Monday, October 29, 2007
Ah, my dear History
you give me solace
you inform me
despite differences in time and the ages
Man has not changed much
in his instincts and desires
and his fundamental being
is still of human creature
only his motivations has been worth noting
he searches, desires and realises
his dreams , whims and fancies
he endeavours in all
his very best or very worst
he achieves and he reflects
and so you , my dear
has been his achievement
the road he has trod
and continues to march on
in the field of time.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
From the eastern border, the subdued sound of machine gun fire round after round, decries: NO! NO! 44 not 50 . Look at the one cold fact. Nationhood on 16.9.63 . Don't you listen. This is a historical standoff. Bintuluians are witness to this today. It is a voice went unheeded and a decision done without referendum. Yes, a referendum should be carried out with the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak to ascertain whether they want to celebrate Malaysia Day and make it a national holiday or celebrate Merdeka Day based on Malayan independence.
By way of a referendum, the faces and honour of Sabah and Sarawak politicians will be saved , because they need not make any untoward remarks that could jeopardize their political fortunes since Big Brother is watching. A referendum will let the'rakyat' ( Yeah, for once let the voice of the people be heard) make the decision.
Isn't it not fair then to have a referendum?
Where are the NGO's? Speak up if will you.
Where are the Senators? Bring up this issue if you care.
And why is Pak Lah's magic formula: ' Marilah kita bina Malaysia bersama-sama' not flagged out?
After the firing there is dead silence, for now the battlefield takes a rest. In the true spirirt of "Malaysia Boleh "both can raise up their necks like threatening cobras to the next heightened moment. But Alas! It is all a standoff. Like the chicken and egg question, having no end to it. Should it? Or 'Bloody Hell !' Why don't just have a referendum. Solve the dilemma.
This is the message of this blog.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Chin Hoong Fong and Ivan C. Enoch ( 1988 ) Malaysian Trees in Colours. Tropical Press,KL.
Ivan Polunin ( 1987 ) Plants and Flowers of Singapore. Time Edition, Singapore.
Gordon Cheers( Publisher) (1999) Botanica .Random House, Australia.
Monday, September 17, 2007
In my previous write up, I highlighted on the first cut being felt by the peoples of Bintulu ( or for that matter further east towards Sabah) as a result of their commitment to the date in forming Malaysia that was not celebrated by Peninsular Malaysian politicians.
The next cut is in the form of the Petroleum Development Act 1974 , which vested in Petronas the ownership and control over the development of all petroleum resources in the country. This in effect cut the will of the Bintulu people and the Sabahans as well to enjoy what is rightfully theirs and to reclaim that right. This law drive the second cut in our national integrity ( i.e. the unity with the Sabah and Sarawak government).
At this juncture I think it is pertinent to highlight the singular triumphs of Dr. Mahathir in his mega scheme of prosperity 'at all costs' that have worked in reverse for the people of Sarawak and Sabah. In her recent history book about Malaysia, Virginia Matheson Hooker says:
" In the early 1970's, both states surrendered their rights to finds of oil and gas to the federal government( through Petronas ) in return for 5% of the revenues derived from those resources since then, the revenues derived by the federal government from oil and gas have outstripped the flow of funding from the centre to Sarawak." (pg.272)
The states of Sarawak and Sabah have always wanted to have a bigger share in their royalties and profits derived from the oil and gas exploitation. But sad to mention, how could this be when the Petroleum Act was merely imposed upon them. This trend will not stop and according to the author, " The patronage politics of the major political parties, especially UMNO, have become so entrenched that loss of revenue to the central government might cause its collapse."(pg.274). For better or for worst, the book further elaborates: " Petronas falls under the jurisdiction of the office of the Prime Minister and thus it was Petronas funds which he drew on to rescue the Malaysian International Sipping Corporation( a deal which involved a major purchase of tankers from a firm controlled by one of his sons), the Heavy Industries Corporation of Malaysia and the national automobile company, Proton. Petronas funds were also invested in Dr. Mahathir's prestige projects of the Petronas Twin Towers and Putrajaya, the new 'smart city' and the centre of government. Political life as the UMNO knows it would not be possible without income from Petronas."(pg.274)
Union with Integrity
We know about the politics of federation in no better words than from the popular African writer, Chinchua Achebe and I quote:
" Turning and turning in a widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer,
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,
Mere anarchy is loosened upon the world"
Is Malaysia a " falling state" or a "Failed state" as some quarters like to refer it to? Or is it a state in the process of forging its integrity? Which I like to see it be. If it is the latter, then it is obvious that the best way would be to allow the individual states to contribute to national integrity by contributing its resources and will intact. Isn't it not this what is meant when politicians proudly advance the concept of ' human capital development'? Any attempt to be dictatorial, would indeed indicate a 'failing union' ( the center cannot hold) . However in the concept of national history as advocated in this blog....we need to move forward. We need to pull down draconian laws before the spectre of the " curse of oil" oozes out of the Malaysian nation...We desire Malaysia to be a union ( the structure) with integrity(required value). For this to happen it is of utmost importance that our national politicians must keep their arrogance at bay and instead look at history from the eyes of the disadvantaged 'minorities' of Sabah and Sarawak. The first cut is already the deepest!
