steam after an encouraging or promising start. It's a syndrome, just like the seven-year itch,some say.

Thanks guys. You woke me up from my doze. But let me assure you that I was merely taking a short 'afternoon nap' to recharge my batteries and not 'in deep slumber until morning'. From now on it's full-steam ahead with no looking back. The fact that I started my second blog (on property) yesterday should testify this. Infact, I am already planning a third (blog) but for strategic reasons can't tell you yet what it will be about. No offence meant.

As for my loyal or original 'fans' who used to follow my reports on Party Berjaya's formation in July/August, don't worry, as soon as I get more materials from the archives, I will continue the 'history lesson' (as one of you put it); hopefully by tomorrow. Photostating from old newspapers at the archives costs up to ten times more than the shops, mind you.

As for Jaybee and Ben, what can I say? You are among my true friends, who in this mad, mad rush and material world of ours are harder and harder to come by these days. True friends want to see you succeed, so-called friends (Chinese say wine-meat friends, English say fair-weather friends) want to see you fail. Jealousy is, afterall, a human nature. No wonder there is a Chinese saying: "The number of people who want to see you 'die' is more than the number who want to see you 'live'."

Till then, cheers! (with Chinese tea, still in the Mooncake mood. Tonite the moon is supposed to be roundest, remember?) May God bless you all!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Birth of a new blog

I am pleased to announce the birth of a new blog. Called Sikmading's Property, it's my second blog. As its name suggests, it deals with anything property - realty, real estate, housing development, whatever you call it. While it aims to cover Sabah, emphasis will of course be on Kota Kinabalu, the State's capital city.

The motive here is not money, just my passion to write about subjects that I like. After all,who would pay for a blog that has zero readership, as of today?

Interested? House hunting? Please go to, or simply just click Sikmading's Property under My Blogroll on the left.

Thank you and welcome.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Happy Mooncake Festival

Hi guys! It's good to be back. I know, I've been absent for sometime and I apologize for that. I'm not inventing excuses but, you see, when I first started, a fellow blogger already warned me at the outset to be weary of a syndrome which every new blogger may face, i.e. a possible 'burnt-out' or 'going out of steam' after sometime. Another friend, a journalist, wished me well but gave me a friendly reminder - that to be a successful blogger, one needs a lot of discipline (to post regularly, if possible every day).

Well, the 'excuses' dispensed with, let's get on with my latest offering. As the title suggests, it's about mooncake, a Chinese delicacy eaten once a year. Yes, today is Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival in Asia. In my country Malaysia it's also called the Lantern Festival, simply because of the lantern displays or processions associated with the festival. But in my home state Sabah, it's also popularly known as the Mooncake Festival simply because mooncakes are eaten as highlight, hence the title of this posting.

So, what is this festival all about and how did it originate? There are several versions about its origin but generally this Asian celebration of abundance and togetherness dates back over 3,000 years to China's Zhou Dynasty. "Togetherness" because, just like Chinese New Year, families gather for dinners on this auspicious occasion to celebrate 'abundance' (of harvests, for example). So, in a way, it is a sort of Chinese Harvest Festival. Not only are there several verions of its origin, you even have Vietnamese and Korean versions of the festival itself, with their own names of course. Apart from Asia, the Moon Festival, just like the Chinese New Year, is also celebrated by Chinatowns in other parts of the World, for example San Francisco and New York.

As a kid in a Chinese primary school, I did learn a bit about the origin of the festival but have since forgotten most parts of it. So instead of running the risk of misleading you, I would leave the talking to the experts. I did some searches on the Internet and the one that I liked best was still from Wikipedia. They did a good job. Not only they told me about the festival's origin, but even the Vietnamese and Korean versions and related articles and sites. If you are interested, please go to

Before you do, however, I would just like to share with you what I read in the local Chinese newspapers today. You see, the festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the Eight month of the Chinese or lunar calender, when the moon is said to be at its fullest or roundest. I am not sure if the practice is still common in this 21st Century, but during my time as a kid we used to gather round a table outside the house after dinner, 'appreciating' the beautiful and 'roundest' moon while eating mooncakes and drinking Chinese tea (apparently to 'wash down' the oily cakes); while our parents told us stories or folklores about the festival . But, according to the Chinese papers, for this year the moon will be fullest on the 17th day. So, if you miss tonight's 'moon-sighting' for whatever reason, you will get a second chance on Thursday, provided no rain, of course.

