Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ping My Trip Award

Wow! I'm up in the clouds and am seeing stars! Thanks Jay and Harry for this wonderful award.

Ping My Trip is a website dedicated to building the world's largest catalogue of inspiring travel blog posts. For an interview they did on me please follow this link here

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Have a Hibiscus?

The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in Sarawak has a vernacular name pronounced as 'Bunga Raya' in Malay ( see inset) . Why is this plant so prominent in Malaysia? A short walk back in time will bring us to 1960 , just three years after the release of Malaya from the colonial regime of the British.
The newly elected Prime Minister ( Tunku Abdul Rahman) declared on 28 July 1960 the Bunga Raya as the national flower. Of course, as history would have it the states of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya formed the new federation of Malaysia on the 16th of September, 1963 and thereby continued to accept the Bunga Raya as the national flower of Malaysia.

The Bunga Raya in my 'Laman Kambatik' garden in Kuching this morning.
The species that was accepted as the national flower is the scarlet or red variety that is commonly seen in rural villages throughout Malaysia. That factor has been one of the many deciding ones that made it the preferred choice. Besides, according the the selection panel, red suggests bravery. Not bad colour for a young nation. Further, it is a very hardy plant that requires minimum attention or care. Unless of course you decide to plant the many new hibiscus hybrids that may look more appealing in modern and varying colours and sizes but alas are easy prey to insects and other pests. When in secondary schooling (1967-1968) I always remember how my biology teacher so often bring it to class. It was such a typical local plant and being easy to obtain ended up as the main target for the dissection table. But before cutting them to pieces our curiosity was drawn to its external reproductive parts. The Bunga Raya showed it all - calyx, sepal, petal, style, stigma, stamen,anther and pollen in plain sight.

Today I decided to do a water colour rendition of the Bunga Raya as shown above. The painting was done in less than an hour. To all Malaysians- let's celebrate today's Jubilee Year of the Bunga Raya by planting a Bunga Raya in our garden. Have a hibiscus ? I do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soldier I become

A few days ago I experienced a most memorable moment of my life when I stumbled upon Paci. Paci is an Iban lad who was in my employment in the late 1990's in Bintulu. As a young worker I noticed in him outstanding values of hard work, dedication, obedience, resiliency and trustworthiness. I always remember him as my front man when it comes to challenging work or even dry routine work. He never raised a complaint when assigned difficult or even menial work. Like many of my workers he was trained to be multi-skilled because the nature of my business in Bintulu then covered all aspects of minor civil construction, building maintenance and landscaping works.
He did respectfully asked my permission a long time ago to leave my company as he wanted to join the army. Today, after at least a period of 12 years it was a most pleasant surprise for me to meet him at the local banking street in Kota Sentosa proclaiming that he is now an army personnel stationed at Penrissen Army camp. So I took the opportunity to take a photograph with him. But more importantly my eyes were attracted to the tattoo he sported on his arms. So here's the picture ( see inset) .
Kota Sentosa is a unique place in Sarawak because the town grew in a linear development pattern. It is situated at the 7th mile from Kuching city and from history it grew from a tiny village that was located along the former railway line from Kuching to Mile 10. It is for this matter that Kota Sentosa's old name was 'Mile 7 bazaar'. It is also conveniently situated at the entrance of the Samarahan Division and next by the Kuching International airport. But what makes the town alive and kicking , indeed thriving is the presence of half a dozen of military-cum- residential complexes that house many battalions and regiments of the Malaysian army and air force. Their presence become the largest employment and business generator for booming Kota Sentosa.

I'm not sure when I'll bump into Paci in future but I pray for the very best of success in his career.

Paci and me - a photo I treasure as remembrance of a much-liked Iban lad.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What the Father of Sarawak Ibans - "Apai" Jugah said?

Is Malaysia like sugar cane?

It was on the 16th of September, a few weeks ago that the whole of Malaysia recognised for the first time in its history, the formation of Malaysia with a public holiday- after a lapse of 47 years!. Remembering the formation of Malaysia, Datuk James Wong writing in the local daily ( Borneo Post dated 19 Sept'10) mentioned what Jugah said about Malaysia. Jugah a contemporary of Datuk James, cautioned in the Iban language - " Anang Malaysia sebaka tebu, manis di pon, tawar di ujung" which roughly translated means Malaysia should not be like the sugar cane stem, sweet at the head and getting less and less sweet, tasteless and dry towards the end.