Virginia Matheson Hooker(2003) A Short History of Malaysia, Allen and Unwin, Australia.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
In the late 1860's while on a natural history mission to Borneo, the great Italian botanist by the name of Odoardo Beccari described the following practice of the Bintulu Melanaus ; " A most singular custom of these people is that of flattening the heads of their girl babies, giving their forehead a sharp slope backward; this malfunction is produced by applying a small board to the forehead shortly after birth, keeping it there for many months" ( Odoardo Beccari (1986)Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo,Oxford University Press, Singapore.pg.258)
This practice among the Bintulu Melanaus has stopped in the wake of modernisation, just as I have noticed in the early 1960's there were a few Chinese women walking around in their shophouses in Bintulu with bound feet. The effects of this practice of mutilation is well explained by John Fairbanks account as quoted in " Imperial China", a book edited by Franz Schurmann and Orville Schell (1968) pg.37.: "This crippling pratice by which a young girl's feet were tightly wrapped to prevent normal development seems to have begun about 10th century A.D. The'lily feet' which is produced through sufferings of hundreds of millions of young girls acquired great aesthethic and erotic value. In practice bound feet kept womankind from venturing abroad."
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Yesterday I picked up and interesting news item in the Borneo Post while having my morning tea at the corner coffee shop in front of the Bintulu express wharf.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 7, 2007
And what effects does it have on nation building especially in giving content and meaning to independence.?
Thursday, September 6, 2007
In the meantime or rather simultaneously, I will continue blogging in the other blog sites viz, BEING MY, my LANDSCAPING STORY and A MALAYSIAN SIDEWALK.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Bintulu Airstrip circa 1955
A Brief History of Bintulu Aviation (Part 1 )
The "flying machines" that first appeared in the Borneon skies in the 1900's were really UFO's to the rural folks of Sarawak. Back then these "flying machines" did not arrive on land. Instead they floated at the mouth of the Bintulu River. They early aircrafts were called sea-planes. In the 1920's there were a regular sight in Bintulu. These sea-planes were used by the Sarawak Shell to do aerial photographic survey. Later the Brooke's government used them to undertake aerial surveys and reconnaisance flights to facilitate land development and for sending mail. In 1934, C.W. Bailey, who was the Works and Building Inspector with the Royal Air Force began supervising the construction of the Bintulu airstrip, but it was not completed because of the Japanese occupation of Sarawak. Sadly it was reported that in 1958, Bailey was killed in Singapore due to an air crash. The Japanese made full use of the airstrip for military purposes throughout their occupation days. It was only when they left Sarawak that the British began reconstructing the totally ruined airport due much to Allied bombings .
After the war was over, the Sarawak government re-continued with the construction of the airport which saw on 26 August,1955 the first landing of a civil aircraft named "Rapide" , a twin rotor aircraft with wings made of canvas.
A Twin Pioneer 16-seater plane later replaced the "Rapide". This type of plane was extensively used by the Borneo Airways Limited when they operated regular flights to Kuching, Miri, Sibu and Bintulu. Only after 1963, when the runaway was widened that an all weather airport was achieved bringing in bigger capacity planes like the Fokker Friendship. These planes were used by Malaysia Singapore Airlines because of rising demand in air travel throughout Sarawak and North Borneo ( later called "Sabah").
