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Wind of Change

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gus Breymann writes:: A Sabah Sojourn

This story is a reproduction from an email of unknown source...

Gus Breymann's writes: A Sabah Sojourn

INTRODUCTION TO THE JOURNEY

More than 160,000 Peace Corps Volunteers and staff members have served in wonderful, challenging settings around the world. It is a safe bet that most of us have returned with at least one good story about our experience. This is my personal collection of such stories. There is no grand design here, although the anecdotes are presented chronologically for the most part. Each sketch is intended to entertain and satisfy my simple urge to commit something to writing about his six-year association with the U.S. Peace Corps in Malaysia and the Philippines between 1964 and 1970. Along the way, small contributions about the history of the Peace Corps and some of the Southeast Asian countries where it was a guest may surface. Where sensitivity to individual situations is still advisable, first names or altered names are used. A couple of scenes in this six-year script are better left unrecorded for the time being.

We were Sabah/Sarawak IV. That is, we were the fourth contingent of Peace Corps Volunteers assigned to Sabah and Sarawak. Our group replaced volunteers in "Borneo I" who had entered service in 1962 before the formation of Malaysia.

Collectively, the Peace Corps referred to us as "BAGS," or "BA Generalists." Many of us were liberal arts graduates who fit easily into TESL teaching slots overseas.

Sargent Shriver had sent a telegram in the fall of 1963, congratulating me for being selected as a trainee for the Peace Corps in Sabah/Sarawak. A quickly retrieved world globe showed where Sarawak was, but there was no sign of Sabah. Further checking revealed that Sabah was the new name for North Borneo, which until September of that year had been a British colony. On September 16, 1963, Sabah and Sarawak had become the two Borneo states of the new Malaysian nation. Beginning in early 1964, all future groups of Peace Corps Volunteers sent to Sabah or Sarawak were known as "Malaysia" volunteers, and training of Borneo and peninsular Malaya volunteers was consolidated.

Sabah/Sarawak IV volunteers trained at University of Hawaii in Hilo and Waipio Valley between February and April, 1964. In Hilo,we were housed on the grounds of the old Army hospital just below Rainbow Falls. In Waipio Valley, we lived in bamboo huts and got a taste for the first time what life might be like in a Borneo village. Throughout training, the group studied Pasar (bazaar) Malay intensively, learned something of the history of Malaysia, completed practice teaching assignments in Hilo's schools, and went through a regimen of physical exams and psychological tests. Occastionally, trainees would disappear overnight, having been "deselected" and sent back to their homes on the mainland for reasons known only to the University of Hawaii training staff and the psychologists who observed us around the clock. Those of us who remained in training resented the speed and secrecy of the deselections, but in hindsight, there was probably no better way to accomplish the separations.

Approximately twenty of us eventually completed training, were sworn in, and flew off to Borneo at the end of April, 1964. As we climbed aboard our Pan Am Boeing 707 in Honolulu, three of us were singled out at the foot of the ramp. George Grantham, Julia Chang and I were each handed copies of the Yale series textbook on Chinese language and told that we were being assigned to Chinese middle schools.

Our flight carried us first to Wake Island, where we stood around in a World War II quonset hut while the plane was refueled. Commercial jet travel was only five years old in 1964, and westward trips across the Pacific often required refueling stops. From Wake, we flew on to Manila, where we were deposited in the transit lounge for several hours. Eventually, we boarded a Cathay Pacific Lockheed Electra II and began the last leg of our trip down to Jesselton, the capital city of Sabah.

Imagine leaving home and "civilization" for a two-year tour of duty. Imagine flying toward the third largest island in the world, three degrees north of the equator, a place known by most Americans then---and perhaps now---only as the home of the "Wild Man of Borneo." Imagine enduring three months of training and education in anticipation of the very moment when you would actually step onto the soil of Borneo. As the Cathay Pacific turboprop carried us south, our anticipation grew palpable. Soon we saw Banggi Island, then the green, hilly west coast of Sabah. We peered out the left side of the aircraft at the tropical island and the blue-green South China Sea. As we descended on Jesselton airport, the reality of our actually being in "The Land Below the Wind" began to sink in. Few of us realized that reality would continue to unfold for the duration of our volunteer experience or that, for most of us, our lives would be changed forever---all because Sargent Shriver had sent us telegrams inviting us to join a great adventure. Few of us understood that we would have to redefine our understanding of "civilization" as we immersed ourselves in an unbelievably rich multicultural experience.

The vignettes that follow are dedicated to Song Chang, Martin Collacott, and Roger Flather. They know they enriched my life, and they know how grateful I am.

Click here for some of my photos.


THE EARTH RANG LIKE A BELL: GOOD FRIDAY 1964

Sabah/Sarawak IV was in training in Hilo when the greatest earthquake on the North American continent occurred in Alaska on March 27, 1964. It was recorded at 9.2 on the Richter scale. According to World Book, it lifted more than 25,000 square miles of the earth's surface from three to eight feet and pushed one end of uninhabited Montague Island 33 feet upward, exposing a strip of sea floor some 1,350 feet wide. At the same time, a 35,000 square mile region around Kodiak and Anchorage sank two to six feet. Buildings and pavement in Anchorage fell 30 feet in a few seconds.

The quake sent shock waves around the world, literally. In Iran, for example, the ground surface rose and fell a third of an inch. Streets in Houston rose nearly five inches. Georgia well water moved up and down 10 to 20 feet. A showboat on the Mississippi River was torn from its moorings. Six months later the earth was still quivering in Alaska, where more than 9,200 aftershock quakes were recorded. In effect, the entire Earth rang like a bell on Good Friday.

In Hilo that Friday evening, several of us were attending a movie downtown near the bay. Suddenly, the tidal wave siren sounded and we evacuated quickly, heading back uphill toward the Peace Corps training center at Rainbow Falls.

Hilo had been struck by devastating tidal waves in 1946 and 1960. Photos of the power of a tsunami show parking meters in the downtown area bent flat against the street in the 1960 tidal wave---within just a couple of blocks of the movie house we had just left.

At the training center, we listened to the radio and learned that, if a tidal wave was to strike Hilo again, it would move down the Pacific and hit the islands in succession within a couple of hours. That gave us enough time to climb in a car and drive to a sugar mill northeast of Hilo. It was a spot where we could look back across Hilo Bay toward the city's business district. We continued to listen to the radio as the tidal wave progressed toward Oahu, then Maui, then the Big Island. All we could see in Hilo Bay was a stream of small boats and ships heading out to the open ocean, where they could ride out the fast-moving tsunami.

Luckily, Hawaii was spared on Good Friday, 1964. After a few hours of watching from the sugar mill, the radio informed us that the danger had passed and we returned to the training center.

THE CLOSET PSYCHOLOGIST

In the early years of Peace Corps training, it was the staff psychologists who decided whether trainees went to a host country assignment or whether we were "deselected" and bundled off in the middle of the night to catch a flight back to the mainland. The University of Hawaii staff psychologists were omnipresent: observing, taking notes, interviewing trainees, always maintaining appropriate professional distance. In Waipio Valley, I remember one of them hiding behind a bush, watching attentively as we learned the proper Muslim way to butcher a chicken. Which trainees would be squeamish? Which ones would enjoy killing the chicken?

In addition, the staff psychologists administered batteries of psychological tests indiscriminately: the MMPI; the California Test; the Rorschach. There were probably others. As the Peace Corps matured, I believe it reduced this overly heavy emphasis on psychological profiling, perhaps because trainees and civil rights attorneys demanded fewer invasions of personal privacy. The central point, though, is that staff psychologists were widely perceived in 1964 to play decisive roles in our fates as trainees. These demigods were held in fear and respect. As our judges, surely they led exemplary, unflawed personal lives.

Which brings me to a wedding. Two wonderful people in our group had entered Sabah/Sarawak IV training as a couple and decided they would get married before leaving for Malaysia IF both completed training successfully. They finished with flying colors, and a wedding was planned in the historic Lyman home overlooking the Pacific in Hilo. All of us attended, and the two were married in the wide living room that fronted on the ocean. It was a beautiful ceremony in the home of one of the pioneer families on the Big Island.

Several of us stood at the rear of the room as vows were exchanged. We heard a commotion, looked behind us, and saw an inebriated man climbing the steep rear steps. This man was not just tipsy; he was falling-down drunk. He was literally crawling up the back steps of the Lyman home on all fours. He was so far gone that he was a danger to himself. In unison, we moved toward the man, grabbed him in the armpits, and carried him quietly to a closet just inside the entrance to the home. There he stayed, behind a guarded door, until well after the wedding reception ended, out of view and earshot of the wedding party. I was pretty proud of myself for helping to handle this very embarrassing situation so adeptly. The newly married couple learned only later about this guest's arrival during the ceremony.

He was the chief staff psychologist for our group. Peace Corps training must have proven too much for him.

FIRST NIGHT ON THE ISLAND OF BORNEO

Thanks to author Agnes Newton Keith, Borneo is "The Land Below the Wind." The typhoons that devastate Luzon, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and the China mainland periodically do not follow a more southerly track, and North Borneo is spared the destruction of the great winds that howl westward across the Pacific toward the Asian mainland. Frequent local storms, yes. A long monsoon season, yes. But no monster storms.

Upon arrival in Jesselton, Sabah/Sarawak IV volunteers were taken by bus to temporary housing at Gaya College, where we stayed through a brief in-country orientation by members of the government of Sabah. The biggest question on most minds that first afternoon and evening was where our volunteer assignments would be. Three of us knew that we had been selected to teach in Chinese middle schools, but their exact locations remained undisclosed.

We found out soon enough. While shaving in the men's lavatory at Gaya College shortly after arrival, I was approached by a tall, distinguished and friendly person who introduced himself as Martin Collacott. Martin was a Canadian Colombo Plan advisor assigned to the Sabah Education Department, and he was to be one of my supervisors for the rest of my volunteer assignment. He was also responsible for implanting the memory of my first night in Borneo firmly in my mind from that day to this.

Borneo. "The Wild Man of Borneo." Headhunters with blowpipes and shrunken heads. The Land Below the Wind. Somerset Maugham's short stories about district officers. Japanese atrocities against the Australians at the end of the war in the Pacific. Just what kind of place were we coming to? Because the Peace Corps was still in its relative infancy, we were sure we would be posted to the "ulu" and not emerge again into "civilization" until our tour of duty ended two years hence. We would march off into the jungle in our hair shirts, not to be seen again.

Contrast that prospect with what we actually found at Martin's home in Tanjung Aru that first evening in Borneo. Since our new supervisor was an advisor to the Sabah education department, he was accorded a comfortable "Division I" government home usually reserved for the highest state officials. Government housing in Sabah, from Division I down to Division IV, had a certain functionality that made it fit in beautifully in the tropics. Of course, there was no air conditioning, but the living rooms, dining areas, kitchens and bathrooms featured large screenless windows that let cooling breezes flow through. On hot, still days and nights, ceiling fans helped make these government quarters livable. Only the bedrooms were screened, making it possible to sleep without mosquito netting much of the time.

Martin's cook, an elderly Chinese prepared a meal for the four of us that was delicious by any standard. We finished it off with a delicious yorkshire pudding, coffee and small glasses of Drambuie.

Amid the drinks and conversation that evening, Martin set an empty cardboard box on the floor across the wide living room from where we sat. He drew a bullseye on one side of the box. He then produced two genuine Murut blowguns and a quiver full of sharp bamboo darts. We three newcomers were challenged to see who could hit the bullseye using the blowgun and darts.

The contrast was almost too much to bear, given our earlier expectation that we would all vanish into the primitive Bornean jungle as soon as we climbed off the plane. That prospect was shattered, temporarily at least, by a wonderful, convivial evening. An after-dinner game with a native blowgun just hours off the plane from Honolulu! Could all this really be happening? And a delicious Western meal provided by an urbane, witty host who was obviously enjoying living in Borneo. Would our own volunteer assignments include any of these same amenities? What were we to experience in our own postings now that our earlier expectations of Borneo had been modified?