Until then, cheers! (with Chinese tea, please)

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's a Holiday in Sabah !

Horay! It's a holiday in Sabah today, Monday 17 Sept 2007. This is to replace yesterday's public holiday which falls on a Sunday. According to the official State public holiday list for 2007 as gazetted and published in the official diary for civil servants in Sabah, 16 Sept was a holiday both because it was Hari Malaysia (Malaysia Day) and official birthday of the Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Sabah (Governor). I see this as an encouraging sign for it shows that the Sabah Government at least has the decency not to ignore 16 Sept as Malaysia Day. It is a good start, although the ultimate goal is to get the Federal Government to also declare it as a holiday.

Sabahans and Sarawakians have Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to thank for towards this end. Yesterday, the Gerakan party president said the Federal Government should seriously consider celebrating 16 Sept as Malaysia Day to the extent of even declaring it a public holiday. Gerakan is a component party of Malaysia's ruling coalition, the National Front. Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) which ruled Sabah from 1985 to 1994 had made frequent similar calls, but these were quickly branded by Kuala Lumpur as yet another of PBS' anti-federal moves.

Dr Goh's unexpected and bold statement came shortly after the statement by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud who said a few days ago that the east Malaysian state will celebrate the 45th anniversary of Malaysia in a big way next year, widely speculated as election year. Yesterday, PBS led by former Sabah Chief Minster Datuk Joseph Pairi took out full-page advertisements in local newspapers wishing Sabahans a Happy Malaysia Day.

Dr Goh's statement immediately gave Sabahans and Sarawakians a new ray of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. But alas, his proposal was quickly shot down by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Najib Tun Razak who Monday told reporters that "16 Sept is an important date but the government had decided that there should be only one independence date which is 31 August. This is to show that we are together..."

Sabah and Sarawak gained self-rule from Britain on 31 August 1963 but could officially join Malaya and Singapore to form Malaysia only on 16 Sept. The delay was caused by the arrival of a UN team sent to ascertain the wishes of the local people, prompted by protests lodged by both the Philippines and Indonesia. Malaya had earlier gained independence also from the British on 31 Aug 1957.

So what's next? It remains to b seen but one thing is for sure - the Opposition in Sabah (perhaps in Sarawak too) will keep on harping on this issue, with the election expected anytime. One of the Sabah opposition leaders, ironically, is Pairin's own brother, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan who is a Vice-President of the Kuala Lumpur-based Keadilan party. Yesterday in Kuching, Sarawak's state capital, Dr Jeffrey was invited to recite the Malaysian declaration similar to the one read out by Sarawak's first Chief Minister on 16 September 1963. The function was organised by Keadilan Sarawak which made a breakthrough in last year's Sarawak election by winning a seat in the State Assembly while fellow opposition party DAP won several.

Will this issue, among others, affect the election outcome? Only time can tell but Dr Jeffrey is already saying that Keadilan will form the next Sabah Government, something Sabah BN leaders describe as dreaming. Dream or reality, only God knows.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Breaking News! Assemblyman to Wed CM's daughter!

This young man (center) has more than one reason to smile. Firstly, it's because he is seen being installed as a honorary Lt. Col. of Malaysia's People's Volunteer Corps (RELA) by Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad (left) and Home Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat. (Click on pix for a larger view)

The young man is the Honourable Ariffin Ariff, the Sabah State Legislative Assembly Member for Membakut cum Chairman of the Sabah Native Affairs Council. He won the Membakut constituency on a BN-Umno ticket in the last state general election in his debut attempt in 2004, making him one of the youngest, if not the youngest, Sabah Assemblymen. After winning the seat, he was also made Chairman of the Council, which gives him his second salary. But he is still single, which makes him one of the most eligible bachelors, if not the most, in Sabah.

Which also bring us to the other reason why he is smiling - his bachelorhood is about to end. A reliable source told Sikmading that the 'Bachelor YB' (Malay for Honourable) will get married soon, after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which starts tomorrow, Thursday. And the lucky girl? Well, she is equally 'eligible', if not more eligible. This is because she is the daughter of none other than the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman!