Forty years ago, i.e. on 9-1-67, I flew for the first time in my life from Bintulu to Miri in order to continue my secondary school education. That flight was most memorable coz I got to keep my first ever plane ticket from MSA. And for the record, with me on the same plane was En. Mohidin Ishak ( now Haji ) and holding post of General Manager BDA presently.
We landed on 9-1-67 at Lutong airport by courtesy of Sarawak Shell , of course.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The good habit I picked up at Bintulu Secondary School in 1965 was writing down the important things that happened to me in my little dairy book, faded and antique looking .
In today's sophisticated term we call it 'journal log' but in our childhood days it was just a little book that we held dearly for safekeeping and to be adressed only to ourselves.
Modern technology have changed all that. We are now able to upload our dairy or journal to the outside world. This is interesting because the focus is on 'others' or the outside world. But the motivation is even greater. It is the need to contribute your share of experiences to the bigger society, urgent and internationally.
It could be your friends' network, then merging into regional network and in a click, the whole wide world (www!)
Isn't all these the greatest motivational change impinging on our lives today ?
A Page of My Earliest Dairy of Bintulu - 1965
What you contribute early is knowledge even though you are unconcious of it at the moment of writing. Though you may be a primary school student, a beginner in life, by writing you contribute to the individual histories on the themes or topics that fascinate you, be it social, educational, literary, cultural, political, economical, intellectual, etc,. These individual histories when compiled become family histories, then local histories, and so on and so forth until it grows into national, regional and global histories.
If our lives are not meant for others,we may end up living unspent lives.
Our lives will not matter to the world. Is that what we want of life?
Saturday, July 28, 2007
This month and coming months ahead Malaysians will be stormed by slogans like independence or " Merdeka" etc. What do this mean to today's generation? I wonder.
And what has history got to do with "Independence"?
We must not think history as past because history is continuity. What is recorded as history is mainstream trend. Be it political, social, economic and other spheres of life. When expanded history is a nation's conciousness. It is through national conciousness that we exert our identity into the future. History is not past per se but how we enter fully into the future mainstream of world or you may call it in today's ubiquitious term global history. History should be how we want to project our society into the future or millenium's civilisation as if our nation matters. Our people and identity being significant.
It is like having to step back in order to jump forward. In this regards, history is dynamic, transformational for individuals's as well as the society.
Through living history, our young generation will want to find ways how their lives matters. This is critical because history is the story of man's motivation changing through time.
If during the colonial era, we were considered a burden, primitive and to be expolited and just everything downgrading because we were perceived to be insignificant. Today's generation would want change in ways of looking at themselves. Will they march in progress together with the rest of the world or the general mankind?
To be great people or just a marginal race? Are we contributing to the common fortunes of mankind? The sort of great stories that we tell our children before they sleep at night?
Reflecting on this in the Malaysian context, I cannot help but feel the helpless situation we are in today.
For example have we filled and really define the meaning of independence when the rift between Sarawak, Sabah and Semenanjung seems never to be narrowed? National integrity is still ages away. Language and history has not galvanised the Malaysian race to the optimum. Bahasa Malaysia is spoken in schools, but when individuals meet they hardly speak in the true Malaysian language ( ie Malay or Bahasa Malaysia) ....most speak pigeon Malay even after years of primary and university education.
While the world continues to progress towards commonality, we in Malaysia are besieged by parochial interests , separate dialects, different medium of primary and secondary education, separate state allegience enforced by extreme regional inequalities and the South China Sea.
The historian in us, must therefore have the courage to carve out fundamental changes.
This is what historians refer to when they say, if there is any law to life, it is that things change.
We must not fear change.
Rather we must percieve change as opportunity, as progress.
Finally I do not want my Malaysia to relapse into the nostalgic backwaters of colonial history.
If we do not fill the content of our indpendence it is just as if we are not stepping back , ready to jump into the future.
The historian in us must be able to inculcate optimism in our lives, and not being totally nostalgic about it.
Monday, July 23, 2007
The Auspicious 8th of July 1978
A great day it was . That was the 8th of July 1978, the Dewan debated on the Bill intituled the The Bintulu Development Authority Ordinance. I was doing the translation and by the time the Bill was passed, BDA ( Bintulu Development Authority ) was born and I was witness to its birth, albeit from my interpreter's booth.
