Monday, October 29, 2007


This is one of those rare poems I wrote on ....well HISTORY. Reflecting the time of my life as the " Young Man as Artist " period.


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

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.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Borneo Airways it was, Borneo Kites tis' now!

What's next after the Borneo Kites Festival? A Kite Museum for Bintulu........

Lutong Airport

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

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 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.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

When " Kemena River" ?

In 1867, the Italian botanist by the name Odoardo Beccari visited Bintulu . Throughout his writings he only referred to the main river in Bintulu as the "Bintulu" river. This begs the question" When did the name " Kemena River" as we now call the main river in Bintulu gained usage? This is an interesting problem that needs further research. Since when and who did change the name from "Bintulu" river to "Kemena" river? We know the meaning of Bintulu river viz from the meaning of "Bintulu". But what about Kemena? What does it mean?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More on Bintulu "KUBU"or fort.

Way back in 1867, an Italian botanist organised a truly ''wandering' and botanical expediton to this part of the world to study its biodiversity(today's term). In the same year he stumbled upon the fort at Bintulu. Locally called " kubu", the Bintulu fort then was in deplorable conditions having made entirely of wood. However it was his best hotel for the few nights and rainy days he spent in Bintulu,then a sleepy hollow.

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.

Oldest dated Photograph- A.D. 1868

Thirty six gentlemen posing infront of the only fort built by the Brooke regime in Bintulu. Just above the fort entrance door are the words "FORT KEPPEL A.D. 1868". Apparently this is the oldest dated phograph I have of Bintulu.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bintulu's Beatles mania days of the 60's

Those Beatles days in Bintulu!
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
2) Michelle
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
10) Help
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
24) Yesterday
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

Initial notes:Let this blog be my contribution to the history of Bintulu. For have not people of Bintulu notice a mango tree that stands tall and alone at the left side of the road as you enter the town using the old airport road. Perhaps you want to find out the history of this tree before it is axed?Do you know the meaning of Kidurong?Now the site of the largest LNG complex in the world(Yes,Hear Me The Whole Wide World) Kidurong- here in Bintulu! .Well let me give you a hint.It is named after an animal.Believe it?OK ,now in true historical fashion,can you referenced it?I mean what is the literature source,such that the story is credible and substantiated.
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.