No doubt Martin was sizing each of us up that evening. I learned shortly thereafter that I was being assigned to teach a special English transition class at Government Junior Secondary School in Tawau. Tawau, reachable only by ship every other week or by Borneo Airways Dakota every evening if the weather was good, was to be my new home.

EVENSONG, CANON NEWMARCH, AND THE END OF THE EMPIRE

St. Patrick's Anglican Mission in Tawau was a thatch-roofed wooden structure on the shore of Cowie Bay. The pews were rough hewn. There was no electricity, but there was a large, Australian nun who powered the tiny pump organ near the altar. Canon Walter Newmarch, an Australian missionary who had been spreading the Word in Borneo since 1954 on behalf of the Australian Church Missionary Society, lived in a comfortable home on stilts next to the entrance to the rudimentary church structure. Newmarch and his wife were open, friendly and genuine people. They made visitors feel at home, welcome. Little do they know what a positive impact they had on one young American who was learning to live in Asia.

It became a custom to attend Evensong at St. Patrick's on Sunday. The liturgy was simple, majestic and somewhat shorter than other Anglican eucharistic rites. Even in Borneo, though, it was clearly "high church" by today's Episcopal standards.

The evening breezes along the bay also made the small sanctuary bearable as the tropical sun began to set and the large fruit bats flew in for a night of foraging from their roosts on Sebatik Island across the bay. Evensong was a time for preparation for the upcoming week of teaching at Government Junior Secondary School.

One of the popular hymns sung by the small congregation began, "The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended. The darkness falls at thy behest." Borneo had been a British colony until only a few months earlier. Slowly, all the colonial servants drifted away to other posts or to retirement in England. (How many times would I hear the lament---particularly from the Chinese towkays and office workers I met in 1964---that they wished Sabah had never joined Malaysia. They were, in effect, still mourning an era that had recently passed away, much like a close relative.) The final stanza of the stately Evensong hymn affirmed the transitory state of the Empire: "So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never, like earth's proud empires, pass away." The beneficent "darkness" of empire was emerging into the light of new day as I watched.

Returning to St. Patrick's Church thirty-four years later was revealing beyond words. The wood and thatch church was long gone, replaced by a large, white, air-conditioned structure. Heavy glass doors sported signs imploring parishioners not to use cellular telephones in the sanctuary. A Christian rock band warmed up its amplifiers near the altar. The building was used for services in English, led by a charismatic Chinese pastor, Albert Vun, who would certainly be uncomfortable being referred to as an Anglican priest. Beyond the attractive building was a newer, huge edifice, painted pastel pink. The interior looked more than anything like a modern movie theater. That was where the Mandarin, Hakka, and Malay services were conducted. Upon entering one Sunday morning, ushers quickly hustled the visitor to the smaller building. Surely, they thought, this orang puteh could not be there to participate in a Hakka service!

From small, rude Anglican mission to energetic "cell church": Clearly any hint of empire that lingered in 1964 had vanished by 1999. Most of those present in church that Sunday morning hadn't even been born when Sabah was still a British colony. And I had frequented St. Patrick's when the state was still going through its birth pangs.

MAH JONGG AT MIDNIGHT

C. M. Tan and his Filipino-Chinese family were the neighbors who lived immediately behind my Peace Corps house in Tawau. Mr. Tan worked for the Public Works Department and was a respected leader in the Filipino community in Tawau.

As I shaved at the kitchen sink every morning, Mr. Tan's sultry daughter, Pilar, watched me in amusement as she washed dishes in her kitchen a few feet away. Pilar also worked at the local cold storage, precursor of the modern supermarkets now present in Tawau. I have her to thank for letting me buy groceries on credit near the end of every month until my next month's living allowance came through from the Peace Corps office in Jesselton. Even in those days the Malaysian ringget equivalent of $100 per month did not go far.

One of the things I'll always remember about my neighbors, the Tans, was that I could wake up at virtually any time in the middle of any rainy night and hear the mah jongg tiles clicking on the table inside their home. That family really loved those ivories.

THAT DAMNED STORK

In parts of Europe, storks are symbols of good luck. Homeowners even place small platforms on their roofs in the hope that storks will build nests there and bring good fortune to the household. Elsewhere, a "visit from the stork" is a euphemism for childbirth and all the happiness usually implied in that event. Some say that the stork has been saved from extinction because of the myths that have been built around these tall birds.

Between 1963 and 1966, there was a military engagement ("Konfrontasi") between Indonesia and Malaysia because President Sukarno opposed the inclusion of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in the newly formed nation to his north. There were infrequent incusions by Indonesian troops along the Sabah and Sarawak borders with Indonesia. Tawau was an armed fortress, situated as it was literally within sight of the Indonesian frontier. The Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Gurkhas, the SAS, various army units, and the militia were all encamped in or near Tawau at one time or another while I lived there. The Royal Navy's "Hermes" and "Ark Royal" aircraft carriers steamed into Cowie Bay and sat offshore several times as visible symbols of Commonwealth support for Malaysia in its first years of nationhood. RAF aircraft based in Singapore and Malaya flew daily low-level patrols over Tawau in a show of colors. The five or six Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in the town capitalized on this military environment in different ways. If nothing else, it provided an opportunity to get NAAFI gin at very low cost! PCVs were entreated to soak the labels off the gin bottles to remove proof that they had come from a British commissary intended only for the Her Majesty's troops.

During 1964 and 1965, a tall Marabou stork roosted on the roof of a PCV’s shack next to the terminal at the Tawau airport. This bird had been brought to Tawau by an RAF squadron that had been posted in Africa previously. It was the squadron's mascot, and it flew from perch to perch around the perimeter of the airport. The fact that it chose to spend much of its time atop a shack occupied by a PCV was the source of occasional comment around town.

The scene shifts to a quiet, paved road in front of Tawau's cottage hospital. As I came around the corner on my blue Suzuki motorbike, I was confronted by the foot-long beak of a Marabou stork, aimed squarely at the middle of my forehead. In its meandering, the RAF mascot had decided to land in the mangrove swamp opposite the hospital and had then walked into my path. There wasn't enough time or space to come to a stop before I hit the big bird. As I flew over the handlebars, I looked back and remember seeing the mascot flopping on the pavement. Luckily, I suffered only scrapes on my knees and elbows and a muffler burn on one calf. The bird’s beak missed my forehead. The motorbike also survived. I was cleaned up and bandaged at the cottage hospital next door and then continued home.

Shortly thereafter, an RAF officer drove up to my house. No doubt I was going to be rebuked for colliding with and killing the squadron's mascot. I prepared myself for the worst. After the officer inquired about my injuries, he informed me that he had found the stork back in the mangrove, that it had suffered only a broken leg, but that the officer had shot the bird. When I expressed remorse over being the cause of the animal's demise, the officer replied, "Not to worry! We were going to get rid of it anyway. It was becoming a hazard to air traffic around the airport."

FRITZ, AZAHARI, AND THE BRUNEI REBELLION

The involvement of Peace Corps Volunteers in internal partisan or military affairs of host countries where they served was strictly proscribed, particularly during the early 1960s. Sargent Shriver and the Kennedy administration knew that adverse publicity about a Volunteer becoming embroiled in a host's domestic affairs could wreck the new agency. When those standards of proper conduct were breached by Volunteers, as was sure to happen, the Peace Corps acted swiftly and quietly to remove the PCV from the country. Sometimes the agency removed a Volunteer even if he or she had not been personally responsible for getting caught up in host country political or military affairs. The latter is the case in this little vignette.

Sheik A. M. Azahari was the charismatic, ultra-nationalist leader of a political party in the Sultanate of Brunei, the oil-rich British protectorate that separated most of North Borneo from Sarawak. Azahari was also pro Indonesia in 1962, when it was becoming increasingly clear that Sabah and Sarawak would be incorporated into Malaysia within a year or so. In him, Sukarno had an ally against Malaysia. There were some indications that Azahari had connections with communist parties in China and Indonesia.

Azahari fomented a rebellion against the proposed federation of Malaysia, and his rebel supporters took to the jungle around Brunei. Azahari demanded the overthrow of the Sultan of Brunei. He proposed the formation of an independent, unified state of Kalimantan Utara (North Borneo), consisting of Sarawak, Brunei, and North Borneo, instead of federation with Malaysia. The British were forced to bring Gurkha troops in from Singapore to quash the rebellion, and Azahari removed himself to Manila in late 1962, where he continued to promote his unsuccessful cause briefly.

PCV Fritz was stationed near the Brunei border, and he got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was rounded up by British soldiers purely as a safety measure. Fritz and his protectors came under attack by Azahari's rebels, and the PCV performed gallantly by saving the life of a British soldier who had been wounded in the skirmish.

Although Fritz had gotten caught in an international incident through no fault of his own, it became clear eventually that he would be unable to continue serving successfully as a PCV. The Peace Corps arranged for him to take a training assignment at the University of Hawaii's Peace Corps training center in Hilo. The agency could move very swiftly when it needed to, especially when it faced a potentially embarrassing incident.

SARGE OUTFOXES SUKARNO, OR DOES HE?

This little anecdote may be apocryphal. Then again, it may not be.

Sargent Shriver cooled his heels in Singapore for a few days while the American ambassador in Jakarta struggled to arrange a meeting between Shriver and mercurial President Sukarno. The Peace Corps director was interested in introducing Peace Corps Volunteers into Indonesia, and Sukarno had invited Shriver to come to Jakarta to discuss that possibility.

The brilliant nationalist Sukarno was, as some will remember, a great admirer of the female form. Among his wives he counted the alluring young Madame Dewi, whom he had brought to Indonesia from Japan in the late '50s.

A meeting between the Peace Corps director and the vain father of Indonesia was eventually arranged. The story goes that Sukarno repeatedly requested pretty, young American nurses, ostensibly to assist in ameliorating severe health problems in the islands. His motive was suspect; Shriver knew that Sukarno had an appreciative eye for young women. Apparently, Sukarno was promised American nurses by the end of Shriver's visit to Jakarta. Somewhere between the deal and the fact, though, someone else decided that Indonesia would be better off with tall male basketball coaches as Peace Corps Volunteers. That's what the newly emerging country got. Sukarno's reaction was not recorded.

The Peace Corps presence in one of the most populous developing countries in the world was painfully brief. As Indonesian-American relations deteriorated in 1964, Sukarno kicked the Peace Corps and the United States Information Service out of the country.

COLLIDING WITH PRINCE PHILLIP

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Government Junior Secondary School (now known as Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tawau) is located on the east side of the Tawau airport. My Peace Corps home in 1964 and 1965 was located on the west side of the runway. The only safe way to get from A to B was a circuitous trip that required fifteen minutes on a motorbike. The shorter way was to drive up to the airport and cut across the active runway onto the school sports field that bordered the runway. Much shorter. Obviously the preferred and more daring route.

Because the Tawau airport was busy during Konfrontasi, a system had been set up to alert everyone to the pending arrival of an airplane. An air traffic controller hoisted a large white flag to the top of a sturdy bamboo pole on the wooden airport control tower. When the flag went up, everyone knew that the runway was off limits and that a plane could be expected to land soon. If the flag was lowered, activity around the runway resumed.

After we finished a day of teaching at GJSS one day, my PCV friend Maryanne and I climbed aboard my motorbike, intent on crossing the runway on our way downtown. We edged off the school sports field, crossed the deep drainage ditch that paralleled the east side of the runway, and stopped. The white flag was up, signifying that a plane was in the vicinity. We didn't hear or see one anywhere. Just as we braked to a stop, the air traffic controller walked out onto the ledge of the control tower and began gesturing at us energetically with both arms. Maryanne and I debated what his instructions meant, and we concluded that he was trying to indicate that it was still safe to cross the runway in spite of the white flag flapping above him.

We began to cross the runway. About half way, I looked to my right and fixed my gaze on the outline of an airplane on final approach from the north. I goosed the motorbike, and we made it to the other side without really coming close to a collision with the landing plane.