I knew then that this Ordinance would give Bintulu a new lease of life. Indeed as history would proove, similar ordinances were copied to spearhead the development of other regions in Malaysia like Langkawi with its Langkawi Development Authority and Labuan with its Labuan Development Authority. Thus my respect to the old man Tun Rahman for pushing the Bill through in the Sarawak Dewan Undangan Negeri session of 1978. And of course to the rest of the honourable Dewan members who said " Yes" and since there were so many of them saying "Ayeas", the "Ayeas have it !". The Bill is passed, so says Tuan Speaker Datuk Abang Abu Bakar. Hooray to the supporters of Tun for having won the day! And for Bintulu - a second chance.
That momentous day was auspicious to me in another way. It embedded in me the realisation that someday sooner I will join this new organisation because it was specifically setup to develop my hometown into a bigger city than a sleepy hollow it was in 1978. It could very well be the chance of a lifetime to partake in this great development effort. A tranformational leadership role.
My persistence and eagerness came to reality in 1980. By then I had completed my 5 years teaching contract with the Education Department. This provided an opportunity to change my career.
Thus on 15/11/1980, I joined the BDA as a Senior Administrative Officer tasked with the development of low cost houses in this new about to be booming town.
The next 12 years were the most energetic and enthusiastic period of my life. This chapter of my life will be talked about in my later blogs when I'll be writing about the development of Bintulu.
Suffice it to say , as a way of conclusion that my affinity with the Council Negeri ( Dewan Undangan Negeri) prooved to be a mainstay in my career development.
P.S. Example of my supplementary income. Much awaited . Hard earned!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Costing RM 2800 , it was a unique introduction to the Bintulu 1970's motorcycling generation.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
As if fate would have it, in 1978 I was posted to Kuching as an education officer in charge of the Educational Mass Media Service's arm of Radio and Television Production. It was due to my regular meetings at RTM ( Radio Television Malaysia) mainly on Mondays , that I met a gentleman who initiated me to become an interpreter at the Dewan Negeri ( previously "Council Negeri") . He was Mr. Annuar Ahmad , a one time popular sports commentator on radio RTM Kuching especially well-known for his coverage of football matches in Kuching for the benefit of fans throughout the length and breadth of Sarawak.
The 'job' of an interpreter was on temporary basis depending on when the Dewan held its sessions or meetings. What the legal fraternity calls " as and when basis".
While seated in the interpreter's booth with headphones and mike already setup, I would perform simulatneous oral translation of the proceedings whenever a Dewan member rose to speak. In most instances , I would share the interpretation hours with Mr. Annuar .
If any of the Dewan members, (the Dewan protocol required each one to call another member as " the honourable member" ) spoke in English I would translate his or her utterances in Bahasa Malaysia for the convenience of those non-English speaking members. Alternatively, if they spoke in Bahasa Malaysia, I would tranlate his or her words and sentences to English on the spot, online or virtual as we may prefer to call in today.It was a really challenging job as you could imagine we had to change our mode of thinking and linguistic codes according to the whims and fancies of the speakers. For the job I was paid a translator's allowance. A very important supplement back then as living in Kuching for a young family man was not cheap compared with Bintluu.
But the 'mega bonus" of doing this job was the chance to mix around with the YB's and Ministers, political secretaries, permanent secretaries and heads of department when they gather for morning, lunch and afternoon breaks at the Dewan canteen. Here you can talk to anyone you bump into including the VVIP's. Everyone seemed willing to talk casually and leisurely in a relaxed ambience. Unlike when they have to sit long hours inside the august house.
Longest Dewan Session in History
That day was eventful. I arrived home around 4.30 am. The reason being on that day the Dewan had no budget to hold its meeting for another day. By hook or by crook, the Dewan must adjourn that same day. Thus I became witness to the longest Dewan sesson in Malaysian history , I think. ( Though I have not really checked this fact with other dewan sessions in other states in Malaysia). Anyway, what was amazing that day was the fact that I had to do the translation alone ( i.e. from 9.00 am to 4.00 am the following day) . On that fateful day my friend Annuar didn't turn up at the translator's booth. That I think put me a place in the Malaysia Book of World Records as the longest time an interpreter had to do interpretation in a single seating.!!
I have yet to recall the exact date of this meeting. But If I were to go through the Dewan's Archives of hansards I would be able to give you the exact date. If only the hansards are still there.