Jugah is unmistakenably one of the greatest Ibans in living memory. The picture at the inset shows Jugah at one of the sessions in the Malaysian Parliament sporting his iconic hairstyle. Did the Beatles imitate his hairstyle? Just wondering.

Affectionately called " Apai" which in Iban means 'father', Jugah (1900-1981) was very proud to be an Iban and he did so prominently when in 1959 he wore a traditional head gear and without wearing any shirt to welcome His Highness Prince Philip at the Council Negeri chamber in Kuching. He even spoke in Iban to welcome Prince Philip. He was a man of war as well as a man of peace. It was with Jugah's weight that Tunku Abdul Rahman and the British Crown managed to enrol Iban support for the formation of Malaysia, since the Malays' voice and other minority Muslims were already represented by Tunku himself. It was left to Jugah to persuade his fellow country men who were either too politically illiterate, undecided and some anti-British to accept the notion of Malaysia. Jugah was posthousmously conferred the title "Tun". For later generations of Malaysians he should be remembered as one of the people who affixed their signatures on the agreement ending the Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia.

Presently the Ibans are found throughout the length and breadth of Sarawak but they predominate in the river basins of Rajang, Saribas and Batang Lupar which roughly occupy the central region of Sarawak especially in the undeveloped interior areas.

Above : Datuk James Wong and below is a poem by him about politicians.

A Special Breed

Politics has sometimes been called an occupation of Fools
As the whole aspiration is to be an accepted public fool!
There is very little honour or glory in it
Indeed, when all is said and done, damn little merit
A thousand good one does go with the wind
For one little mistake made or imagined
By a demanding and fickle Public
To whom, politicians must approbation seek.

What then keep politicians to the grinding mill?
Perhaps, a perverse pleasure and the thrill?
Or limelight and the pampering to a conceited ego
That hears drumbeats and sees salutes wherever they go?
Though this figment of imagination exists only in the mind
But 'tis enough grist for politicians of every hue and kind
To go happily marching on to glory or perdition?
Seeking political Valhalla and Vindication?

Or is it because of one's innate goodness and sincerity
To serve one's fellow citizens and community?
Feeling that if one does not help to kick the ball
The world would stop and not spin at all?!
Or is it because of selfishness and greed
To use politics as a speedy steed
In achieving greatness, honour and fame
Adding lustre to a common name?

Tired politcians have often spoke of "retiring"
But in practice is there such an unlikely thing?
Of politicians voluntarily withdrawing from the arena
Of politics and all that they hold dear?
Indeed, even those who "retired" have been known to voice
"I am ready to serve, if there is no other choice
Of suitable candidates to fit the BILL
Discount me not; I am here still"!

( Credits: James Wong Kim Min (1981) A Special Breed, Summer Times Publishing, Singapore.)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Serikin street scenes - "Little Indonesia"

There are hundreds on stalls and the street is crowded with Malaysian shoppers.

On Saturday we took to the road to visit the little border town of Serikin. It is about less than an hour drive from Kuching city center. The road to Serikin is all paved and is very safe to travel even alone in your own car. Serikin is where Indonesians bring and trade their goods to Malaysian tourists and visitors. It would take about a day or less for Indonesians to travel by road to Serikin which sits on the Malaysian side of the Indonesian-Malaysian boundary line. Here trade in Indonesian made products are brisk and keep on expanding yearly. It seems to me that the place thrives due to private sector dynamism. Indonesians provide the goods that are produced at relatively cheap cost and sold to Malaysians in Malaysian currency. Transaction-wise, Malaysians are bound to benefit due to the high value of the ringgit ( Malaysian currency) vis-a -vis the Indonesian rupiah. At the same time Indonesians find a captive market for their products. But the attraction of Serikin lies also in its ample and wide range of products from household items, personal attire and accessories, food, furniture, handicrafts and souvenirs, herbal medicines, toys, etc. Today the sun was pouring its heat and the tiny road that tugs the stall on both sides were shyed-off by visitors as they preferred to walk under the sheltered canopy of the stalls. Despite the heat I thronged together with hundreds of other eager Malaysians to savour a little of Indonesia. Probably this place may turn out to be " Little Indonesia " in future.