The RAF traffic controller was apoplectic. I bore the brunt of his anger, although I'm certain I would have been in much greater trouble if Maryanne hadn't been on the back of my bike. I had violated the rule of the signal flag! What was far worse, THIS aircraft was part of the Queen's Flight, a Hawker Siddeley 748 twin turboprop. What's more, the plane was piloted by HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of the Queen of England! (Philip had been a rated pilot since 1959 and flew both helicopters and airplanes.) Only when I learned the pilot's identity did I understand the air traffic controller's rage. That also explained why there had been armed Malaysian troops positioned along the drainage ditch as we had begun our crossing.

Prince Philip completed his royal inspection of all the British troops in the area and left a couple of days later. I went up to the airport to watch him board the plane with the Queen's crest emblazoned on the fuselage to the right of the door. I crossed that runway many more times after HRH left, but never when the white banner was flapping atop the bamboo flagpole. I had learned my lesson.

On February 9, 1999, I looked out the window of my Malaysian Air 737 jet on the tarmac at that same Tawau airport, waiting to leave the town I had grown to love thirty-four years earlier. My old school building was visible across the same runway, and I could still approximate the very point where we had made our notorious motorbike crossing in 1965. It was a nostalgic moment.

FRESH BREAD, FRESH COFFEE AND GHEE

Tawau was an isolated place in 1964, accessible only by one daily Dakota flight or by Straits Steamship every couple of weeks. There were no highways to anywhere. Television was unheard of in Borneo. The battery-powered Philips short-wave radio provided by the Peace Corps brought occasional BBC news and propaganda from China. Access to telephones was mostly undependable and always expensive.

Under those circumstances, Peace Corps Volunteers survived and prospered by learning to appreciate and anticipate small pleasures. The previous week's international editions of "Time" and "Newsweek" usually arrived on Friday afternoon for the reader to discover what was happening in the outside world. One could become absorbed with the news for an entire weekend.

Small pleasures were wholly idiosyncratic. In my case, one enduring pleasant memory is arising early enough to get down to the bakery to buy a still-warm loaf of white bread. Fresh bread, New Zealand butter and canned strawberries from the Huat Lee cold storage made for a perfect start of the day.

But the senses were aroused even more by a unique little place near the shophouses along Chester Street in Tawau. To get to the bakery, I had to drive past a small open shed across the street from the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. Inside the shed was a huge wok with a diameter of about four feet. A laborer stirred the contents of the wok with a large wooden paddle. The aroma of large quantities of roasting coffee in the cool morning air was fantastic enough, but numerous coffee shops in Malaysia often added ghee to the roasting process, producing and even richer fragrance. Furthermore, the beans were roasted longer and darker. The ghee and the dark roast produced an unbelievably delicious cup of coffee. Anyone who has ever sat in a coffee shop in Kuching, Sibu, Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan will still summon that fragrance to their nostrils and smile broadly.

A couple of other fragrances deserve mention. In the evenings I often spent time on Tawau's municipal wharf. Traders in small wooden craft tied up there to bring in and haul out all kinds of goods. Often there were small boats from the Celebes (now Sulawesi) and from the Moluccas. Bags full of whole nutmegs often filled the air with the smell of that spice. More common, however, was the unique, oily sweet smell of copra. The hotter the day, the more pungent the aroma. Both were unforgettable.

Just why that small tin-roofed shed was situated on the corner of a vacant lot was something I never learned. What I know, though, is that driving past when the coffee and ghee were being blended in the sizzling wok was one of those seemingly small, insignificant events that gave rise to sensory pleasure in a time and place where small satisfactions could make the entire day.

"THE MILITIAMEN ARE RECEIVING THEIR GUNS TODAY."

The sports padang at Government Junior Secondary School was about the size of two soccer fields. It doubled occasionally as a drill site for conscripts in the local militia. The home guard was an important, if not particularly battle ready, supplement to all the other military forces in the area. They guarded public facilities around Tawau, but not much more. Elite fighting units they were not.

I watched a new batch of militia members arrive aboard lorries one afternoon as I sat in a friend's home across the road from the sports field. One of the lorries also bore several large wooden crates. The militia members formed into ranks, and training them to march in step got underway. Back and forth across the dusty field they trudged. Each recruit carried a wooden stick instead of a rifle. I watched as the officers present worked to establish discipline among boys and young men from the ulu who knew very little about military organization or the reason they had been recruited in the first place.

I started to leave my friend's house a while later. As I descended the front steps, a British officer came running toward me as fast as he could make his legs move. He obviously had something to say and began yelling, "Get back inside! Get back inside!" I complied.

The officer came to the front door and ordered everyone to stay inside and away from all windows and doors until the all- clear was signaled. My curiosity got the best of me, and I asked why our movements were being restricted so severely. The officer looked at me and said, "This is a bit embarrassing, but it's for your own safety. The militiamen are getting their real guns today."

We remained invisible inside until the trucks pulled away at dusk.

GURKHA DOUBLE-TIME

Another small pleasure in Tawau during 1964-65 was witnessing the arrival or departure of the Gurkha Rifles. The legendary and incredibly disciplined Nepali fighting men usually arrived at the airport aboard RAF Argosy twin-boom turboprop transports. Platoons were then posted deep in the ulu along Sabah's border with Indonesia. When an Argosy arrived with a new deployment of Gurkhas, small crowds gathered at the terminal for the ceremony. The Gurkha Rifles invariably disembarked from the transport in tight formation, wearing their distinctive hats with the bent brim. They literally marched off the wide rear loading ramp of the aircraft in double step under the watchful eyes of their British officers, who often carried swagger sticks that matched their style.

The contrast between the tall, fair- skinned officers and the very short, powerfully built Gurkha fighting men was dramatic. Combined, however, the officers and soldiers presented a military image of absolute fearlessness and total command of the situation. Their reputation for never taking prisoners alive preceded them and must have struck fear into the hearts of the Indonesian incursionists who operated along the border. To top it off, each Gurkha wore a sheathed kukri. The kukri: that famous curve-bladed killing knife used only by the Gurkhas. In a capsule, it was a REAL SHOW!

A brief bit of trivia here. After "Konfrontasi" ended, a few Gurkhas returned to Borneo as civilians to raise vegetables on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. They found the mountain and the Kadazan farmers in the area similar to their environs in their homeland in Nepal.

THE HOVERCRAFT EXPERIMENT

Military conflicts around the world have always provided opportunities to test new, experimental weapons under actual combat conditions. That was true during "Konfrontasi." Within walking distance of my house in Tawau, the Royal Navy decided to field-test its SR.N5 air cushion vehicle, popularly known as the Hovercraft, for the first time in early 1965. In fact, these tests were probably the very first military applications of air cushion vehicles anywhere in the world. Two early model Hovercraft were deployed in my town for many months and were being evaluated for coastal patrol and logistic support of Commonwealth troops on Sebatik Island and in the estuaries west of Tawau. Built by British Hovercraft, the SR.N5 was powered by a single Rolls Royce turbine. It provided forward propulsion (via a large propeller mounted on the back of the craft) and downward air pressure which caused the machine to rise above the surface on its rubber skirts.

The SR.N5 appeared completely helpless when not in motion. It was like a duck sitting on a rubber nest---low, squat and motionless---on the narrow beach below the Tawau Resident's home. When powered up, though, it was both fast and noisy. It carried about a dozen soldiers. Speed must have been the most redeeming feature of the Hovercraft. It could not have been stealth; it was far too noisy. As one or both of them skimmed across Cowie Bay, I could hear them approaching miles away. Not only was the Hovercraft noisy. It also had a distinctive sound unlike any aircraft or ship. Certainly the Indonesians must have identified them easily.

One day as I watched a football (soccer) game at the town padang, two American Navy officers approached me. That was a very strange occurrence because we never saw American military in Tawau. They were there to observe the use of the two Hovercraft in combat. We had a brief but pleasant conversation. They were just as surprised to see a Peace Corps Volunteer there as I was to see them.

Beginning in 1967, the U. S. Navy began using a slightly larger version of the Hovercraft, the SR.N6, in the Mekong Delta. I wondered whether its introduction into that much larger Southeast Asian war was an outgrowth, in part, of the military observers' visit to Tawau a couple of years earlier. Later, in the Persian Gulf War, our Navy used behemoth relatives of the SR.N6 called LCACs (landing craft/air cushioned) successfully.

For all we know, this naval innovation got its start in a coastal town in Borneo.

AMERICA'S CHINESE PRESIDENT

When I taught English at GJSS in Tawau, all the students were Chinese, the sons and daughters of towkays and farmers who had settled in the area years earlier. Most of them spoke Hakka, a somewhat more gutteral and less demanding dialect than Mandarin. The administrative and teaching staff consisted of a delightful mixture of Chinese and Indians. Our principal was Mr. Ngee Kut Keng.

Our job was to remove all the students between Form Three and Form Four for a year of intensive English language instruction. The goal was to prepare them for the Junior Cambridge Examination after completion of Form Four. The "remove class" was an experiment unique to this school. We did not have a great deal of guidance about how it should be conducted. We were given two texts published by the English Language Institute at the University of Michigan and then told, in effect, to teach the students English all day every day.

They were a willing group and deserved much better than I could provide. As their facility in English improved, some of the students enjoyed making jokes about English words and surnames. Sometimes a word seemed funny to them solely because of its sound. Other times, a word was humorous because its pronunciation was roughly comparable to a salacious term in Hakka or Mandarin.

Lyndon Johnson was president then, basking in the afterglow of his success with the Civil Rights Act and whatever residual affection he acquired when he assumed the presidency upon JFK's assassination. The Vietnam War had not yet begun to strangle Johnson. One of the students in my "remove class"---I think it may have been Lim Seng Neng--- grinned broadly one day and asked whether I was aware that the President of the United States was Chinese. I took the bait and replied that that was news to me. I asked who this Chinese President of America was.

"John Soong," he said, flashing his ever-present smile.

A SEA OF SNAKES

By no means was she a cruise ship. The M. S. Kinabalu was a 4,500-ton cargo carrier that plied the waters between Singapore and Sabah for the Straits Steamship Company. Tawau was the last port of call on each voyage of the Kinabalu and her sister ships. Each one sported a few passenger cabins and a combined bar and small dining room. Maintained and staffed in the finest of British colonial traditions, the small ships were a clean and comfortable way to navigate the stunningly beautiful coast of Sabah.

During a school holiday in 1965, my supervisor sent me from Tawau to Kudat to work on some curriculum plans. He was kind enough to book passage aboard the Kinabalu, a real treat for a Peace Corps Volunteer. The trip is etched in memory because of three events along the way.

Along the main deck, the Kinabalu had a small library for its first-class passengers. It seated no more than one or two, but its sliding doors provided remarkable "National Geographic" vistas of the turquoise water and volcanic islands as we steamed through the Celebes Sea and then into the Sulu Sea. As I sat reading in the library one afternoon, the steward approached me and said, "Tea time, sir." I thanked him and said that I would take tea there in the library. He replied that tea must be taken in one's cabin. I tried to convince him that I should be permitted my cup of orange pekoe, my biscuits, and my fresh fruit there. Unsuccessful, I followed him meekly to my small cabin, with its small porthole, where he delighted in serving afternoon tea in the proper, prescribed manner. It was an amusing lesson in the rigidity of British routines concerning one of the social practices of truly civilized people.

Another vivid recollection was watching Moslem passengers respond to the call to prayer. The men, wearing their songkoks and checkered sarongs, gathered on the ship's fantail five times a day, spread their prayer rugs on the bleached deck, and faced Mecca to pray. It was a small scene to the casual Western observer--- nothing more than a very colorful snapshot---but it symbolized the great power of Islam, which would ascend mightily in East Malaysia from that time onward. What a memorable snapshot!

Finally, the trip aboard the Kinabalu provided a chance sighting that few humans have ever witnessed. As we sailed north of Semporna on a hot, sunny day in a calm Sulu Sea, we cut through a huge congregation of sea snakes. It took literally minutes to slice through thousands of yellow-bellied serpents basking on the surface. Thousands upon thousands of them, writhing in the crystal clear water! According to Sherman Minton, who wrote an article in "Oceans" in 1978, "this tendency to gather in great numbers at the surface is an enigmatic aspect of sea snakes."