However, for the sake of posterity, the Speaker of the Dewan then was Tuan Speaker Datuk Abang Abu Bakar and the Chief Minister was Datuk Haji Abdul Rahman Ya'akub ( now Tun).
Friday, July 20, 2007
George's letter accompanying the seeds!
" Poui" trees along Jalan Temasya ( Tanjung Batu scenic road)
Believe it or not, the seeds of these trees came in an envelope on 19th July 1985.
The sender was Mr.George Alphonso. The moment I received the seeds I asked Ibrahim to straightaway germinate them in a soil mix of very coarse sand and to be kept damp.
By about 2 weeks, we had thousands of these seedlings in our nursery. Later they were transplanted in polybags of various sizes and some ended in planting holes along the Jalan Temasya after they were about one meter high.
Fom these trees we were able to obtain more seeds. The story goes that from Bintulu these trees began to find home in Miri, Sibu and other smaller towns in Sarawak. What made me choose these trees? It was a trip to Singapore that left a strong impression of the beauty of these trees. After all these trees do well in coastal areas and flowers best where there is a distinct dry spell. It prefers too ,the salty sprays of coastal regions like Bintulu and Miri.
All these to show that we cannot underestimate the power of an envelope!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
On 25th October 1948, the Brooke's government issued the first of stamps showng the portraits of Queen Elizabeth and King George VI of England. These stamps were to commemorate their silver wedding anniversary. The depiction of rulers other than the Brookes on Sarawak stamps broke earlier tradition. Thus the uniqeness of these famous one cent and one dollar stamps.
Keppel was the " pirates buster" for the first Rajah of Sarawak i.e. Rajah James Brooke. He commanded the " Dido" , a superb seacraft in those adventurous days of Sarawak.
Quote: "He was so enamoured that he could not leave her without rowing twice around her in his boat to have a look at her. Keppel was the doyen of all sea captains who appeared in the waters of Borneo and the Straits during the course of the century" ( D.J.M.Tate, Rajah's Brooke's Borneo ).
Keppel never anchored in the waters of Bintulu. Nevertheless, the Brooke's respect for him earned him a place in Bintulu. Very permanently , in the road sign above.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
During the brief Japanese occupation of Bintulu ( 1941-1945) the brother of the Emperor of Japan, by the name of Prince Maida flew in to Bintulu.
Unfortunately, the plane that brought him crashed off the coast of Tanjong Batu. Thus the Japanese regime erected a memorial in memory of Prince Maida who was killed in the plane crash.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Mr P.G. Koshy
The above picture was taken in 1966 showing Mr. P.G. Koshy in an all white attire together with students of Form Three B . The BGSS ( Bintulu Government Secondary School) was the only secondary school in Bintulu in the1960's. Affectionately we used to call each other the " Bee Gees". Mr Koshy was my form teacher in 1965 and 1966. He taught me mathematics and gave me tons of encouragement even though I struggled to obtain a satisfactory pass. He would write in the report card like " You can do better in Mathematics".
I took his words seriously and did pass my mathematics paper to enable me to pursue my upper secondary schooling at Tanjong Lobang School in Miri in 1967
He was an extremely disciplined teacher, wrote very neatly on the blackboard made you feel not like erasing it with the duster. His big round eyes were enough to scare the little boy of me. Take a second look at the picture. The tiniest boy is me. They used to call me " Kecil".
Saturday, July 14, 2007
- a) The forest around the mosque was heavily vegetated with the commercially viable sago palm.
- b) Only two houses are seen close to the mosque. On the right is the residence of the muezzin or "Marbot" as thel ocal Melanau referred him.
- c) The two towers or minarets are for two muezzins to call the people around the mosque to pray at the 5 appropriate times of the day.
- d) The one farther in the background has a "beduk" or drum that is sounded before the call of the prayer. ( No microphones or loudspeakers then)
- e) On three sides of the building runs the verandah or " serambi" in the local dialect . This space acts as rest area and double as a function area for small gathering especially when food is served.
- f) The whole building is raised above the ground approximately one meter high.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
We were then exposed to the outside world. Singing and memorising the Beatles songs were real entertaining and an excellent way to know English language cliches, intonation, nuances etc.
