Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bintulu Witness to Historical Standoff

With one salvo West Malaysians politicians in the person of Datuk Deri Najib Tun Razak fired: " The government has decided that the celebration of nationhood is only on August 31 to show that the country is together as nation" ( Borneo Post dated 18.9.07) This canon ball fire was meant to pound the voices and thrust the throats of Sarawakians and Sabahans that Big Brother have decided. No more dissent. You heard me!

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

Bintulu Roadsides Ablaze in September Flowers

Delonix regia ( Flame of the Forest) or Semarak Api flowering along Tg. Kidurong Highway

Red Petals of Delonix regia producing psychedelic effect on pavement and grass lawn

Delonix regia

For about 20 years since Bintulu has started her greening programme, these trees are a yearly treat to the locals here. With showy flowers they occasionally brighten the normal roadside greenery.

In major town and cities in Malaysia and Singapore, these trees are quite commonly grown in parks, highways and open spaces. They produce flat, hard and sword-like pods which rattle when shaken. It is easily propagated from seeds.

This tree is native of Madagascar, India and Africa. It has bi pinnate( twice pinnate: that is , compound with leaflets arranged in feather-like form,but each leaflet is again compound with leaflets similarly arranged) leaves which are fern-like.

This tree has a flat canopy. Because its leaves are light green and small it gives a delicate appearance. When growing well the branches may drop at the tips giving a massive crown of dense foliage. The tree is deciduous.


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

Bintulu After Rod Stewart - Laments the 2nd Cut.

Bintulu's New Generation Confused - Part II

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).

Mahathir's legacy

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

Bintulu Ladies Shapely Foreheads and Feet

# Strange But True Facts

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,

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."

# First Ramadan Bazaar at Bintulu Old Airport tarmac

Starting Friday, 13/9/07 the Bintulu old airport site, became a temporary Ramadan Bazaar of approximately 50 stalls. This marked the first time that such an event is being held at the site. With more than ample parking spaces and many access points to the location, it has proven to be a very popular attraction among Muslims and non-Muslims looking for food to break their day-long fast or just plain delight in buying local goodies for the non-Muslims who throng here by the hundreds.

From smoked fish to 'Penang laksa', a rich variety of home-made food , on the spot 'kebab roti john', colourful cakes and drinks - juiced or iced ,were all available for the multi-racial customers who thronged the bazaar. The famed Bintulu 'umai' ( something akin to the Japanese 'sushi') was available at many stalls and which by the way is a 'must try 'for new visitors to this town.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bintulu GSS Art Festival

The Very Early Years and Influences

The 6th of August 1966, was penned in my diary as the day I won second place in the Bintulu Government Secondary School's Creative Art Festival competition for a " beautiful painting". This painting was under the "Crayon. Still and Plant Life" category. The picture I did was of an iris plant.

This was a major event in my art career because I won an open art competition which was sponsored by the school's journalism club. The award meant so much to me that even to this day ( 41 years later!) I still keep my first ever award certificate and you got to see it too!!

This piece of document of a blue manila card despite its simplicity meant the world for the 'budding artist' in me.

The Principal of the School, Mr. Chai Kui Ho handed the award to me with a cash prize of three dollars. A huge sum back then.

Thus my art education started early in the 1960's. However, even at the primary schooling level, of all the subjects we had to take like English, Arithmetic, Religious Doctrine, Geography, History, General Knowledge, Science, Hygiene, Art was still my best subject. I was awarded V.G. ( Very Good) in December, 1963 in my report card.

I will never forget a poster I did at that time of the "Bintulu Regatta" done to advertise the river regatta held at Bintulu as part of the first Malaysia Day celebration. It was a fitting activity for a most meaningful occasion for Bintulians at that critical juncture of their political history.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bintulu Council Negeri Monument Neglected

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.

From tomorrow onwards I will not be able to have my morning tea again in public for at least a month due to the fasting month of RAMADAN.

I will not like to dwell on the importance of maintaining public buildings and properties as indicated in the news cutting. More importantly today I took a drive to town to see the real situation.

To my surprise, a plate normally attached to the memorial stone went a missing as the picture shows.

Anyway, in the true spirit of this blog i.e. looking forward into the future of Bintulu, Pak Lah just said a few days ago (11/9/07) at a global conference in Singapore that " the focus for the next 50 years is on sectors that leverage on the two states natural resources, biodiversity and tourism assets" when referring to Sabah and Sarawak.

Tourism Angle

From this angle it is more appropriate if the authorities concerned preserve certain portions of the old airport land in its re-development master plan to include areas for a museum site to cover Bintulu's history especially its rich marine history and resources.. As a matter of thought, I am thinking that a replica of the Bintulu fort can be built at the proposed site. A history museum, a marine museum, a petro-chemical museum enclosed within a park-like setting will be a more cool place for tourists to see than the present trend of building two storey shophouses in unimaginative rows.

Monday, September 10, 2007

# Bintulu's First Horticultural Consultant

Arthur George Alphonso

Fondly called as 'George' , Mr. Arthur George Alphonso's appointment as 'horticultural consultant' to BDA was most timely.

George was a Kew -trained horticulturalist and most avid plant collector with special interest in propagating new and exotic orchids.

He was Senior Curator under Burkhill ( Humphery Morrison Burkhill was the Director of Singapore Botanic Gardens from 1957-69) and took post of chief administrator of the Gardens after Burkhill left.