During the Vietnam War, helicopter pilots over the South China Sea also reported this rare sea snake phenomenon, according to Minton. Like other experiences in Borneo, I count myself incredibly lucky to have witnessed this strange habit of one of Earth's tropical creatures.

THE ROOSTER STOPPED CROWING ON SEPTEMBER 30

This sketch might easily be entitled "The End of the Year of Living Dangerously." Anyone interested in President Sukarno in the '60s should watch "The Year of Living Dangerously" on videotape. It is a remarkable movie.

When Sukarno went to war with Malaysia in January, 1963, he stated, "We will support the North Kalimantan Unitary State and carry out confrontation until Malaysia is pulverized into dust. We will not be toyed with. We are the rooster that crows for the rising sun of the Far East. Malaysia will be crushed."

Less than three years later, Sukarno himself was "crushed" in what started out as a Communist-led coup d'etat. Who was responsible for his ultimate downfall is still very much in debate, but it is clear that the United States, Britain, and Germany were deeply concerned about the rapidly rising influence of the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, in the country's internal affairs. There is little doubt that the United States aided the anti-Sukarno forces in numerous ways as far back as the late 1950s, but that's not the subject of this vignette.

Sukarno's demise as president began on September 30, 1965, in what is now known as "Gerakan 30 September", or the "September 30 Movement." I was about two months away from completing my first Peace Corps assignment on the Malaysia- Indonesia border. I could stand on the municipal wharf in Tawau and look southward across Cowie Bay into Indonesia two miles away; it was that close.

I learned of the Sukarno's fall from power shortly before it was known to the world. A British gentleman whose name I remember very well lived up the street from me. He was with the Special Branch. We talked casually occasionally, and I got to know him as a friendly and well informed person. He often walked down the street in front of my house, and he stopped at the front door one day at the very beginning of October. Without much ado, Laurie proclaimed with a sly smile, "You don't know this yet, but Sukarno has just been overthrown."

I doubted what the Special Branch officer said because this news was so completely unexpected. As the days passed, though, word did begin filtering out that a transition was, in fact, in progress and that Sukarno was in difficulty.

I've never figured why Laurie chose to pass this bit of intelligence along to me. I can only surmise that he knew it would become public soon and that he and the Commonwealth forces would be able to leave that tropical backwater where they had been resisting Indonesia for more than two years.

The overthrow of Sukarno set in motion an unparalleled purge of the Chinese in Java and the rest of Indonesia that began a few weeks later. The number of Chinese deaths has never been ascertained, but estimates range as high as two million. Only a fraction were active PKI sympathizers. It remains the most terrible blemish on contemporary Indonesian history.

Anyone interested in the origins Konfrontasi must read Greg Poulgrain's meticulously researched 1998 book, The Genesis of Konfrontasi. The author, a professor at Queensland University of Technology, theorizes that Confrontation was instigated by Anglo-American intelligence planners as an anti-Sukarno stratagem and as a way of forcing a reluctant Sarawak to join Malaysia in 1963. This stratagem was carried out in spite of President Kennedy's attempts to end Konfrontasi by befriending Sukarno in 1962. Poulgrain's book is a fascinating new addition to the extensive literature on Konfrontasi.

I had come to Sabah during the height of Konfrontasi, and I left the Malaysia-Indonesia border as the little war wound down. It ended officially at a peace conference in Bangkok in 1966.

SUNDARI BINTI SOYO AND THE NIGHT BLOOMING CEREUS

Sundari binti Soyo was a jolly, rather plump Javanese woman with a mouth full of gold inlay. She always dressed in an immaculate, beautiful sarong and kebaya. My housemates and I inherited her services from the first group of volunteers who occupied "the Peace Corps house" in Tawau. She cleaned and cooked for us occasionally, and we paid her monthly from our meager living allowance. It was she who taught me how to buy fish and prawns and crab that were still fresh, not "busok." She lived a few blocks away at the Tawau Residency, where her main job was to be the maid and cook for Mrs. George, the wife of the British Resident. Sundari was known throughout Tawau as an outstanding cook of Javanese fare, and she was often hired out to prepare large feasts.

Sundari also had an amazing green thumb; she could make anything grow. She planted a huge variety of beautiful tropical shrubs and flowers outside the house. They bloomed constantly. The banisters on the front porch were lined with pots of plants, flowers, and herbs. I can still smell the lemon grass. She did all this out of simple generosity and out of an inborn Indonesian appreciation of beauty and color.

Sundari even found a rare night blooming cereus (known in Sabah as the "bunga rajah") and tended it carefully on my front porch as it grew taller and taller. This flower has a reputation for blooming only once every few---is it seven?--- years. The large, single white blossom opens only during the night, and it wilts completely before next daylight. It is a charm to have these plants bloom in one's presence. Our night blooming cereus blossomed shortly before I left Tawau at the end of 1965. We watched its progress from birth to death through the night.

But Sundari's generosity was not unlimited. A few days before I left Tawau, she took a parang and cut down every single plant she had placed around the house, including a large hibiscus bush. The pots vanished from the porch. I was surprised to see how plain the house looked absent her handiwork. She did not know who would be living there next, and she was not interested in having another person enjoy the floral beauty she had created. It was also her touching way of saying goodbye.

THE WILD MAN OF BORNEO AND TWO U. S. SENATORS

After a month back in the States, I returned to Sabah in February, 1966, as Associate Peace Corps Director.

The Peace Corps office in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) was the only U. S. government office in the state. The nearest American consulate was in Kuching, Sarawak, a couple of hours away. Therefore, Peace Corps staff in Sabah were called upon occasionally to carry out small assignments on behalf of the State Department that would have been delegated to some other element of the "country team" in any other country where the U. S. had diplomatic representation.

At the end of 1966, we were asked to do the advance work and then host two U. S. senators who were coming to Sabah. They were senators Gale McGee (D-Wyoming) and Frank Moss (D-Utah). We greeted them when they arrived at the Jesselton airport aboard a U. S. Air Force MATS C- 121 Super Constellation. The interior of the aircraft was beautifully appointed with plush executive seating designed for congressional junkets such as this one. McGee, Moss, their wives, and a few staff members had just been to Hong Kong and Saigon on their way to Sabah, and the aft baggage compartment in the cabin of the plane was crammed full of boxes of booty from their earlier stopovers in the shopping havens.

We laid on a nice visit for the two senators. They met informally with a representative group of Peace Corps Volunteers in the lobby of the Borneo Hotel in Tanjung Aru. They paid courtesy calls on Sabah's Yang de Pertua Negara (head of state) and the chief minister.

But why had these two American pols come to Sabah, of all places? The answer lay in the fact that Senator McGee was an avid photographer. He had picked up fancy new camera equipment in Hong Kong. Shortly after the dignitaries arrived, the MATS pilot asked me whether it would be possible for Senator McGee to charter a helicopter. I replied that I would find out, and I asked what the purpose and destination of the helicopter flight would be. The MATS pilot responded somewhat hesitantly that Senator McGee wanted to go into the jungle to photograph the fabled "Wild Man of Borneo." It took me a while to convince the pilot that there was really no such person or tribe in Sabah in 1966, and the idea of a chopper flight into the ulu to photograph cannibalistic savages died shortly thereafter. A helicopter was not chartered. Instead, we took the entourage to a colorful native market in Papar, where Senator McGee delighted in trying out his new camera equipment.

The distinguished junketeers departed for their next stop, Jakarta. Later, I received a very complimentary thank-you letter from Ambassador James Bell in Kuala Lumpur. The embassy must have considered the visit a success. I hoped that Senator McGee had been convinced once and for all that the "Wild Man of Borneo" was really the "Mild Man of Borneo."

JESSELTON/KOTA KINABALU

Jesselton, the post-war capital city of Sabah, would not do as a proper Malay name after Merdeka in 1963. After Malaysia came into existence, Jesselton was renamed Kota Kinabalu in 1968. Situated on the west coast of Sabah and hugging the Crocker Range, "K.K." is a wonderful place. I had the good fortune to live there for more than two years, first in a home along Penampang Road. Later, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment in a house that I shared with a Chinese goldsmith, Tham Shin Hup, and his young family near the Radio Sabah headquarters.

I spent many weekends snorkeling with friends around the beautiful islands that lie a mile offshore in the South China Sea. Although there is a great deal I might say about my time in Kota Kinabalu, three brief sketches will do.

Snapshot #1

The Chinese constituted about 23% of the population of Sabah in 1960. Many of them had been born on the Chinese mainland and wound up in places like Sabah because of any number of historical events that made relocation advisable. One fact of Chinese history and culture that I witnessed in K. K. was the occasional sighting of an elderly woman with bound feet. Breaking the bones and then binding a young girl's feet tightly with cloth strips so that they would grow to no more than three or four inches during her lifetime was a sure symbol of gentility and high class, according to those who practiced this horrible deformation of the human body. The tiny feet were then placed in elaborately embroidered "lotus shoes." Walking was often difficult or impossible, accomplished painfully only with the aid of a cane in both hands. Hip and lower back disorders were common and debilitating results of the practice. Foot binding had begun about a thousand years ago and had been outlawed only at the end of the last Chinese dynasty in 1911. (It continued to be practiced in rural areas of China until the 1930s, however.)

It would be insensitive to say that I count myself lucky to have seen some of these old women hobbling around on canes. What impresses me still, though, is that I witnessed firsthand a unique cultural practice that few Westerners have ever observed and which will, thankfully, be a thing of the past in only a few more years. Meanwhile, the two old ladies with bound feet and walking canes who sat on the high porch of their home along Penampang Road remain etched in my mind's eye.

Snapshot #2

Another group of refugees who stood out in K. K. were Sikh bank guards. They were posted as silent sentinels, invariably with huge double-barreled shotguns, at the entrances to most banks in K. K. They never said anything; they just sat there, formidable both because of their weaponry and because they were large, proud, powerfully built people.

My office was located on the third floor of the Chung Khiaw Bank Building, and the bank's Sikh guard was always there, crouching on the sidewalk, eyeing every passerby. As many times as I passed by him for more than two years, he never gave me more than a piercing stare.

Why were all the bank guards Sikhs? Why were they in K. K.? The answer, I learned, was that these natives of the Indian subcontinent had also been bank guards in China before Mao Jedong took power in 1949. So, with the mass exodus of Chinese Nationalists during the late 1940s, the Indian Sikhs living in China also saw the Communist handwriting on the wall and emigrated to places like Sabah, where they resumed working as fearsome bank guards.

Snapshot #3

The final K. K. sketch concerns the Nam Hing Restaurant. In the 1960s, it featured delicious and inexpensive Cantonese food. On Sunday mornings, it served steamed dim sum and was always crowded for those delicacies. Peace Corps Volunteers and staff members frequented the Nam Hing because it was close to the Peace Corps headquarters. The restaurant's owner put a large jar of fresh, homemade chili sauce on every table. It went great with steamed rice! I will never forget the gray-haired matriarch who sat at a side bench early every morning squeezing the juice out of hundreds of fresh limes into a bowl. After a couple of gallons of lime juice had been extracted, she combined it with salt, garlic and red chilies. The mixture was allowed to age in a refrigerator for a time and was then transferred to the bottles on patrons' tables. It was the most delicious chili sauce one could imagine; I've experienced nothing that tasty since. The Nam Hing's cooks also had a special recipe for preparing sweet and sour pork that gave it a unique taste and consistency.

When I walked into the Nam Hing in February, 1999 after an absence of more than thirty years, a few things had changed. Air conditioning had been added. (I do not think that qualifies as an "improvement.) The beautiful white marble that had graced the tabletops had been replaced by unattractive Formica. But, wonder of wonders, the jars of homemade chili sauce were still there, and the concoction was just as delicious as ever. Grandmother must have passed her recipe along before she went to her higher reward. And the sweet and sour pork? Its unique taste and crunch were unchanged.

I studied the towkay carefully for a while and concluded that, thirty years older, he was the same man who had supervised the restaurant when many of us had frequented it in the 1960s. He limped thirty years ago, and he limped now. He hovered over the cash drawer now just as he had then. He shouted his customers' orders back to the kitchen the same way.