Our international exposure came quite late in life compared to today's generation who are exposed extremely early in the global entertainment business through astro, dvd, vcd, ipod, and the internet. With little choice, we really valued the singles that hit the charts in UK or US. We were always anticipating for the next hit song to memorise and play on the guitars. And kept track we did through the local newspapers, radio and rarely the records.
The list of singles that topped the charts in UK or US and managed to reach our shores were:
- 1) Love Me Do (1963)
- 2) P.S. I Love Yo ( 1963)
- 3) From Me to You (1963)
- 4) She Loves You (1963)
- 5) I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963)
- 6) Can't BuyMe Love ( 1964)
- 7) A Hard Day's Night ( 1964)
- 8) I Feel Fine ( 1964)
- 9) Eight Days A Week ( 1964)
- 10) Ticket to Ride( 1965)
- 11) Help (1965)
- 12) Yesterday (1965)
- 13) Day Tripper ( 1965)
- 14) We can work it Out ( 1965)
Note: Then in 1966 I went to Tanjong Lobang College to pursue my secondary and form six ducation. But we were ardent fans and when we were back for the school holidays we continued strumming our guitars, putting on Beatles hairstyle and shouting "Yeah, Yeah,Yeah".
- Paperback Writer( 1966)
- Yellow Submarine ( 1966)
- Eleanor Rigby ( 1966)
- Penny Lane (1966)
- All Yo Need is Love ( 1967)
- Hello, Goodbye ( 1967)
- Lady Madonna ( 1968)
- Hey Jude (1968)
- Get Back (1969)
- The Ballad of John and Yoko ( 1969)
- Something ( 1969)
- Let it Be ( 1970)
- The Long and Winding Road(1970)
P.S. In 1970 the Beatles as a group broke up. But those early years will always be remembered by me as one of the most happy musical moments in my life.
P.S. I Love You .........You, You , You.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
"Dewi Bunga" at SMK Bintulu (1975)
Saturday, July 7, 2007
So here it is.
The Historical Mango Tree ( magnifera indica)
Because this tree is the enigma of development in Bintulu which started to destroy the original area of " kampung perintah" or the government village. This government quarters area and other institutional buildings stretched from the exixting traffic light as you enter the Bintulu town proper to the existing building where the EPF office is sited today.
Here the government of the day conveniently accomodated the court house with almost all the other government departments annexed e.g. land and Survey department, Agriculture , General Administration etc. And toward the direction of the mango tree were spread out the govrnment officers quarters either in barrack form like the police barrack or in individual units, and the prison which was just opposite the only public football field then.
The mango tree marked the end boundary of the government quarters area to the north. All these are now gone, except for this mango tree.
Who planted this mango tree?
Well in all propability it was planted by the government oficer who stayed in the quarters next to where I was staying between the years 1960-1963.
To the best of my knowledge, it was planted by the late Joseph Samuel ( later YB) when he occupied the government quarters there in and around 1960.
Thus this mango tree must have been 45 years old now.
All physical structures in this area have disappeared except this popular tropical and subtropical plant specimen.
Of course, India is the major producer of mango trees in the world today. Acording to one report, there are to be found 1000 mango clones in one single nusery in India. It is of no mystery then that the scientific name of mango is inspired by the name India as in " indica".
It is left to be seen, whether the present government will give it a decisive swing of the axe...to make way for development.
It is enigmatic... now you see, now you don't.
This historical tree will soon be gone.
Passersby who notice this should enjoy it while it lasts. Go take a photo next to it for posterity's sake.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
First Council Negeri Meeting - held in 1867
" Kubu" - or fort, later renamed Fort Keppel
"Barongs" - wide-beamed boats used by Melanau fishermen
"Lemantak" - or "sai" in local Melanau dialect is the local terminology for sago....." is of the finest quality, and is in great request even in Srawak..." ( Beccari)
Bay of Kidurong - a natural deepwater area at the northern point of Bintulu. Here the Illanun pirates ( most feared by the Europeans ) were defeated by the local Melanaus. When? 1869.
Lest we forget.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Thus these notes I pen, to consolidate my understanding of the socio-economic history of Bintulu circa 1860's .
The political backdrop at this crucial times were as follows:
- The political sphere of control and influence of the Brunei Sultanate that owned the territory of Bintulu, was waning and nothing the local provincial chiefs in Bintulu or the Brunei Sultanate rulers could do. By this time it was a losing battle to reinstate its powers over much of its territories in Sarawak.