However, at the time of writing, neither Ariffin's age nor his bride-to-be's name is available. But Sikmading will keep you posted, hopefully by tomorrow. The wedding is scheduled for October 20, about a week after Muslims worldwide celebrate the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, also known as Hari Raya Puasa, the culmination of the fasting month. The main celebration will be held in Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah although the Aman family comes from Beaufort in the Interior. Musa is State Assemblyman for Sungai Sibuga near Sandakan.

At yesterday's RELA function in Tuaran, where Musa was made a honourary Brigadier-General, Ariffin saluted his father-in-law to-be, the Chief Minister after getting his (Ariffin's) Lt. Col. appointment. Arrifin also kissed Musa's hand (a Muslim custom as a mark of respect for an elder) which draw an applause from fellow Assemblymen and Members of Parliament who were also there to be conferred honourary RELA Lt. Col. or full Colonelships.

Congratulations, Lt. Col. Arriffin!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Hope Yet For Bonus!

What a disappointing 2008 National Budget it was for the 1.2 million civil servants in Malaysia when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi (popularly known as Pak Lah) presented it in Parliament this evening (pic). Sitting next to him is Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (son of Malaysia's 2nd Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak who died in 1976.)

For the first time since 1993 (when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister), there was no announcement of bonus in the budget. But there is HOPE yet for the public officials - Najib told reporters afterwards that any bonus may not necessarily be revealed only during the tabling of budget. (Pak Lah apparently left Parliament House without speaking to the Press after delivering the budget.)

"It is needless for everything to be anounced in the budget. If there is anything else that we (the government) feel is reasonable, the government can consider and announce at some other time.

"As such, the budget is not the cut-off point for whatever the government does," he stated.

Asked whether there was hope yet for civil servants to get a bonus this year, he said: "Wait, just wait."

Najib's statement has given the government staff new hope. They now hope that a bonus, whatever the quantum, would be announced before the annual Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (also known as Hari Raya Puasa) which Muslims celebrate after fasting for a month. This year, fasting begins mid-September and the festivity (2 days of public holidays) will be on in mid-October. The majority of Malaysia's civil servants are Muslims.

"At worst, we hope that it would be announced before Christmas in late December. Though Christians civil servants are in the minority, an added excuse will be that the bonus will be timely because parents will have a heavy burden when schools reopen in January," a government officer pointed out.

The non-inclusion of the bonus in today's budget, however, was not totally unexpected as Malaysia's civil servants just had a salary increase in July which Najib pointed out caused the government an extra RM8 billion. (Slightly over US$2 billion) Another possible reason, an analyst said, is that with the recent salary raise the cost of living has also increased which is not fair to those in the private sector as they had no pay rise. "So can you imagine if a bonus is announced so soon after the raise, it will become worse," he warned.

Traditionally, the civil servants would get an annual bonus of between half-a-month to a month of their basic salaries; with a record one-and-a-half month at one time when the Malaysian economy was at its peak. But whatever it is, whether it's half month or one month, a civil servant is confident that it will be paid or at least announced before the next election expected between the end of this year and early next year.

This is because the government cannot afford to antagonize the more than one million civil servants which if their families were included would translate into at least between 2 to 3 million precious votes. Although the civil servants had a salary raise in July, they would probably have forgotten it by the time election is held as "man's memory is short while his desire can never be satisfied", the civil servant pointed out.

"If and when the bonus is finally announced, you will know election has arrived," the civil servant concluded, succinctly.

Meanwhile, another disappointment for civil servants, especially those retiring soon, in the 2008 Budget was the fact that Pak Lah also did not announce the extension of the retirement age for them. It had been widely speculated over the last few months that the PM would announce it today, especially after he failed to do so at the Labour (or Workers') Day gathering attended by thousands of civil servants in May.

Malaysian civil servants used to retire at the age of 55 until a few years ago when it was extended by a year to 56. Many believe that this was among the legacies left behind by the former British colonial government which ruled Malaya until 1957 and Sabah and Sarawak (in east Malaysia, on Borneo island) until 1963. The popular theory is that the expatriate officers purposely set the retirement age at such a young age so that when they went home to Britain they would still be fit enough to enjoy life! By comparision, Malaysian civil servants' counterparts in most neighbouring countries retire at 60 or even beyond.