I was in a time warp in 1999, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

BLOOD ON THE BITUMEN

Keningau was a quiet village and the government center for the Interior Residency of Sabah. There was only one road into and out of town. As I walked south along the left shoulder one day, I noticed huge, dried splotches of what could only be blood on the bitumen. A single spot might have been explainable, but there were many. What could account for large, round bloodstains on the surface of the road?

The answer became apparent as I approached the back end of a water buffalo being led along by its owner. Leeches were firmly dug into the tender tissue at the animal's backside and were engorging themselves with its blood. They became distended, reaching a length of five or six inches and the thickness of an adult's finger, and then they simply dropped or were swatted off that tender part of the water buffalo's anatomy onto the road surface. As the occasional Land Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser drove over the huge parasites, they burst like water balloons and left their telltale marks on the pavement.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sabah the land that was








I came to know of Sabah on August 2nd 1962, that was the year I was born. My initial years with Sabah were quite blurry.

As for the period before attending primary school, I could only remember the beautiful scenic view of Tanjuang Aru 1st, 2nd and 3 rd beach. The time when the beaches were freely access by those who could come.






There was no Beach Hotel, not sure if the skating ring was around at that time, but one thing is for sure the Tanjung Aru beach at that time was probably the most beautiful, clean and scenic. You could easily get shells or starfish on the shore. I guess during the time Pulau Gaya was still not infested by the PTIs.





In 1969, I began my school life at St Agnes Primary School. Though I could not remember how I went to that school. My elder brother who is 3 years older than me also went to the same school. My mother was illiterate and was working as Maid with an Urang Putih couple, whose husband was a pilot with MSA (Malaysia Singapore Airlines). Even my younger sister went ti the same school. The funny thing is that, we were staying in Tanjung Aru which is about 10 miles away from the school.


At that time, the only road to reach the school was via the old Tuaran road and the old KK Tanjung Aru road. The buses during that time were TUT (Tuaran United Transport) for KK-Tuaran, Luen Thung for KK/Sembulan/Tg Aru/Kepayan/Putatan and PUT (Penampang Union Transport) if memory serve me right.

During my primary school life my family move to quite an number of location, around KK. I completed my primary six in 1974 and manage to pass the Primary 6 exam with 66%. I was allocated La Salle in Tanjung Aru as my secondary school

One Tg Aru land mark that is gone for good is the Boon Pang Theater, which is now a church. Who could forget Hone Place padang, where all the defacto football field at that time or the soon to be forgotten Tang Aru Turf Club (lumba kuda) wher we could pock tri forecast..

To get to Tanjung Aru from KK, I had to take the bus, Luen Thung Transport (if memory serve me right) The bus stop at that time was in front of State Library before it move to where Centerpoint was. Yes Center Point was actually the bus terminal for all (TUT) Tuaran Road, (PUT) Penampang and (LTT) Tanjung Aru.

Tangung Aru Beach was the cleanest beach around and the scenery was breath taking unlike now where Tanjung Aru Beach is very commercialised. When I escape from class, I would walk to Tangjung Aru beach and loiter around until noon before taking the bas back to KK. I spend 5 years in La Salle completing my MCE in 1979 before I accidentally apply for ITM that time it was located in the building infront of the Federal House Sembulan, just beside PWD HQ.

But the point I would like to make is that, very minimal information with regards to the history of Sabah is available on the net. Our Sabah Bahasa for one is dying out......words like main bubut, lusir, alun alun, mangkali, indada ..... click here to read some of the
Bahasa Sabah . Even pictures of Sabah are very few.

If any of you have any picture or if there are words that is peculiar to just Sabah, post it here or email me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Malaysianised & Bumiputrnisation of PTIs






A Muslim specialty restauranter Mohd Kani Majid, 43, who has been held since April 20 at the Rumah Merah (Red House), the detention centre in Menggatal for illegal immigrants, is emerging as a test case of sorts for "Malaysians" stripped of their "citizenship" and earmarked for deportation to their "determined countries of origin".

Menggatal is in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu but within the city limits.Majid, who holds a "valid" MyKad and has voted thrice so far in the general elections, has lodged an application with the High Court in Kota Kinabalu for a revision of his Detention Order.

He listed himself in the application as a tax payer, contributor to the EPF (Employers Provident Fund) and is listed in the latest (2009) revised electoral rolls.He first registered as a voter in 1999, according to the application.His counsel, P. J. Perira and Ram Singh, have filed for a Certificate of Urgency for the case to be expedited given their client's continued detention.

Majid was arrested at his 24-hour restaurant, Kedai Kopi Jamiyah in Inanam, in the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu, by Malaysian Immigration authorities. Apparently, the arresting officers determined that he was in fact an Indian national and not a Malaysian as claimed.It is not known whether he was held during a campaign by the Immigration Department, a routine inspection or whether they were acting on a tip-off.

The restaurant has been in operation since 1999 with a valid licence issued by City Hall.Briefly, in filing for the revision, Majid wants the High Court to determine the "correctness, legality or propriety of the Immigration Department remand or continuing remand".

He claims that he's entitled to the MyKad that he's currently holding.Further, he argues that if the authorities believe his MyKad was obtained fraudulently, or through misrepresentation, then they should refer the matter to the Home Affairs Ministry under Article 27 of the Federal Constitution for a Notice of Enquiry to be held.
The National Registration Department (NRD), he points out, did not charge him under Section 25 (1)(e) of the National Registration Regulations 1990 for an alleged offence i.e. having a fake MyKad, or if it was a genuine MyKad, being in its possession when he was not entitled to have one.No charges preferred

The Immigration Department, which arrested him, did not charge with any offence either, continues Majid in his pleadings.Instead, he alleged, the Immigration Department "forced" him to apply for an Indian passport after seizing his Malaysian International Passport which is still valid.The authorities, he complains, had also failed to comply with Article 5(3) and (4) of the Federal Constitution and inform him or his family members officially of the grounds of his arrest.

The Revision has also been served on the Immigration Sabah Director, Immigration Department Deputy Public Prosecutor, senior Federal Counsel, and the Home Affairs Ministry's Legal Advisor in Putra Jaya, the Federal Administrative Centre.Records kept by Perira and Singh show that they wrote to the Home Affairs Ministry on July 27 on the detention of Majid. Copies of the letter were extended to the NRD Director General, Immigration Director General, MACC (Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission) Chairman and the Suhakam (Malaysian Human Rights Commission) Chairman.Only the NRD Director General replied, on July 29, saying that the matter would be referred to the NRD Sabah in Kota Kinabalu.

The lawyers wrote on Aug 7 to the Prime Minister to bring Majid's continued detention to his attention.Copes of the letter were extended to the NRD Director General, the Immigration Director General, the MACC Chairman and the Attorney General.Only the AG's Chambers responded on Aug 12 saying that they had forwarded the letter to the Home Affairs Legal Department.Earlier, on Aug 6, the lawyers wrote to the Immigration Sabah Director requesting for documents in regard to Majid's continued detention. opies of the letter were extended to the Immigration Director General, the NRD Director General and the AG's Chambers. There was no reply. On Aug 12, they wrote again to the Immigration Sabah Director with copies to the same parties.Again, there was no reply.

According to the facts of the case according to the lawyers, Majid arrived in Sabah from India in 1983 and worked as a restaurant helper in Papar along the west coast, an hour's drive south of Kota Kinabalu.

Ten years later, in 1993, he applied for a Malaysian identity card (IC) through the district NRD office under the IC Projek Pedalaman (Interior Division IC Project).It was not immediately clear what personal documents he used to apply for the Malaysian IC.

He claimed that some 100 other Indians and Pakistanis applied for the same document (IC) together with him.Majid claims that he obtained the IC through the NRD Papar sometime in 1993/94 and issued by the NRD in Kota Kinabalu.
It is not known whether the other 100 Indian and Pakistani applicants with him received Malaysian Identity Cards as well. Upon receipt of his Malaysian IC, Majid claims that he surrendered his Indian passport to the authorities.

It is not known to which authority.Majid claims that to satisfy himself that his Malaysian IC was genuine, he wrote to the NRD Sabah for verification of his document.He claims receiving a letter from the NRD dated Nov 4, 1994, informing him that his Malaysian IC was genuine.

He also claims to be in possession of a letter from the NRD Sabah bearing the signature of the then Deputy Director, Mohd Nasir Sungip. It is also not known what made Majid doubt the authenticity of his Malaysian IC although he claimed to have collected it from the NRD Papar.Less than a year later, Majid applied for and was issued a Malaysian International Passport on June 20, 1995.

Majid married an Indian citizen in 1997.She arrived on an Indian passport and has been staying in Sabah on a Visa under Section 11(10) of the Immigration Regulations 1963.The couple have three children. The eldest, 11, was born in India and holds a Dependant Pass. The other two children, aged 10 and 7, were born in Sabah.

Anti illegal immigration activists in Sabah are watching the Majid case closely.They recall that Indian restaurants in the state and their association had been in the news not so long ago for harbouring illegals and those with dubious Malaysian documents.



Reading from the above, now the children of Mohd Kani Majid would definitely be branded as "Melayu & Bumiputra"...................who is going to save Sabah......UMNO and All UMNOed BN, I think not.......
If you Sabahan do not stand up now, I think definitely the Ori Sabahan will be label as PTIs....




Saturday, September 12, 2009

LEST WE FORGET



Book blames peninsular politics for Sabah immigrant woes

Joe Fernandez

Aug 28

Book title: Lest We Forget Author : Dr Chong Eng Leong

This is a book which has long been in the writing considering that the writer, Dr Chong Eng Leong, filed an election petition back in 1999 alleging that there were phantom voters in the then Likas state constituency.

He had stood there as a PBS (Parti Bersatu Sabah) candidate and lost. Dr Chong, a leading general surgeon at the Sabah Medical Centre in Kota Kinabalu, had always been an activist against illegal immigration.

The writer won a landmark judgment that prompted the Election Commission to have the Election Act amended to the effect that once the Electoral Rolls have been gazetted, they are not challengeable in any court of law.

Better late than never, Dr Chong has marshaled an impressive array of facts and figures in this documentation of an explosive issue, illegal immigration, for posterity. It is feared that there will be "a reverse takeover" of the state one day by foreigners i.e. if it is not already happening. Suhakam (Malaysian Human Rights Commissioner) vice chairman Simon Sipaun touches on this fear in his foreword to the book. "It (the situation) appears to be out of control as clearly indicated in this book by Dr Chong Eng Leong," writes Sipaun, a former Sabah state secretary, who sympathises with the plight of the illegal immigrants as well. "We cannot blame the illegals.

However, the public is questioning the authorities for allowing illegal immigrants to enter Sabah so easily.""They are also questioning why and how these foreigners could easily become citizens through the backdoor." Population expands because of illegals

The year 1970 is the base year in the book. In that year, statistics put Sabah's population at some 648, 693 and that of neighbouring Sarawak at 976,269. By the year 2000, Sabah's 2,603,485 population had overtaken Sarawak's 2,012, 616. Given the advent of modern medicines, in the absence of economic and social progress, demographers tell us that population doubles naturally every 25 years.

It's the effects of economic and social progress that act as a damper once they set in as in Singapore, for example. Sabah's figures clearly don't jell unlike Sarawak's. The extraordinary increase in Sabah can only be attributed to illegal immigrants being counted as Malaysians, according to the book.

The population figures for Sabah today are variously put between 3.5 million and 4.5 million - some of the population floating all the time - using rice consumption as a guideline. Sarawak meanwhile hovers around 2.5 million.Dr Chong leaves no stone unturned to point fingers at former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the chief architect of a covert state within a state project to pad the electoral rolls in 30 state seats in Sabah with the names of illegal immigrants mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia but also including the Indian subcontinent.

The idea was to tip the balance just enough to carry it off sufficiently to put Umno in the seat of power in Kota Kinabalu. The ruling Umno had correctly anticipated that time was running out for the half-century old party in Peninsular Malaysia. It needed to look elsewhere to shore up its continued hold on power and cast its eyes across the South China Sea. Sabah was one answer. Sarawak could be the next excuse if the Opposition Alliance, Pakatan Rakyat, upsets the apple cart there in forthcoming state elections just as PBS did earlier in 1985. Such accusations are nothing new and have been made before. But what is interesting is that Mahathir has never commented on these allegations one way or other.