A collection of rattan furniture under shade - book shelf, easy chair, sofa and blinds are available.
Foreground: Rattan winnowing pans, food covers

In Malay or local native culture ( Iban, Bidayuh , Kelabit and other Orang Ulu) the rattan is very much ingrained into their daily lifestyles. Rattans are used for ties or fasteners for scaffolding and timber building construction, strings for various purposes e.g. rafts, carrying baskets for industrial, domestic and personal uses, cultural artifacts, furniture, handicraft or souvenir items e.g. bangles, handbags, food covers, mats, chairs, fish traps,etc. Such is the versatility, robustness, intricate as well as bold applications of this forest plant. ( Inset: rattan mat in cu)
You can be spoilt for choices. Rattan mats of varying sizes, patterns and material mixes ( e.g. rattan plus tree bark) catches up with Malaysian tastes and fads. The prevalence of these mats indicate the richness and sustainability of the rattan plants in Indonesia while in Malaysia these plants are a declining and dying species in large part due to conversion of virgin forests to oil palm plantations and acacia plantations for the production of pulp especially in Bintulu area.

I tried some free samples of chips ( see inset) before I decided to take home a packet of spicy tapioca chips . On the plate were chips from the breadfruit, yam, banana and tapioca. They were all very crispy, tasty ,fried and without any preservatives. In Malaysia now there is a growing interest in the processing of chips as a cottage industry because the rural entrepreneurs produce the basic material plus many of them enjoy some micro -credit assistance from banks and other financing institutions. Many of them are eyeing the export of chips to overseas countries especially Arab nations where consumers are concerned with 'halal' food products and Malaysia is only one of the few Islamic countries that is pursuing 'halal' manufacturing hubs on a global scale. However, for export purposes the products are rigorously manufactured and packaged to meet international standards of quality, safety and longer shelf-life.

The wordings in Indonesian Malay indicate the type of chips available. "Bandung" is tapioca, "Pisang" means banana and "Keladi" is for yam. A packet above costs RM 5 .

Needless to say, today was a fun outing. A closing chapter for my holiday season in Kuching because come Monday I'll need to concentrate on my assignments and they aren't as palatable as chips.,,think confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modelling, multivariate data analysis, SPPS... the list goes on and on and on.....Therefore from Monday onwards I'll be more invisible from the blogosphere radar. Bye for now.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Greater Malaysia - Happy " Malaysia Day" at last.

The first local Governor of Sarawak upon the formation of Malaysia, His Excellency Tun Abang Haji Openg bin Abang Sapi'ee, carried on a pedestal while visiting a 'kampung 'or village.

A treasured book of mine , first published in 1960. However, the above copy is a second edition - 1967 just after the formation of Malaysia. The gentleman posing is the first white Rajah ( Ruler) of Sarawak by the name of Sir James Brooke.

( Inset : The Sarawak Council Negeri sitting on Malaysia Day 1963)
This morning I'll take a bit of time to blog about the "Malaysia Day". For many years now Malaysia has not recognised its own creation in the form of a public holiday. Malaysia was formed in 1963, when the states of Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Semenanjung ( 11 states of British Malaya) decided to form a federation. The federation was very much engineered by the British which saw its time to govern overseas colonies was nearing its end. After a series of table negotiations , referendum etc., the British got the leaders to agree on a Constitution based on a federalised structure and a new name for the political entity called " Malaysia".
Tomorrow is the first time ever that the Federal government of Malaysia recognise its formation by celebrating 16th September as "Malaysia Day" and a public holiday. This is long wanting because since 1963 till today, i.e after a period of 47 years Sarawak and Sabah get to celebrate its struggle for independence by the formation of Malaysia. Previous to this, Sarawak and Sabah were "forced" to celebrate the National Day as Independence Day when the Semenanjung states (British Malaya) obtained independence from the British..i.e. on the 31st of August, 1957 - a date of no political historical relevance to Sarawak and Sabah. I think it was a political mistake on the part of our political leaders to sideline the birth date of Malaysia and to disregard it with a public holiday. Well, politicians can make darn and damned mistakes and some they pay heavily by losing power and influence. It was also due to rising unease engineered by the opposition parties in Malaysia lately on the opposition political campaigns to adopt 16th September as a public holiday that got the brains of federal leaders wired properly. So tomorrow the whole of Malaysia will celebrate a most meaningful holiday in their political existence. Therefore to all Malaysians of Sarawak origin I wish to say "Hidup Malaysia" or " Long Live Malaysia" to you all.
Sir Alexander Waddell, the last Governor of Sarawak under the Crown Colony. He is seen above entering the Council Negeri to open its 1960 session. Besides him is Mr.F.D. Jakeway, the Chief Secretary.