Malaysian civil servants now hope that the government would announce the extension of retirement age latest by the next Workers' Day gathering in May 2008. Or, just like the bonus, latest by election time?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Happy Golden Jubilee

Thousands of patriotic Malaysians converged at the Padang Merdeka (Independence Square) in Kota Kinabalu (Sabah's state capital) to help the Nation celebrate its Golden Jubilee on the night of 30th August 2007, the eve of the 50th Anniversary of her Independence. (The Federation of Malaya achieved Independence from Britain in 1957 but teamed up with the Crown Colonies of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia in 1963. Although Malaysia came into being officially only on 16th September 1963, August 31 has since generally been accepted as the new country's Independence date whereas Sept 16 is celebrated as Malaysia Day or, in the case of Sabah, the Governor's birthday as well.)

Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman led his State Cabinet members and the huge crowd in shouting Merdeka as the Jalur Gemilang (Malaysian flag) was raised at the stroke of midnight. The people started arriving at the padang as early as 5pm and there was an air of carnival and festivity as they were entertained by local artistes including Sabah singers who made it to the finals of reality talent show over the last few years. The climax of the 6-hour show was of course the fireworks after the flag-raising ceremony.

As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. So I'll end my report by providing the caption to the photos above. (For a larger view, please click on an image.):-

Pix 1 - Musa and wife, flanked by his Cabinet colleagues and their wives, leading the crowd in waving the Malaysian flag and singing of patriotic songs. On the Chief Minister's right are deputy chief ministers Datuk Yahya Hussin (in Malay dress) and Datuk Joseph Pairin (in Kadazan dress).

Pix 2 - Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun (left) and wife (right) with Sabah singer Linda who was the 1st runner-up in the finals of the 2004 Akademi Fantasia, Malaysia's top reality TV talent search show. Linda is from Ranau, Masidi's constituency.

Pix 3 - Starting them young....These young Malaysians, dressed in their respective traditional costumes, did not want to be left out of the celebrations.

Pix 4 - These teenagers, calling themselves the 5th Generation, were among those who entertained the crowd. On stage for the first time, the newly-formed band are mostly students from the private Seri Insan Secondary School.

Pix 5 - Part of the huge crowd and patriotic Malaysians who thronged the town field since 6pm and stayed on even until midnight after the VIPs left, as the performers returned to the stage.

Pix 6 - This local trio comprising (from left) Velvet, Marsha and Felix were favourites with the crowd. Felix was the 1st runner-up in the 2005 Akademi Fantasia (Fantasy Academy) finals while Marsha and Velvet were finalists in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Pix 7 - Patriotism knows no bounds, as shown by this disabled young lady in wheelchair (right). This is what I call true patriotism and I think she has put to shame those who preferred to watch the event on TV in the comfort of their homes.

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The race to join BN

After the 1969 Malaysian general elections which ended tragically with the May 13 racial riots that saw first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman stepping down in favour of Tun Abdul Razak, the Alliance Party, a coalition of UMNO, MCA and MIC which governed Peninsular Malaysia was expanded to become the National Front (BN) in order to accommodate the Gerakan party which had won and formed the state govenment in Penang and People's Progressive Party which made substantial in-roads into Perak state. In line with this, the ruling parties or coalitions in Sabah and Sarawak were asked to join BN so that one single coalition ruled the whole nation. But Sabah's Usno led by Tun Datu Mustapha was in no hurry to join as the 'old man' (as he was sometimes referred to by Sabahans) saw this as a ploy by Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia's capital) to clip his wings and control him. This further angered Tun Razak, who was already unhappy with him in the first place due to rumours that he was planing to take Sabah out of Malaysia; not to mention his extravagant ways and frequent trips overseas without Kuala Lumpur's approval.

However, after the birth of Berjaya which was formed with the blessings of Kuala Lumpur, Tun Mustapha started changing his tune. He denied that he was taking Sabah out of Malaysia and said Usno was always a part of the BN, or at least applying to. Berjaya, understandably, would use whatever influence it had in Kuala Lumpur to block Usno's entry into the BN; while at the same time urging BN headquarters to expedite the approval of its own (Berjaya's) application.

Thus, on July 19, 1975 the frontpage headline of Daily Express read: "USNO not a member of Barisan" with a sub-heading: "Barisan Denies USNO's Claim of Membership". The Daily Express' "Special Correspondent" in Kuala Lumpur was quoting a report from the Malay Mail, the national capital's first and only English afternoon daily newspaper. There is no need for me to repeat the report. (To see a larger view, please click on the image.)