Get control at whatever cost Mahathir's name was first mentioned in court in 1992 but it was not until the Likas petition that he became synonymous with the problem of illegal immigrants holding MyKads who were being listed in the electoral rolls.
There is an extraordinary wealth of information in the book complete with names, dates, places and eyewitness reports.The mindset at work is demonstrated in Page 37, where the Commissioner of Police tells one Hassnar Ebrahim, an ex-ISA (Internal Security Act) detainee, to commit murders.

"Federal Government wants political control over Sabah at any cost, even to the extent of murdering innocent people to have a reason to declare emergency rule," the CP is quoted as saying by Hassnar. Pictures of the 1986 demonstrations and riots show police escorting the demonstrators, swarms of foreigners, who had also thronged the court when there was a bid to stop the state election.

Mahathir's continued silence should tell us all something of the warped sense of destiny of Malaysia's 4th Prime Minister. He remains smug in the knowledge that no one can set the wheels in motion to go after him.

The Sabah of today and Malaysia which lurches from crisis to crisis is the result of the misguided policies of the Mahathir years which rewrote the rules on national security.

Basically, this is a tale of abuse of power and an exercise in acts of absolute power. In that sense, it's merely an extension of the Peninsular Malaysian political theatre where a series of events were set in motion viz. a Lord President tried by a kangaroo court of his peers and dismissed from the Judiciary, a Deputy Prime Minister incarcerated on circumstantial evidence and heresy; the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, which provides for checks-and-balances, shunted aside by an Executive which was determined to reduce the other branches of government i.e. the Judiciary and the Legislature, to cringing subservience.

Sabah was child's play compared with Peninsular Malaysia which had formidable foes in the form of the Bar Council, the NGOs, PAS and DAP, among others.The amazing theme running through Lest We Forget is how easily the Federal Civil Service in Sabah caves in to the demands of their political masters and is willing to set aside internal systems of checks and balances to achieve a political goal.

That the Civil Service has been infiltrated by party politics over the last half century and heavily politicised is an open secret. Even so, it's surprising to discover the levels to which ordinary civil servants are willing to stoop to please their political masters. Subservience and lack of political will.

It is in this atmosphere of subservience and a cringing culture that Mahathir and others before him in Sabah have been able to make their identity card scams work. This message comes across clearly in this book which can only be considered a labour of love. The entire proceeds from the sale of the book would go to the Borneo Heritage Foundation.

In addition, the writer dug into his own pockets for the initial outlay for the printing costs.The book proposes various suggestions to overcome the menace of illegal immigration in Sabah. But the lack of political will remains a stumbling block.

At the heart of these proposals is the emphasis on the National Registration Department (NRD) in Sabah and the Immigration Department Sabah, among others, being headed by locals and not imports from Peninsular Malaysia. It is alleged that Peninsular Malaysians are mercenary and have no qualms about doing Sabah in if they are provided with the right mix of incentives.

Source : SAPP Blog



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lest We Forget - The Palace Coup

Sabahan this a part of Sabah History, though written by an outsider, it may never be taught in the classroom history book.........

A fine example of step childing or menganak tiriing of Sabah.......

The Palace Coup (Part 1)

Monday, 31 August 2009 10:55

By Hakim Joe

Many Malaysians may not know this but the Perak Fiasco this year is not the second constitutional crisis that has rocked Malaysia (after the UMNO crisis). In fact, UMNO’s deregistration as an association by the Registrar of Societies in 1987 was also not Malaysia’s first constitutional crisis but the second.

The dubious award of Malaysia’s first ever constitutional crisis was bestowed on the Sabahan State Government in 1985 when the Berjaya-appointee Sabahan Governor, Tun Haji Mohd Adnan Robert, despite stern objections from his advisors including the Sabah State Attorney Datuk Nicholas Fung and Sabah High Court judge, Justice Datuk Charles Ho, had decided to swear-in a minority coalition party leader as the Chief Minister of Sabah, a coalition that had won less state seats (22 seats combined) in the just completed State Elections than the victor (26 seats), an action that contravened the State Constitution and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.


So, what happened during the early dawn hours of 22 April 1985 that eventually propelled the State of Sabah into total chaos? An action by one single man in his capacity as the Governor? Or was he somehow “persuaded” (against all logical reasons) by Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong and the inaction of others present (except for Nicholas Fung and Charles Ho) to continue with the swearing-in ceremony? Before you continue reading, always keep this in mind. A Sultan or a State Governor can appoint a Menteri Besar or a Chief Minister but he cannot dismiss him after swearing him in. The appointed MB or CM can only be dismissed in the State Legislature by a vote of no-confidence, if he is convicted of a crime or if he dies in office.

Once again, let us start from the beginning.

Sabah held its state elections on 21 April 1985, a wide open contest between three political parties, namely Berjaya (BN component party and incumbent state government) led by CM Datuk Harris Mohd Salleh, USNO (previous BN component party and state government) led by Tun Datu Haji Mustapha Datu Harun, and the recently formed, months-old, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), led by Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan (former Berjaya Vice President).


By 11pm on Election Day, it was evident that Berjaya had lost the Sabah state elections. CM Harris had in fact lost his seat in his Tenom constituency. The only Berjaya candidates that survived the backlash were the Speaker of the State Assembly, Tan Sri Haji Sunoh Marso, two deputy ministers, Haji Malek Chua and Hiew Ming Kong, plus three others.

Celebrations were however held at the USNO camp. At almost 1am on 22 April 1985, when USNO and PBS had jointly won 25 seats (simple majority), USNO’s director of elections, Haji Karim Ghani called Pairin’s residence to implement the secret plan between USNO and PBS to form a coalition state government, a plan hatched between Pairin and Mustapha to unseat Berjaya prior to the elections. The telephone call was answered by Pairin’s PBS legal advisor, Datuk Herman Luping, who told Haji Karim that “he will get back to him after speaking to Pairin”, a call that was never returned as PBS continued to win one constituency after another. Treachery? Well, nobody said that politics was clean. The initial pact was made at a time when neither USNO nor PBS thought that their respective party could win the Sabahan elections alone.

It was not until later when the return call never came that Mustapha realized that Pairin had double-crossed him. Moral of the story so far - never trust your political opponents.

It was also then that the State Attorney General Datuk Haji Yusuf Rashid, mentioned to Datuk Haji Yahya Lampong that USNO’s 16 seats plus Berjaya’s 6 seats (a total of 22 seats) were sufficient to form the State Government, provided that the Governor grant the 6 nominated seats to them. (The Sabah Governor has the privilege to do so as the Sabahan Legislature consists of 48 contested seats and 6 nominated seats.)

A call (at 2am) was hastily made to the USNO camp for a meeting between the two leaders. At 2.30am, Karim called Datuk Haji Majid Khan (Berjaya’s elections director) to confirm the meeting at Tun Mustapha’s residence. Majid and Abdul Malek Chua arrived about 15 minutes later and were taken to meet Mustapha. In the meeting, Mustapha was skeptical about this “plan of action” that could unseat PBS but a subsequent telephone call from the Istana “inviting Tun Mustapha to take the oath of Sabah CM” banished all doubts from the USNO President’s mind.

Why did the Governor do it knowing very well that PBS had won 26 seats to Berjaya’s 6 seats and USNO’s 16 seats? Events soon unfolded that Harris had called the Governor after receiving the call from USNO at 2am, informing him that Berjaya has formed a coalition with USNO and that their combined total of 22 seats plus the 6 nominated seats (by the Governor) constitutes a simple majority win in the 54-seat Sabah Assembly. It was then that instructions were given to Adnan’s ADC, Haji Mandalam Marziman, to prepare for the swearing-in ceremony in the wee hours of the night (or is it day?). It was also then that Madalam received a call from the PBS legal advisor, Datuk Herman Luping, as to whom he would need to contact to organize the formal swearing-in ceremony for Pairin as the CM of Sabah.

Mandalam then proceeded to contact the Governor’s private secretary, Sukarti Wakiman, to inform him of Adnan’s decision and to contact the Protocol Officer, Ahmad Jalil, to prepare the arrangements for the ceremony. Ahmad Jalil was already at his office and called the Secretary to the Cabinet, Richard Ngui Thien Soong, to bring all the Instruments of Appointment and Oath of Office to the Istana. It was also then that Ahmad Jalil called Mustapha’s residence to inform him of Adnan’s decision and to invite him to the Istana. The time was almost 2.45am now. By then Harris had already dispatched Nicholas Fung and the State Secretary, Hamid Egoh, to the Istana to help out with the arrangements for the ceremony.

When Richard Ngui arrived at the Istana, he told Ahmad Jalil that the Instrument of Appointment and Oath of Office already had Datuk Harris’s name on it (optimistically never expecting Berjaya’s humiliating defeat) and that Jalil should just blanko off the Harris' name and retype Tun Mustapha’s name on it. It was now that the Sabah State Attorney Nicholas Fung pointed out to Adnan that PBS was the victor and that it was unconstitutional for Adnan to swear in Mustapha, to which the Governor interjected that he knew “what he was doing”.

By then, the guests were all arriving at the Istana and these included Mustapha, Yahya Lampong, Majid Khan, Malek Chua and the Commissioner of Police, Mohd Noor Khamis. When Nicholas Fung saw Yahya and Majid, he once again strongly reiterated that it was unconstitutional for Adnan to appoint Mustapha as the CM. It was then pointed out by Yahya that under Articles 6(3) and 10(2) of the State Constitution that Adnan has the discretion to appoint a member of the Assembly so long as he is satisfied that the member is likely to command the confidence of the majority of Assembly members. Nicholas Fung was not easily cowed and warned of the dire consequences if the swearing-in ceremony was permitted to go ahead, but to no avail. It was then that Adnan asked if Kuala Lumpur had been consulted of his decision to which Majid replied that Harris was trying to get in touch with Musa Hitam (the acting PM as Mahathir was in London). It was also then that Adnan asked if a judge was necessary to which High Court judge, Justice Charles Ho was immediately called up on the phone to attend the ceremony at the Istana.

Harris managed to contact acting PM, Musa Hitam at around 3.40am, and informed him of the Berjaya loss and the subsequent proposal to form a coalition party with USNO. Harris also told the acting PM that Adnan had decided to appoint Mustapha as the CM to which Musa said, “Datuk, give me a few hours.” Musa was of course naturally apprehensive over the events happening in Sabah as it might create a law and order situation of which the Federal Government had no intention of sticking their head into. After all, Musa might be the acting PM but he was the Home Minister. Pairin might not be able to contact Musa but he finally got through to the Federal Attorney General, Tan Sri Abu Talib of which he explained the situation. Abu Talib then advised Pairin to take legal action against Adnan if the latter had already sworn-in Mustapha because the Federal Attorney General and the Governor possess no power to dismiss the CM once he is sworn-in.


When Justice Charles Ho arrived at the Istana, he was briefed by Nicholas Fung and Hamid Egoh as of the situation to which the Judge told the Governor that it was unconstitutional, that the judiciary did not want to get involved in this illegal event and that who was willing to take the blame if there was any bloodshed? Charles Ho then proceeded to tell Tun Adnan that he wanted nothing to do with this decision and that he was going home. Nicholas Fung left with Charles Ho. Adnan told Hamid Egoh to proceed with the ceremony. It was almost 4am. Moral of story so far, listen to what your subordinates have to tell you.

It was about this time that Kota Kinabalu police chief, OCPD Supt. Victor Lim got a call on his walkie-talkie that Harris and Mustapha were present at the Istana for the swearing-in ceremony. He immediately alerted Pairin and Luping. Luping immediately tried to contact Sukarti at the Istana but was told by Mandalam that Sukarti was not available. Luping then drove to Hamid Egoh’s house but the latter was already at the Istana. It was then that Luping (and a group of PBS supporters) drove to the Istana but found themselves barred from entering. Pairin was kept informed of the worsening situation and he decided to call Musa Hitam, of which he failed to contact at his home. (Musa was in fact at Bukit Aman monitoring the Sabah situation.)

