Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Earliest Bintulu Dairy - 1965

My Dairy Cover (1965)

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

History and Independence

Been quite sometime now since I last blog. The reason has been that my blog faced spamming. However ,that probem have been fixed by the system administrator. Thus today I would like to log on some thoughts that disturbed my mind for quite sometime. Probably writing them down would released me of them.

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

My Affinity with the Council Negeri ( in 3 Parts)

Part Three

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

First Facts of Bintulu

# First " Scrambler Bike" To Arrive By MAS Plane
An icon not to be missed by SMK students ( 1976)
Location: Picnic Spot, Tanjong Batu Bintulu.
On 25th January 1975, by special arrangement with my local supplier and agent, the 'scrambler bike"viz a Yamaha Trail 125cc arrived by MAS flight at around 9.30 am. I bought it from Mr. Kho from Tai Hua Hardware. Upon leaving the tarmac, I saw Mr. Kho proudly pushing the bike to the terminal building of the Bintulu old airport much to the surprise and admiration of the spectators . I was told my MAS officials that this was the first time they ever transported a motorcycle by their aircraft .
Costing RM 2800 , it was a unique introduction to the Bintulu 1970's motorcycling generation.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

My affinity with the Council Negeri ( in 3 Parts)

Part Two

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).

More on the" Poui " tree

A fine example of the "Poui" tree at Medan Jaya
More technical details on the "Poui" tree
Botanical Name : Tecoma pentaphylla
Origin : South America
Brief Description : Fast growing with large palmate leaves
Flowers : Large bell-shaped, either pink or white
Height when full grown : 15 m
Type of road for planting : medium size
Planting distance: 12 m

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Affinity with the Council Negeri( in 3 parts)

Part One
Being a Bintulu boy , I am somewhat elated by the fact that Bintulu was the site of the first Council Negeri meeting during the rule of the first Rajah of Sarawak, Sir James Brooke in 1867.
100 years since the first meeting, I was a young student at Tanjong Lobang School, Miri doing my Form Four education.
In 1967, the Postal Department issued a commemorative stamp in rememberance of 100 years of Council Negeri in Sarawak.
I am not an avid stamp collector but surprise! I do have a piece of the commemorative stamp in my album. So here you can see it.
The Sarawak government deemed it fit to give due respect ( my words)/ recognition ( official word) to this simple gathering that planted early the seeds of democratic principles and practise in Sarawak.
This traditon continues to the present day.

Bintulu Trees By Airmail !

Close-Up View of the showy and bunchy flowers of "Poui"

Love at first sight.

"Poui" trees along Singapore roads.

George's letter accompanying the seeds!

" Poui" trees along Jalan Temasya ( Tanjung Batu scenic road)

If one were to drive along the Tg. Batu scenic road , passing the Taman Tumbina , one would notice a line of trees that grow luxuriously on both sides of the road shoulders and also at the central median. This stretch of road was planted with tecoma penttaphylla or commonly called" Poui".

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

First Facts of Bintulu

Unique stamps in circulation in Bintulu in the 1950's
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 Road" in Bintulu or in Singapore?

In my earlier blogs, I mentioned Keppel in passing while writing on the Bintulu Fort. For the whole of last week I kept on searching for the road sign . Luck was on my side yesterday. As I negotiated the bend after the EPF office to my delight the sign was on the left of the bend. Here it is.
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

First Facts of Bintulu

# First Set of "Malaysia "Stamps in Bintulu

16 th September 1963 , Where was I ? Well, I was in Primary Six at St. Anthony 's School in the Third Term of the school academic calender . Interestingly enough, just days before 16 th September , we were singing " God Save The Queen" in our school assembly. On the eventful 16/9/63 we found ourselves in a new political entity called "Malaysia".

We were taught to sing " Negara Ku" instead.

To commemorate the formation of Malaysia, the new Federal Government issued these rare and most memorable issue of stamps for Sarawak. These were released on 16 th September 1963 in Bintulu. I still have in my safekeeping three different colour stamps and three different nominations viz 50 cents, 12 cents and 10 cents of these " Malaysia" stamps

Notice the sun rising over the maps of East Malaysia and West Malaysia. The sun spreading its warmth over all of Malaysia.

Well I am not sure how much the stamps collectors would value these stamps. But I am certain that I'll not part with them. They are a sign of the times.

Thus in about two months from now we Malaysians of Sarawak origin would be celebrating our 44th anniversary within Malaysia.

First Facts of Bintulu

Mr. P.G. Koshy posing next to the Prince Maida memorial in 1966.
The memorial had wordings in Japanese and was made of our local durable " belian " wood that made it last for many, many years .
This structure was later taken bak to Japan by the family of Prince Maida as was related to me many years ago.

# First Ever Japanese Memorial in Bintulu

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

First Facts of Bintulu

# First Indian Teacher/ Assistant Headmaster of BGSS
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

Oldest Picture of Bintulu Mosque ( circa 1920 )

Bintulu Mosque Today (July 2007)

Bintulu Mosque circa 1920

Today I would like to give myself a special treat. Yesterday I went over to my father's house to inquire a couple of things historical.

I was so pleased that he showed me a picture of the Bintulu Mosque from his collection of rare pictures of Bintulu. I will slowly release some of these pictures on the web.

However, today I would like to take the liberty to show the original Bintulu Mosque building built sometime in 1920.