The DE frontpage also carried a report with the heading "Nosob Pekemas members decide to be with Berjaya". The Berjaya leaders who attended the function at Nosob were led by party treasurer and Penampang division chief Datuk Peter Mojuntin. The fact that Mojuntin deemed it fit to 'conquer' Nosob which is only a village at a time when he should be busy visiting other districts or Usno divisions showed the importance of Nosob politically. This was because Nosob was a stronghold of Pekemas which at that time was 'the opposition' in Sabah until Berjaya's birth. (Sikmading says: The correct spelling of Nosob should be Nosoob which in Kadazan means "burnt". However, it s not clear what was burnt so that the village was named that way, the padi fields or the houses? Any reader can shed some light on this please?)

You will also notice in the frontpage that 'the Khalik' claimed that Tun Mustapha was in London and not Mecca at that time of the launch of Berjaya. I leave it to readers to make their own judgement.

At the left bottom of the frontpage (2nd image), there is a small advertisment put up by the 'Last Chance" bar about its Saturday Nite Dance. For the information of the younger readers, the Last Chance Bar was 'the place to be seen' and was those days' equivalent of today's Shenanigan or the pubs in KK's other tops hotels. Those days 5-star hotels were unheard of in KK, may be not even 4-star; the first international-standard hotel, the Kinabalu International Hotel (KIH) commenced business only about the same time Berjaya became the government in 1976. The KIH is now the Hyatt Kinabalu. I was only 21 years old then, just started working with a low salary and therefore could not afford to frequent the Last Chance despite its 'attractions'.

One of my readers has complained that I took too long to continue the ' history lessons on Sabah politics'. I took rest due to work pressure. Besides, I needed to go back to the archives for more materials. I'll try not to rest for too long from now on. My apologies though.

Yoku Boiti!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Have (Rotary) Wheels Will Travel

You would recall that in one of my recent postings I said I would be taking a short break as it was the season for dinner, dinner, and more dinner. One of the dinners that I was privileged to attend, as a guest, was the 19th Installation Nite of the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu South (KK South for short).

During the dinner, Mr Robert Liau (2nd left in 2nd picture) took over from Mr Andy Wong (3rd left) as President of the Club for the year 2007-8. Looking on in that pic are First Lady (as the Rotarians call their President's wife) Mrs Jenny Liau (left) and Mrs Cynthia Wong, the outgoing First Lady who is perhaps better known as PS Wong, the general manager of the Sabah Housing & Town Development Authority (LPPB). However, the Rotary system is such that Andy will still be in the Board as Immediate Past President (IPP) so Cynthia will be IPP's spouse.

Others installed that night along with Robert were president-elect Eddie Choong, vice-president Hj Abd Kadir Hj Abdullah, secretary Tan See Ang, treasurer Philip Chong, director of club service Ir Yam Wai Kit, director of community service Dr Ganeshanadha, director of vocational service Mahmod Tahir, director of international service Dr Charanjeet, director of service to new generation Jacek Rubczak, sergeant-at-arms Richard Chin, sports convenor George Chong and bulletin editor Datuk George Ginibun.

The guest-of-honour was Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Raymond Tan who was represented by Assistant Minister of Resource Development and IT, Puan Melanie Chia. Also present were Deputy Minister of Primary Industries and Commodities, Datuk Anifah Aman; and Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) vice-president and former State Secretary Tan Sri Simon Sipaun who delivered the Vote of Thanks on behalf of the guests. I will not touch on what the VIPs said in their speeches as those were already reported in the local press. I can't help but noticed, though, that the Minister commended Andy for his good performance during his tenure as reflected in the club being awarded the Presidential Citation by the Rotary International President.

I also noticed that the installation was attended by representatives of KK South's sister clubs from overseas namely the Rotary Clubs of Yuan Lin South West, Taiwan; Mandaue North, Cebu, Pilippines; Chinatown, Manila, Philippines; and Hong Kong North East. I was told that when these sister clubs hold their installations, KK South would also send their representatives to attend. How nice, and hence the title of this posting, Have (Rotary) Wheels Will Travel.