When Hamid Egoh was resting after the swearing-in ceremony, he received a call from Abu Talib, demanding to know what was happening in Sabah. After a lengthy argument, Hamid Egoh told Abu Talib that Mustapha had already been sworn in as the 7th CM of Sabah.

Pairin finally managed to contact his good friend, Musa at about 6.30am. Musa reassured Pairin that they were doing everything to defuse the tense situation and that the Federal Government had to uphold the system of parliamentary democracy and that they will respect the wishes of the people of Sabah. Pairin then instructed his legal team to prepare two letters to Adnan, the first emphasizing that PBS had won the elections and therefore the right to form the state government, and the second as a warning to Adnan that unless he dismisses Mustapha, legal action will be taken against him.


It was at about 9am that Pairin managed to contact Hamid Egoh at the State Secretariat. After properly lambasting the State Secretary for allowing the illegal swearing-in of Mustapha as the CM (probably left, right and centre), Pairin asked Hamid if he still had the power and authority as a State Secretary to set up a meeting with Adnan. Hamid immediately contacted Sukarti, instructing him to make an appointment for Pairin to meet with Adnan. 15 minutes later, Sukarti called Hamid to tell him that Adnan would see Pairin at noon. Hamid conveyed the news to Pairin, who immediately agreed.


Adnan however changed his mind and cancelled the meeting at the last minute. He got his personal secretary to inform Hamid Egoh that he was busy and tired and that Hamid should relay this news to Pairin. When Pairin heard about this snub, he had to move fast lest his supporters start a riot.


Adnan however had an early visitor in the form of KK OCPD, Supt Victor Lim who proceeded to hand over the two letters from Pairin’s legal advisors. This was the first time that Adnan heard (from Supt Victor Lim) that Kuala Lumpur was not pleased with his actions. It was also at this time that Herman Luping turned up at the Istana gates to seek an interview with the Governor with regards to Pairin’s swearing-in ceremony. Of course Adnan refused to see him and asked Supt Victor Lim to convey to Herman that they should deal with the “new” CM and not him.

Kota Kinabalu streets were now completely deserted after Mustapha had announced over the radio that the people of Sabah should not be apprehensive and unduly alarmed over his appointment as CM. Mustapha had also instructed the Press Secretary, Fauzi Patel, to draft a similar statement for Adnan’s private secretary, to be issued by the Istana confirming the Governor’s decision to appoint him as the CM. Fauzi Patel of course had to have this statement confirmed by Hamid but was told to clear it with Nicholas Fung. Nicholas, on the other hand, refused to have anything to do with it as he had no intentions of working for Mustapha and was planning to resign the position of the Sabah State Attorney. A further attempt by Hamid to send the draft to Fung through the Secretary of the Cabinet, Ngui, proved to be equally futile. Hamid was therefore left with no other choice but to vet the statement himself. He then asked Sukarti to forward a copy each to be forwarded to the Information Department, RTM and Bernama.


To highlight the incredulity of the people of Sabah, even the press division of the internal Information Department withheld the release of this statement. Department Head, Justine Miol had to personally go to see Hamid Egoh to confirm its authenticity as he could not believe what he had just read.

At about noon, RTM began relaying Musa’s statement on the Sabah Elections, “The Sabah Election is now over and the people have already made their choice. To the winners, I congratulate them. However, I would like to appeal to all parties, especially those who lost, to respect the wishes of the majority of the people. For we in the Federal Government will also continue to respect the wishes of the majority, based on the system of parliamentary democracy which we hold in high esteem…The Federal Government will continue to ensure that the security situation is under control. In this connection, I would like to remind any group planning to take action which could threaten the security that the Government would not hesitate to take firm actions against them.”

About an hour later, Musa came up with another statement, “I would also like to take this opportunity to explain the Barisan Nasional’s stand in connection with the developments in Sabah after the elections that have just ended…I would like to inform that at 3.40am yesterday, Datuk Harris Salleh had asked my permission that Berjaya under his leadership join USNO to form the new State Government of Sabah. I explained to Datuk Harris that I could not give him the permission as I have to consider…” Moral of the story so far, have high ranking pals in the Federal Government.


The shit had just (literally) hit the fan. This was the second indication (the first was from Supt Victor Lim to Adnan) that the Federal Government had not viewed favorably the turn of events at the Istana, but this was official while Supt Victor’s words were merely unconfirmed hearsay.

Adnan was jolted to the hilt when he heard the statements made by acting PM Datuk Musa Hitam. First was the threat by Musa to take firm actions against anyone who threatened the security of the State (which he did when he made Tun Mustapha the CM subverting the Constitution) and the second was Musa’s disassociation of BN from any actions partaken by the Governor and Berjaya after the elections (meaning that he would not be obtaining any help from Kuala Lumpur). The meeting that Pairin had so far failed to get (with him) suddenly gained prime importance. Hamid was contacted to immediately set up the meeting at 2.30pm “alone with Datuk Pairin”, insisted Adnan.

Despite conveying the message to Pairin that the Governor wanted to see him alone, ten full carloads of supporters (together with Nicholas Fung) accompanied Pairin to the Istana. Pairin arrived early at the Istana (2pm) and was immediately brought to meet Adnan. It was here, less then 24 hours before, that Mustapha was appointed and sworn-in as the new CM and it was here now that Adnan is conspiring with Pairin to bring about the revocation of the appointment (together with Nicholas Fung and Hamid Igoh). Abu Talib was contacted to give his advice and the Federal Attorney General reiterated that Mustapha cannot be dismissed (Kalong Ningkan case) but recommended them to talk to Mustapha urging him to resign on his own accord.


Herein lies the problem. How could they urge Mustapha to resign when they had appointed him less than 24 hours ago? Yacob Marican was fished in to assist and he recommended using Razak Rouse (USNO legal advisor) as the conduit because of the latter’s close friendship with Tun Mustapha. Razak was invited to join the group at the Istana but dreaded the responsibility once it was impressed upon him the full nature of the business at hand. Meanwhile, an official letter was drafted to Mustapha revoking (not dismissing) his position as the CM of Sabah. This letter was then handed to Sukarti, who gave it to Jalil to personally deliver it to Mustapha. Meanwhile preparations were made for the “second” swearing-in ceremony of the day.

This time, RTM and the State Information Department were called in to record the ceremony. There were only four guests at the ceremony (Hamid Egoh, Nicholas Fung, Victor Lim and Charles Ho). It was then that Justice Charles Ho contemplated the evident fact that Adnan’s decision to proceed with Pairin’s appointment as CM without first obtaining Mustapha’s resignation would complicate matters even more. RTM broadcasted the ceremony nationwide later in the evening. On Mahathir’s return to Malaysia, he openly backed what Musa had done to defuse the situation in Sabah.


While the uproar was still at the height of the controversial event, Pairin sprung another surprise by announcing that he had included 3 (out of the 6 nominated members) into his cabinet, namely Bernard Dompok, Nahalan Haji Damsal and Puan Ariah Tengku Ahmad to represent the Malay interests in the state. 3 Kadazans to represent the Malay interest (even though two of them were Muslims)? USNO in the meantime had beseeched Pairin to honor the election pact to form a coalition government but was told in the State Assembly (20 May 1985) that “PBS was perfectly capable of representing the Muslim interest and therefore a coalition with USNO would have served no purpose.” It was then that Yahya Lampong challenged Pairin’s position as CM stating the fact that as Mustapha had never resigned from that post after being appointed by Adnan and since Adnan did not have the power to dismiss Mustapha, Pairin’s subsequent appointment was ipso facto unconstitutional. This revelation shocked many PBS MPs as not all of them knew what really happened on the 22nd of April between the Governor and their party leader. Yahya proceeded to lead all USNO MPs out of the Assembly.

On 22 May 1985, USNO lawyers filed a writ at the KK High Court seeking to declare Tun Mustapha as the rightful CM of Sabah and that the revocation was unconstitutional, null and void; that the Governor’s appointment of Pairin was unconstitutional, null and void; that the Governor has acted unconstitutionally in appointing the State Cabinet; and that all acts and things done by Pairin in the capacity of CM were null and void.

Joseph Kurup (PBS Secretary-General) retorted by threatening to initiate procedures to dismiss all USNO members for their walkout in the May 20th Assembly session. The stakes are now well and truly raised. Whatever that had possessed Adnan to make the decision to appoint Mustapha took on a new dimension when a bomb exploded in the Segama complex the following day. The second bomb exploded on 29 May. This was to be the onset of a series of bombings in Sabah.


To offset the USNO writ, Pairin announced that the Legislative Assembly will meet on May 30th to pass a vote of confidence on his position as the CM. USNO countered this move by applying to the High Court on May 27th for an injunction to stop Pairin from proceeding with the session but to no avail as the application was rejected because the High Court was of the view that they did not have the jurisdiction to interfere with Assembly proceedings. (How much has changed leading to the Perak Fiasco.)


On May 30th, Pairin easily won the vote of confidence. Capitalizing on this victory, Pairin continued his attack on USNO, branding them as conspirators in a coup to snatch power from those who had legally won in the elections. Later, in his defense of the USNO writ, Pairin claimed that Mustapha had conspired with Harris to illegally install Mustapha as the CM and that their attempt to seize power by fraudulent means had been motivated by their desire to prevent the previous government’s financial and administrative misdeeds from being exposed.

On June 4th, the third bomb went off at Tanjong Aru, recording the first fatality. Moral of the story so far, get away from places where bombs are likely to be detonated and never compound one mistake with another (to cover the first one).


To preempt the hearing of the USNO writ, Pairin once again called an emergency session of the Assembly, this time to express its confidence in Adnan’s appointment of Pairin as the CM. USNO members once again boycotted this session as they deemed Pairin’s administration to be illegal and proceeded to lodge a police report to the effect that the vote of confidence constituted a contempt of the court. Here is where the shit really hit the fan. In moving the motion, Mark Koding (Pairin’s deputy) said that Adnan was forced and coerced to appoint Mustapha as the CM.


The court battle begins (to be continued).

Sources : Malaysia Today


The Palace Coup (Part 2)

Monday, 31 August 2009 20:33
By Hakim Joe

There is no such thing as either a “good” law or a “bad” law. As with all laws, they are required to be tabled and read in Parliament and it is these Parliamentarians (or lawmakers) that hold the key as to having the law to be approved, amended or repealed.

Read this part carefully as it was a precedent-setting case just like the Kalong Ningkan case. However, it can only be signified as a constitutional landmark “if the jurist act in accordance to the law of the land” and not misinterpret it to suit themselves (or their political masters) or the will of the people.

The fact remains that Pairin could have sought a vote of confidence in the Sabah legislative Assembly against Mustapha instead of insisting Adnan to swear him in as the CM. An error was already done when Adnan swore Mustapha in as the CM despite knowing the fact that the combined USNO-Berjaya seats were less than that of PBS. To swear Pairin in without first obtaining a resignation from Mustapha, and to revoke the initial appointment was in fact another error in judgment. There are no laws in Malaysia that allows for a Sultan or Governor to dismiss, discharge or revoke the status of a CM in office. Additionally, there are no laws that allow the Judiciary to interfere with the Legislative Assembly proceedings let alone either declare or dismiss a CM in office, and until the Perak Fiasco, these constitutional rights were treated as sacrosanct (well, maybe not in this case either…)

In the Mustapha/USNO writ against Pairin/Adnan, it is the contention that the initial appointment of Mustapha as the CM of Sabah by the Governor (Tun Adnan) supercedes all later appointments.


Additionally, a CM can only be ousted from the Assembly through a successful no-confidence vote against him at the State Assembly, and not through a dismissal or revocation by the Governor and since no such vote was ever held in the Sabah State Legislature and that the revocation order is null and void, it must therefore follow that Tun Mustapha is still the legally appointed CM of Sabah.

Pairin’s legal counsels (Luping and Puthucheary) argued that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to interfere with the Legislative Assembly proceedings and that the writ should be rejected because the issue at hand was not justiciable.