As a reminder to Sarawakians I wish to highlight certain aspects of its history before Malaysia from a little history book which was my basic school history text about Sarawak then ( see top picture )

Excerpts from The Story of Sarawak , pp.70-74.
"Sarawak was a crown colony of Great Britain from 1946 to 1963. During that time four governors directed the development of the country. The first was Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. After three years Mr. Duncan took his place. Mr. Stewart did not govern long. Unfortunately, on his first visit to Sibu while he was walking past a row of Malay school children he was killed by a young Malay teacher. A group of men called "The Society of Thirteen" had ordered the teacher to attack the governor with a knife. This society did not want Sarawak to be a colony. Soon afterwards the British government appointed Sir Anthony Abell to be the third governor. Sir Anthony was governor of Sarawak. He left the country when Sarawak became a part of Malaysia.
In 1948, the Sarawak government made a law which allowed Local Authorities to be set up in each part of the country. Each Local authority is a council of men from the same district or division. It has the power to make laws for its own area and to have its own schools. Some councils also take care of such things as houses, fire stations, bus stations, electricity and water supply, bazaars and local roads. The country was divided into rural districts, and there were urban districts in Kuching, Sibu, and Miri. In 1956 the first election by secret vote in Sarawak was held for choosing the Municipal Council of Kuching.

Three years later, in 1959, the first general election was held in Sarawak. People in most parts of the country voted to choose members of their District or Municipal Councils. These councils in turn elected some of their members to go to Council Negeri. Finally, the Council Negeri elected some of its members to belong to the Supreme Councl.
In 1957. Sarawak got a new constitution which increased the size of the Council Negeri to forty -five members. This Constitution gave the Council Negeri to make more laws and to direct spending of government money. At the same time the Supreme Council was increased to ten members. The duty of the Supreme Council was to meet regularly in Kuching to discuss matters of importance to Sarawak and to give advice to the Governor.

While Sarawak was a Crown Colony, both the Sarawak and British government gave large sums of money to be used for Sarawak's growth and development. This money was spent to build roads, bridges, landing places for ships, airfields, and radio, and telephone services. It was used for new schools of at levels. It provided water and electric systems in towns, improvements in agriculture fisheries, forestry, hospitals and medical services, and many other things.
On 16th September 1963, Sarawak joined with Sabah ( the new name of North Borneo), Singapore, and the eleven states of Malaya to form the new Federation of Malaysia."

Credits: Vernon Mullen (1967) The Story of Sarawak (2nd edn.), Oxford University Press, London. pp.70-74

Two things I learn from this historical episode: Political mistakes can be corrected and Sarawakians are truly a tolerant lot.

Thanks God for
" Malaysia Day"

Think how you can make Malaysia a sustainable political , socio-economic and sovereign entity in your own small way because smart partnership starts with a little care, a tiny wish list and individual love. Do you love your country?

Images of Kuching Today

A Yellow Flame tree in full bloom at Sarawak Museum garden.

Golfers at play

The colourful Medan Pelita - a multi-storey car park cum shopping center.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Eid Mubarak

Wishing all visitors and friends to this blog
a Happy Eid Mubarak


Mahmud Yussop
& family

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Images of Bintulu Today

Ramadan Bazaar at Bintulu Esplanade, Bintulu town.

Yellow Durian fruits ( Durian kuning- Malay, Nyekak or Pakan - Iban) Durio ketenjensis.

Petai ( Parkia speciosa)

Coastal scenery along Jalan Temasya, Tanjung Batu, Bintulu.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010