- This situation was worsened by the adventurous exploits of pirates and Iban excursions into the northern areas of Sarawak and the advent of Brooke's rule.
To start with I shall begin with the Malays in today's blog.
The Malays - socio-economy.
The provincial chiefs in the days of Brunei control , formed the aristocracy in Bintulu. A significant remnant of this in Bintulu today is in the name ofprimary school Sekolah Orang Kaya Mohammad . " Orang Kaya " is the title given to provincial chiefs bythe Sultan of Brunei. Mainly of Malay origin, these reps of the Brunei king were responsible for what we understand today as local empowerment, viz their authocratic perhaps to some amore of a despotic rule over the local population of Melanaus, a small pocket of Chinese traders, the rural or interior races like the Punans and Kayans. Please note that at this time the Ibans were hardly known in this part of the region as they had not reached Bintulu in their annual excursions to the northern sections of Sarawak.
They stayed in the kampungs, which is the nucleus of the community. The Melanaus who lived on both sides of the river then did imitate a lot of Malay culture like the Malay dress and later their religious beliefs.
In terms of economy, the Malay chiefs were tax collectors. And by virtue of this role were a political and economic link between the Sultan and the local people. The local people expected i n return to enjoy some amount of general leadership in the provision of law and order.
As local law enforcemet officers, there was strictly no written law as we now today see in the Malaysian constitution to be used or depended upon by the chiefs. However judgement could be administered based on the Arabic legal laws especially those preached by the Quran.
In all probabilty they provided some resemblance of social stability in Bintulu, though their application of justice somewhat arbitrary.
Using the river as their main method of transport, they would in days gone by , paddle upstream to colletc whatever taxes deemed for the Sultanate. This explains why the Malays are a mainly riverine population and having pockets of presence in small towns together with the Melanaus.
Thus gew a linear pattern of town development ie along the waterways seen even in today's Bintulu. While the Melanaus are well known fishermen , the Malays were mainly adminstrators or petty traders.
There is a pecliar incident in Odoardo's visit depicting a special character of the chiefs back then. In the words of Odoardo:
" The Pangerng Rio, a native of Bruni, had managed to become the factotum of Bintulu, and was employed bythe Resident in his communications with the inland chiefs. I learnt from the Tubao Kayans that Pangerang Rio had ordered there 2,000 small parcels of siri for the Government, but I am inclined to think that they were a personal compensation fo the trip"
However somewhere in his writings, Odoardo did mention that in general the " Malay is a perfect philosopher and most happy men I have ever know" .Probably this character have not changed much till today.
As a generaal conclusion to the socio-economy of the Malays then, I would like to relate that because of the frequent usurption of productivity by the chiefs, the local population seemed to have no incentive to work harder to grow their wealth because in those difficult times any economic surplus would be take away by the chiefs.
See how unmeaningful life was then to the "little people". Such incidences like elswhere made people like Karl Marx to describe the aritocracy ( the feudal lord/ the sultan ) as the oppressor and the proletariat or the subjected people as the oppressed majority. Such incidences like these as noted by Karl Marx were also seen albeit with local modification in Bintulu circa 1860's.
Throughout this period, the Malays being a towns people were exposed to business and trading activities within the town enivirons as well as outside trade. Pettytrading were carried out and were not as unbusineelike as what we Malaysians are taught today by the many failures of Malay entrepreneurs even those owning or managing public listed companies or GLCs.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
To retract a bit, a few years earlier, the Sultan of Brunei had sold Bintulu area and its northern most point of Tanjong Kidurong for 6000 dollars to James Brooke. Presumably having failed to suppress piracy along the coastal regions of Sarawak and the persistence demand of James Brooke government for the establishment of security and rule of law to the local inhabitants so that trade with the British will not be hampered. And of course with their power entrenched here would permanently discourage the Dutch to extend their sphee of influence to the nortern strip of Borneo.
So the story goes, about this time the Illanun pirates of Mindanao in Southern Phillipines who frequented these areas were most feared by the " orang putih" or whiteman. New, bigger and faster boats or ships need to be purchased by the Brookes administration to play catchup and make the pirates run for dear life. As an example in 1862, a bunch of these Illanun pirates attacked present day Mukah. But The Raja Muda( Charles Brooke) managed to ward them off after a fight and of course by means of a new steamer called the "Rainbow". Good investment back then. However undeterred by this ruinous attempt, they reorganised themselves and gathered strength for an all-out attack on the Bintulu Melanaus.