George through his tenure ( 1970 - 1976) carried on the Holttum tradition of furthering the Gardens reputation as a world famous garden for the collection of orchids species, hybrids and advice on hybridization.( Ref: Bonnie Tinsley (1983)Singapore Green.Times Book International, Singapore)

George's deep understanding of horticulture and early experience in the greening of Singapore were successfully transferred to Bintulu which started its greening programme as early as 1980. George's contribution on the landscaping of Bintulu covered these varied projects which were all funded by the BDA.:

1) Bintulu and Kidurong roadside tree planting and roundabouts.

2) Bintulu Golf Course ( 1 st Nine Hole)

3) Bintulu Wildlife Park ( later re-named Taman Tumbina)

4) Tanjung Batu Coastal Reserve Park

5) Children's Playground at MLNG and BDA Housing Areas

6) Sungei Terus Park Landscaping

7) Bintulu Divisional Mosque Landscaping( later re-named Masjid Assyakirrin)

8) Speaker at various courses organised by BDA for landscaping participants throughout Sarawak Brunei and Sabah

9) Setting up of BDA Plants Nursery at Sungei Plan,Kidurong.

Despite his mature age and problems with eyes sight especially in early 1990's, he was extremely dedicated and committed as a professional and a true friend.

His services continued even after he left Singapore to migrate to Australia. Around 1993, due to a frail old age, his visits to Sarawak and Bintulu which he was always keen and looking forward to became less frequent. We continued to met in later years as friends because by then I had left the BDA to join the private sector as a landscaping contractor.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bintulu's new Generation Confused.

Part I - Love at First Sight turns first cut the deepest.
Why is it that after 44 years of achieving Independence in the state of Malaysia , that Sabahans as well as Bintuluians are confused on the date of celebrating their Independence?
Based on two newspaper cuttings ( as shown above), I did a bit of research on the confusion. Herein I reveal my analysis. I will blog today on the first part.
On 13/7/07, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim said.."studies should be carried out on the names of roads, villages, rivers and others so that the people know about their history."Based on my fact finding mission, it was revealed to me in no uncertain terms that Malaysia was indeed born on 16/9/63.
The Borneo Post column (Saturday with Paul Sir, dated 25/8/07) pointed out that..."many Sarawakians and Sabahans are insisting that it is actually the 50th year of independence for Malayans but 44th year of nationhood for them. Yes, one can easily get distracted bythe issue at hand whenever we are faced with disagreement and debate. But surely history cannot be altered. The best way is to allow the two states across the South China Sea to continue with the Merdeka Day celebrations six years behind, as they have always done so."
On a more nationalistic note , Parti Keadilan Rakyat(PKR) Vice President Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said: " In the case of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak we achieved our respective independence peacefully through hardearned negotiations by our forefathers. This does not mean that dates are unimprtant. The Barisan National leaders thus should be sincere and portray the correct history instead of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Malaysia's independence on 1957".
Dr Jeffrey when interviewed further said:"But Sabah( along with Sarawak) wanted to ensure there are sufficient safeguards to protect our autonomous rights with the new federation lest we(Sabah) be downgraded as one of the states in Malaysia instead of an equal partner in the Federal Government consisting of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak as assured by Tunku Abdul Rahman. Hence the Twenty Points, the Inter-Government Report and eventually the Malysia Agreement. Consequently Malaysia nly became a reality on Septmber 16th,1963. This is the actual birth of Malaysia. So Malaysia is 44 years old.
My comments:
1)Yes it is true as a fact of history that when we achieved independence it was from the British colonialist like our West Malaysian counterparts experienced in 1957.
2) It is also a historical fact( agreed in school textbooks and opposition political leaders in Malaysia) that 16/9/63 was the birth date of Malaysia incorporating Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore out of mutual willingness, something we can call as self-imposed independence instead of fighting our way out to achieve independence from the British colonialists.
3) Therefore based on this concrete evidence and contextual analysis, there is no valid reason whatsoever for the government of the day not to celebrate 16/9//63 as Merdeka Day.
Why has this confusion went unnoticed or kept under the carpet by the government of the day?
And what effects does it have on nation building especially in giving content and meaning to independence.?
The first question is relatively easy to answer. The confusion persisted because politicians do not read history books well enough. They are just naughty students of history who do not mind failing their history test. But for most of us Bintuluians, Sabahans ad Sarawakians, who really want to contribute to our nation, we always ask the correct question i.e. What can you contribute to your country.? Rather than what the country owes you, which sad to say is largely the perceptions of confused, doubtful , non-objective and plain mischievious politicians.
Finally, I am forever inclined to believe that if we see history as the story of man's motivation changing through time( instead of dates, dates and dates) we will notice that by 16/9/63 the motivations of Sabahans and Sarawakians at that critical juncture was to be part of a new nation called Malaysia, as equal partners( just like DrJeffrey recalled) and we should put meaning and content into nation building. This is where all Malaysians can contribute . We should never be asked again on the sacral date. It is plain fact and and act of faith that people in Sabah and Sarawak put into the formation of Malaysia. Without their faith in the sacral date, no Malaysian nation would have been formed.
Thus in the final analysis, we should celebrate Malaysia Day and not Merdeka day.
Be serious for once if we want Malaysia to stay intact and put meaning into building Malaysia as a new nation. Leave 1957 as history and let us build our new Malaysia together. ( Pak Lah would have said, " Marilah kita bina Malaysia bersama-sama..)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My blogging for September

I feel that I really need to makeup for my "poor performance" in August. Thus my planning for September is to produce 4 "First Facts", 1 "Strange but True" item and to finish the blogging on Bintulu Aviation.
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.