The present mosque has seen too much renovation, rebuilding and modification that it has totally lost its original appeal, elegance and form.

Eagerly I produced my notebook and jotted these points while my father remembered the details. He is now 85 years old.

He recalled that at the fragile age of 4 he used to pray in the mosque. Reason being the "Imam" ( leader of the congregation) was his grandfather by the name of Hj.Abdul Samad bin Hj. Abdul Hadi. He was the first " Imam". His son, Dahlan bin Hj. Abdul Samad was the first "Khatib" or sermon reader.

The mosque was built entirely of " belian " a local hardwood species. It was the main material

for the major building elements such as the posts or columns, roof, floorboards, trusses, fencing and verandah.

Many things strike out to be very peculiar and telling in the picture.

  • 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.

When I compare today's picture, I just wonder what development has done to the spiritual environment of the mosque. Today's mosque is surrounded by squatters and make-shift structures. The main throughfare is a one-way road that goes round the kampung and passes by the mosque. This road is noisy, small and polluted from the automobile and motorcyles fumes that pass by.

There is no original charm and serenity like the good old days!

My vote for whoever will have the sense to put up a new mosque worthy of a prosperous Bintulu probably at the old airport site if it is to be re-planned or re-modelled after all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Early Beatles Days in Bintulu.

Thanks to the SMK days at Bintulu in the early 60's.

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

School Drama in Bintulu in the 1960's and 1970's

"Dewi Bunga" at SMK Bintulu (1975)

Recently I purchased the first day cover envelope and stamps marked 26.6.2007 from the Bintlu Post Office. The envelope had four different stamps costing 5o sen each with illustrations depicting four Malaysian traditional children's stories.

These gave me food for thought to jot down a couple of ponderings about school drama in Bintulu for the single reason that children's theatre should be produced more regularly in Bintulu. But are they? And in what form?

The Black Basin

My earliest experience in drama was in 1962 when I was a primary three school student at St. Anthony School, Bintulu., and which by the way is still standing proud today.

The drama was called " The Black Basin" and was an adaptation from Sun Juxian's play ( popular in China ) called " Story of the Black Basin" ( Wupen Ji). I was playing the role of a potter and selling hot millet soup on the busy streets of Kaifung. Everytime the central figure of the play appears on the streets, I would shout in my tiny and loud voice " Make way, make way for Bao Gong , the chief judge of Kaifung city". Way back then the small role that I took had tremendous impact on me because I began to admire plays or drama especially those in English and those acted by children. Of course as an added bonus my participation gave me courage to face audience and boosted my self-confidence early in life.

When I was in Form Three at SMK Bintulu (1965) I again took part in an English drama called " The Iron Man". The "iron man' is equivalent to what we create today called robots. The part of the iron man was taken by Mohidin Idris, now a pensioner in Bintulu in is late 50s.

In both plays that I acted, the concept of drama was adult drama to be played by children.

Dewi Bunga
But all these were to change. When I returned to my school as a trained teacher in 1975, I produced a play which I think was a truly children's theatre. It was called " Dewi Bunga". The drama was written in Bahasa Malaysia by Shamsiah Mohamad. In this play the children were playing the roles of children and interacting with characters from the animal and plant kingdom. I was excited to introduce to Bintulu a real children's theatre i.e. the experiences of life from the viewpoint of young eager, curious and happy minds. The child 's world of fantasy and unlimited possibilities and imagination were given a free rein. The animal and plant characters began to be alive with human values and freely interact with the children. The children could quickly and easily sympatise with the characters because these characters are close to the world of children every where in the world.

I spent a tremendous amont of my own money freely and happily to stage the drama.

Today when I look at the first day envelope, I realise how I enjoyed my primary and secondary schooling in Bintulu. I was an active team player ( in today's management terminology) in the production of English and Bahasa Malaysia drama . Whether the plays are in English or Bahasa Malaysia is of irrelevance. In producing dramas, we should write the script from the children's point of view or from the "eyes "of the children.

I looked at the brochure that accompanied the first day cover envelope and read the synopsis of the well-known Malaysian folk tales. I hought why don't the schools in Bintulu produce children's theatre based on these stories and staged them on any of the public stages so abundant in Bintulu today?

The folk tales written in the brochure are:

a) Sang Kancil and the Crocodles

b) Sang Kancil Helps Kerbau

c) Bawang Putih Bawang Merah
d) Badang ( a bit of an adult dama , I think)

e) Mat Jenin ( a bit of anadult drama,I think)

Reflecting back on the words that I shouted on the streets of Kaifung city in 1962, I realise now that like Bao Gong ( remember , the Chief Judge) people will somehow give way to the man with an agenda. A man of agenda is a visionary, an entrepreneur, and a man of vision.
Have we given enough of those to our children today?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Stand Alone MANGO TREE

I promise myself to write about this mango tree. I told myself that I have just got to take a picture of this luxurious looking tree before it is axed ( sooner than later, perhaps).

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

1860's ICONS of Bintulu

On what was Bintulu popularly referred to in early nineeenth century.

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

Bintulu Malays socio-economy circa 1860's

While reading further the "Wanderings in the great forests of Borneo" by Odoardo Beccari, my intellectual curiosity was aroused by the very detail accounts of Bintulu's socio-economic conditions around the time of Odoardo's visit as described in his writings.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.