The 3rd to 5th pictures show Robert presenting local paintings depicting either Mount Kinabalu or the Sumazau dance to (from 3rd pic) First Lady Annabel of Chinatown, Manila witnessed by Past District Governor of the Rotary District 3810 of the Philippines, Rosie Goh (right); president Paul Beekman of Hong Kong; and president "Machine" of Taiwan.

I asked my host how come the Taiwanese club president's name was "Machine" and she explained that it was difficult to pronounce or spell the Taiwaneses' romanised names and so a code was invented to reflect the Rotarian's vocation. Thus, "Machine" signifies that the Rotarian is involved in machinery or similar field, a Rotarian dealing with paint is "Colour" and so on. And it seems this system is fine with the Taiwanese. Something new and unique I just learnt there!

Membership in the Rotary Club is by invitation only and Rotarians are normally drawn upon from different professions or vocations like lawyers, doctors, engineers, consultants, bankers, businessmen and so on but they normally won't have too many from a particular what they call 'Classification'. Thus, the size of a Rotary Club is never big. Obviously they want quality, not quantity. In the case of KK South, they have only 30 members.

The Rotary movement was founded in Chicago, USA in 1905 by Paul Harris, an attorney who gathered a group of men engaged in different vocations. They met in rotation at their various places of business and thus the name Rotary and the logo which resembles a rotating wheel (1st picture on top). The rest, as they say, is history and Rotary today has more than one million members in more than 32,000 Clubs worldwide; thus the term Rotary International. The highest award in the movement is the Paul Harris Fellowship, named after the founder.

The general objective of Rotary, as spelt out by Paul in that first meeting 102 years ago, is the development of fellowship and understanding among the various businesses and professions while promoting international understanding, goodwill, and peace. Rotary Clubs have a basic ideal, the 'Ideal Service' which is best expressed in Rotary's principal motto - Service Above Self. However, the theme changes every year and for 2007-8 it's 'Rotary Shares' and last year it was 'Lead The Way'.

I can't help but get attracted to the fact that Rotarians subscribe to what they call the Four-Way Test of the things they think, say or do; namely, 1. Is it the TRUTH?, 2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?, 3. Will it bring GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIP?, and 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?.

They even have a what they call The Guide to Daily Living! It goes something like this: Before doing the things we want to do, consider first, the Precept of the Guide. Ask Ourselves these 4 questions and act upon them: 1. Have I Spent Some time in self-examination?, 2. Have I Spent quality time with my family?, 3. Have I given the best to my work?, and 4. Have I given some time to someone near and far?

This sounds a bit like the Catholics' examination of conscience before they go to the priest for confession prior to receiving the Holy Communion, but I guess in this rat-race and mad, mad world of ours being more spiritual or God-fearing and doing good to others won't hurt. The world's major religions have their own way of saying the Golden Rule, i.e. Do Unto Others What You Would Have Others Do Unto You and I see similarity between this teaching and the Rotarians' belief, although they are a strictly non-religious and non-racial service and fellowship club.

The Rotarians' Four-Way Test and Guide to Daily Living also reminded me of the teachings of Briton John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church , which goes like this: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

To sum up, all I can say is, if only everybody practises what Rotary preaches (the 4-Way Test + Guide to Daily Living) , then this world would be a better and more peaceful place to live in! Infact, another Sabah Minister who was guest-of-honour at KK South's installation last year to which I was also invited actually said this in his speech!

Yet another aspect of Rotary which interests me is that the post of President is rotated among club members each year, true to its name, and transition of power is smooth. Besides, since the club membership is small, practically everyone has the chance to be president! Perhaps governments of the world should learn from Rotary!

But only one year? Won't it be too short for the President to implement his plans, I asked? Normally, in an association by the time the chairman warms his seat and get things going, half-a-year is gone. But Rotarians don't have the problem of continuity for they work as a team and even have a President-elect's post who understudy the incumbent president. For starters, they meet every week (as opposed to the monthly meetings of most other associations) during which the Sergeant-at-Arms will impose fines on late-comers and those whose hand phones ring,among other 'offences'. Besides, apart from the normal office bearers, they have directors in charge of different aspects of the club's work so the question of the President being over-burdened doesn't arise.

For further information on Rotary International, please visit

Bye for now and thank you for your patience, but I've seen blog postings longer than this.