This decison by the Illanuns proved fatal and a turning point for their murderous fortunes. Not waiting for the arrival of British warship and support the local Bintulu Melanaus took matters to their own hands. They came out in an equally stronger force and managed to fight off the pirates at the bay of Kidurong ( somewhere around the waters of present day Bintulu port area). After a resounding defeat in the hands of the Bintulu Melanaus, the Illanun pirates called it a day. Never again would they ply the coastal routes of Sarawak. Now you can say "Yes" to the Bintulu Melanaus!
Thus as it was conventional thing to do in those days, the British set up fort at Bintulu. Made entirely of wood, it stood there for a while and reflected a strong presence of British rule in northern Sarawak with Bintulu as the focal point of safety and governance.
By a little stretch of magination, you can feel the symbolism when the Sarawak flag was flown over the fort. Imagine for a while when Charles Brooke , the Raja Muda (and later to take over the reins from James Brooke), sending a prisoner of war to the Kayan chief named Oyong Hang slightly earlier in the year. The messenger( prisoner) brought home an ultimatum to his paramount chief viz A cannon ball and the Sarawak flag. The chief was required to choose either one. The ammunition of war to signify aggression or the flag for peace. Guess what? To the good luck of Raja Muda , the Kayans appeared at the doors of Skrang fort holding the flag. Hooray for now!.
Of course in later years, circa 1868, the fort was reconstructed and renamed Fort Keppel in memory of one of the most daring pirate busters of the Britsh empire and who happened to play a major part in suppressing piracy to the aid of James brooke in Sarawak as early as 1843. A check on the Britannica online, shows that Henry Keppel was later knighted as Sir Henry Keppel for his may successful exploits against pirates of the South China Seas, and in particular Sarawak.
Thus, my earlier post, mentioning the photograph of the fort taken in 1868.
What transpired in the walls of the fort in 1867?
History have recorded that the first ever democratic gathering was held in there. The first in the region, now called Malaysia.
Here we witnessed the first meeting of the "orang putih "residents and local communal chifefs.
The agenda looked pretty much like this:
a) To ask reparation from the Sultan of Brunei, who had earlier allowed the Sarawak flag to be insulted, by sending his tax collectors on Sarawak territory. The council to decide on the indemnity required from the Sultan of Brunei.
b) Any other communal matters.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Got to have a copy of "OK Hit Songs " book. And the only place to purhase them was at "Nyiap Mui Bookstore". In the old days it was located at No.11, Law Gek Soon Road. A must stop if you are to purchase a copy of the "Dolphin Magazine", " Sarawak Tribune " and Borneo Literature Bureau school textbooks. If you have a copy of those song books with Nyiap Mui Bookstore stamp( " Chop" as what local Chinese businessmen call it) then you are hitting a goldmine. With both this combination you can now proof that you are really a seniour citizen of Bintulu!. Thanksfor the good life.
Down Memory lane. In the 1960's, ( that's about 100years after we were freed from the control of Brunei Sultans) we used to play on guitars and sing -a -long sessions the following Beatles numbers:
1) Paperback Writer
3) Drive My Car
4) Nowhere Man
5) In My Life ( my favourite in later years}
6) Can't Buy Me Love
7) Day Tripper
8) Eight Days a Week
9) From Me to You
11) I Feel Fine
12) I'll Follow the Sun
13) I'm Happy Just to Dance with You
14) I Should have known better
15) I Want to Hold Your Hand
16) Long Tall Sally
17) Norwegian Wood
18) Please Mr. Postman
19) P.S. I Love You
20) She Loves You
21) She's a Woman
22) Ticket to Ride
23) We can Work it Out
25) Penny Lane
26) Sgt. Peper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
27) Strawberry Fields Forever
28) When I'm Sixty Four
29) Lady Madonna
Sunday, June 24, 2007
This is just a teaser.You can get the feel already.Picking up historical subjects can be really down to earth.Anybody is welcome to contribute as well.However be clear at the onset that this is a Bintulu history blog.Other towns are not welcome here.