Cheers! (To Rotary International)

Yoku Boiti!

The Tun Returns

As I had hinted yesterday, the pro-Alliance Kinabalu Sabah Times on July 18, 1975 chose as its frontpage headline the Bernama story filed from Penang with the heading "Tun returns today 'to put things right'". The same story was only given a single-column treatment on the frontpage of the pro-Berjaya Daily Express.

You would notice that the Tun (as he was affectionately referred to by his followers, after all he was the first Sabahan to become a Tun, being the first Governor) had called a press conference in Penang five hours after he arrived from Mecca. The report also said that the Tun earlier had a three-hour meeting with the then Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Tan Sri (now Tun) Ghazali Shafie.

Why Penang and why the meeting with Ghazali? Why couldn't the old man flew straight home to Sabah where the political situation had somewhat become chaotic and the people confused following the birth of Berjaya? Well, what the report didn't say was that the Tun was in Penang to meet former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tun was more or less a protege of the Tunku who acted as mediator in the meeting in which Ghazali represented Prime Minister Tun Razak (father of present Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Najib). The Tunku wanted to save the Usno government in general and the Tun's Chief Ministership in particular, knowing that Tun Razak was behind Berjaya's formation.

You would notice that the Tun had arrived in a special executive jet. The Gruman jet, together with another one owned by the Sabah government, was also the target of criticism by Berjaya, saying it was a wastage of public funds. Although the two jets were supposed to be for the use of Sabah leaders, no one else including the then Governor dared to ask permission from the Tun to use them! One of the first acts of the Berjaya government after the 1976 state election was to sell thetwo aircrafts.

You would also notice that the report stated that the Tun had been to Mecca to perform the Umrah (minor Haj) and not London. To be fair to the late Tun (may his soul rest in peace) I don't really know where he had been but Berjaya insisted that the old man was in London having a good time. (Please see yesterday's report, what Mojuntin said.)

The headline had a sub-heading "No Break Away From Malaysia". This statement from the Tun was very necessary and it was what Kuala Lumpur wanted to hear as this break away allegation was one of the reasons behind Berjaya's formation, prompted by the late Razak. Apparently, in the Penang meeting brokered by the Tunku, the mentor made sure that his protege made that statement to calm Kuala Lumpur down at least for the time being.

Also in the frontpage was a report saying that the Federal Deputy Minister of Defence, Datuk Haji Dzulkifli Abdul Hamid (now the late) would remain in Usno and not join Berjaya as speculated. Dulkifli was one of Sabah's fastest rising political stars at that time, to the extent he was seen as a potential future Chief Minister. He joined the Sabah civil service after graduating from New Zealand and was soon made Tuaran district officer. It was during this time that he was active in the Sabah National Youth Association (SANYA) whose president was the Tun himself. The old man soon promoted the young graduate to become Under Secretary to the Chief Minister. Before long, he was further promoted as Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister and later a federal deputy minister, thus causing the envy or even jealousy of others. Dzul (as he was popularly known among the youths, me included) was rumoured to be one of the founder members of Berjaya but there were also rumours that he wasn't acceptable to Harris. In any case, given the situation at that time, I think Dzul made the right choice by staying in Usno for he would soon be further promoted to a full Sabah Cabinet Minister, and a Finance portfolio at that!

Also on the frontpage was a report that the Usno youth wing led by Datuk Haji Sakaran Dandai (now Tun Sakaran, the retired Governor) pledged full support to the Tun.

Lastly, there was a report which says "State Cabinet meets." According to the report, the meeting was chaired by Finance Minister Habib (not even the DCM Tan Sri Said). Also present, the report added, was Youth & Sports Minister Sakaran. My understanding of this report is that there were only two Mnisters present at that meeting. How can this be? Fom what I know, the quorum needed for a State Cabinet meeting to convene at that time was five(there were 9 ministers then including the CM). The report went on to say that the meeting was attended by 15 State Assemblymen. Again,how can this be as the Assemblymen were not members of the Cabinet? My guess is that it was just a gathering of the Assemblymen led by the two Ministers (others were probably already in Penang to welcome the Tun) but they made it look like a Cabinet meeting just to reassure Sabahans that the Alliance government was still intact and Usno still very much in control. But this is insulting the itelligence of Sabahans!

Yoku Boiti!