Additionally, the Sabah State Legislature had successfully held a vote of confidence on May 30th and that Pairin, as the leader of the winner in the state elections & duly being appointed as CM by the Governor, should not have to be answerable to this writ and the added fact that the initial appointment was made under duress after the Governor was coerced by Harris and Mustapha to appoint the latter as the CM.


The learned High Court Judge, Justice Datuk Tan Chiaw Tong, however found that the issue was not who had won the recent state elections or what went on in the Sabah State Legislature, but whether the initial appointment of Tun Mustapha was legal or not, henceforth making the matter judiciable in the determination of the rightful CM. Pairin/Adnan were then asked to prepare their defense.

Not agreeing with the High Court verdict, Pairin’s legal counsels appealed to the Supreme Court for final judgment. On 21 October 1985, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by Pairin and upheld Justice Tan’s ruling on the matter of jurisdiction.

Acting Lord President, Justice Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Omar together with Justice Tan Sri Hashim Yeop Sani and Justice Tan Sri Eusoffee Abdoolcader stated that the central issue of the matter was the validity of the initial appointment of Mustapha as CM, and since the appellants spoke of “duress and coercion” that had led to the appointment of Mustapha, “it is therefore imperative that the court examine the allegations in order to determine the lawfulness of the initial appointment and whether Tun Adnan was impaired as a result of exercising his discretion in making the appointment.”

The crafty Pairin while awaiting for the case to begin, once again called for an emergency session of the Assembly for the amending of the State Constitution, this time specifying the Governor’s powers on the appointment of a CM and to make these amendments effective on the 22 April 1985, so that through this device of constitutional amendment, Adnan’s dismissal of Mustapha and subsequent appointment of Pairin would ipso facto be legalized. Yet another amendment is to forbid assembly members from joining another political party with the consequences being their contested seat automatically falls vacant if they do. (DSAI should be able to learn a thing or two from this episode.) USNO’s response to these maneuvers was to apply to the KK High Court to restrain Adnan from assenting to any Bills passed by the Legislature until the court has decided on the issues raised in the writ.

To be able to amend the State Constitution, one requires a two-third majority voting for change (which is why it is so damned important that a government should not possess such a majority) and not a simple majority.

When Pairin initiated the amendments to the Sabah State Constitution, he only had 32 (26 plus 6) out of the 54 available votes which amounted to 59.2%. He in fact needed a minimum of 36 votes in his favor to be able to do anything, which he thought he obtained by enticing 5 USNO and Berjaya politicians to join PBS. (He would have 37 votes.)

On 28 October 1985, Tun Adnan’s invitation (parliamentary privilege) to speak at the Assembly kick started the Sabah State Legislature session. Pairin even had the cojones to ceremoniously hand over the prepared PBS text to him in the open. Mustapha (attending the Assembly for the first time since the elections) did not have to wait long to know its contents.

Adnan began by informing the Assembly that the people had made it amply clear as
to which particular political party they had preferred to form the State Government.
Then came the tirade which included the usage of terminologies like “evil forces” , “exploitation”, “disrespect”, “interference” and “manipulation”.

Adnan finished his “prepared” speech by confirming the appointment of Pairin as the CM and that he wants to “make it absolutely clear that” he “does not recognize any other as CM apart from Datuk Pairin.” Having delivered his speech, Adnan fled the stunned Assembly.

While Adnan was making his fast getaway through the exit doors, the Clerk of the Legislative Council, Francis Yap rushed to Pairin informing him that he did not have the two-thirds majority of votes he required to amend the State Constitution because he only had 35 (64.8%) votes and that Ghapur and Gatuk were absent.

Yap then advised Pairin to withdraw the Constitutional Amendment Bill which he consented to a doubly stunned Assembly. While this was all happening, Bernard Dompok rose to move yet another resolution, this time seeking disqualification of Mustapha, Yahya and Piting from their Assembly membership for being absent from three consecutive Assemblies without permission.

The Assembly was now triply stunned when the Speaker stopped Dompok from moving the resolution, stating that he had in fact given official leave of absence to the three USNO members. This Dompok and Pairin flatly refused to accept because it was claimed that it was the Speaker himself that has confirmed that the three USNO members had remained absent without permission. Moral of story so far, do not trust your political opponents, do not trust the frogs and do not trust (especially) your own party members.

If Pairin thought that he had enough worries for the day, he was sorely wrong. Adnan reached the Istana to find an injunction (from Mustapha)waiting for him, barring him from assenting to any Bill(s) passed by the Assembly.

If Pairin thought that he had enough worries for the month, he was sorely wrong. While he was in KL, USNO and Berjaya submitted four pre-signed resignation letters to the Speaker who immediately declared their seats vacant.

The four were Ahmad Baharom Titingan, Saman Ghulam, PK Lau and Othman Yassin, the same three USNO/Berjaya members that had crossed over to PBS (plus one who had promised to cross over.)

PBS quickly submitted an injunction to stop the by-elections but was rejected by the court even after the four had stated that they did not resign from office. (Different scenario from what finally eventuated in Perak.) The EC fast tracked this issue and by the time the by-elections were over, USNO had successfully retained two of the four vacancies. Berjaya lost the other two seats to PBS.

On 18 November, the Mustapha vs. Pairin case resumed in court. This time Pairin and Adnan were represented by Anthony Paul Lester QC, and new facts were added from the defense whereby Adnan had been subjected to undue outside influence when he appointed Mustapha as the CM (against his will) and that the Governor had feared for his life and those of his family members. (Wa-lan-nay! It’s good to have a good lawyer.)

Lester went on to state that Adnan had felt “extremely frightened and insecure” when he agreed to proceed with the ceremony and that the “Mustapha’s coup” was unprecedented in the history of Malaysia. Furthermore, Mustapha had pressured Adnan into misusing the Governor’s constitutional powers to appoint him as CM rather than Pairin. The defense counsel contended that Mustapha and Harris had usurped the constitutional powers vested in the Governor and had forced him to appoint Mustapha, against his wishes.

Adnan played his part well as the first witness called by the defense, making certain that the inviolable office of the Head of State was being adjudicated here. How could a judge say that the Governor is lying? The only conflicting statement Adnan made was the police report he made on the April 22nd incident and that was not tendered as evidence because the report was safely locked away in the Attorney-General’s office vault.

When Adnan was questioned by Kidwell QC (Mustapha’s legal counsel) as to why he had discussed the present case with Lester and Puthucheary (Pairin’s legal counsels) instead of the State Attorney, Adnan stated as a fact that Datuk Herman Luping was also present. This, Kidwell failed to grasp because the current State Attorney was Nicholas Fung and not Herman.

If Kidwell had done his homework, that would have been obvious and Adnan’s testimony would be left wide open for Kidwell to systematically demolish.

Furthermore, when questioning the security at the Istana, Adnan stated as a fact that he did not trust Mandalam (his ADC and security chief) 100% but sympathize with him and retained him due to Mandalam’s large family. Further questioning revealed that none of the security personnel were transferred since the elections and that Adnan had retained all of them to facilitate the court. (Before the case was over, Adnan was to transfer them all when they refused to back him up in his evidence.) Kidwell proceeded to tear apart Adnan’s testimony (of being frightened for his life), asking him why he did not inform the Police Commissioner who was at his house or his good friend (Avtar Singh) a former police officer who was also at that time in the house with him (as a family guest), or even Supt Victor Lim (KK OCPD) who visited him the next morning.

Adnan also claimed that after Nicholas Fung had left with Justice Ho, he did not utter the words “Let’s go. Let’s swear-in Tun Mustapha” which was contradicted by Hamid Egoh, who in his evidence claimed to have distinctly remembered Adnan inviting all those present to attend the ceremony using exactly those same words.

Lester was however up to it and began by asking Adnan what the exact procedure was in conjunction to the swearing-in ceremony of a new CM. Adnan replied that there should be witnesses to this ceremony and protocol demands that a Judge, the State Secretary and the State Attorney be present at the ceremony in the witnesses area, which in fact was unoccupied owing to the fact that the ceremony was “faked” to get rid of Harris, Mustapha and their “wild” supporters. Additionally, he did not wear any songkok to the ceremony attesting to his claim that the ceremony was a fake one.

Adnan also told the court that he was supposed to wear three songkoks and to read the “Doa Selamat” after the ceremony, which he did not.

Good rebuttal? Kidwell’s was even better and all he had to do was to show a videotape of Pairin’s swearing-in ceremony which showed that there were once again no witnesses at the area reserved for them (Hamid Egoh, Nicholas Fung, Victor Lim and Charles Ho were seated at the guests area) and that Adnan was not wearing a songkok, let alone three, and did not read the “Doa Selamat” after the ceremony.

Earlier Adnan had answered Kidwell’s questioning of the songkok by stating that as far as he can remember, he did wear a songkok at Pairin’s swearing-in ceremony.

Moral of the story so far, don’t lie in court. If you think that you are so clever that you can get away with a lie, remember that the blood-sucking no-good “sell their mother in a half a second” lawyers are far cleverer (and bloody sneaky and cunning to boot), especially those cocky Etonian-accented snobbish (but rich) English QCs.

Getting back to the story, it was therefore blatantly obvious (except to the blind) that Adnan’s concoction of what is suppose to pass as evidence was a flagrant fabrication put forward explicitly to give credence to his claim that the ceremony for Mustapha was a fake while that for Pairin was genuine.

On the question of duress, Adnan told the court that Yahya had given him a piece of paper threatening to remove him from “the face of the earth” if he did not go ahead with the ceremony to swear-in Mustapha. He persistently maintained that he had thus been placed in constant fear of USNO supporters intending to kill him. To this Kidwell (must be having fun) once again demolished Adnan’s testimony. (Lester must have been cringing every time Adnan opened his mouth.) The barrage of questioning got so bad that Adnan had to resort to “I don’t remember” and “I don’t know” to get through it. (Now we know who the “gua tak tahu(s)” learnt it from.)

To shorten it, Adnan had to admit that he did not fully understand what was written on the piece of paper and that if he did, he would have informed Justice Ho and Hamid Egoh about the threat as written on the paper.

When Adnan was questioned whether he obtained the “green light from KL” before or after Justice Charles Ho arrived and before or after he got the note from Yahya, Adnan confidently said that he asked about the green light only after receiving the note from Yahya.

Kidwell once again asked Adnan if he was certain about this, to which the answer was “Yes, I remember.” Kidwell proceeded to exhibit Adnan’s previous evidence and statement of defense whereby he attested that the piece of paper was given to him before Justice Ho’s arrival. Now, how was he going to tell Justice Ho (about the threat even if he understood it) when the jurist has not arrived? (in Semi-Value’s case, he would have uttered “Gua Tak Tahu”.)

When Adnan was asked about Datuk Musa’s broadcast, he vehemently denied hearing or reading a statement of it because he “did not know that there was a broadcast by Datuk Musa regarding the appointment of Tun Mustapha.” Even after Adnan’s counsel had intervened and conceded that Hamid Egoh did in fact pass a copy of the broadcast to Adnan, he stubbornly persisted in his delusions that he had not known anything about Musa’s statements.

However, as the evidence started to mount against him, Adnan finally admitted that he had seen the copy of the broadcast but had not been duly concerned of its contents.

From the court proceedings, it was painfully evident to everyone and anyone attending the trial that Adnan had perjured himself in court with contradictions (of himself) and of events that had happened. Could this one man be correct whilst the rest of the witnesses were all wrong? Well, someone believed him and that someone was High Court Justice Datuk Tan, and that was all that really mattered, stating in his judgment that, “At the outset, I would state that I find these (defense) witnesses to be entirely honest, impartial and independent witnesses, who gave their respective evidence clearly and honestly.

I accept them without any hesitation as witnesses of truth; and I accept their evidence. I have reached this conclusion from observing their demeanor in court while giving evidence, and after weighing their evidence against the rest of the evidence, particularly the evidence of the plaintiff’s witnesses Haji Mandalam bin Marziman, Constable Mohd Yunus bin Mohd Yasin and Constable Ali Hassan Muyong.” (What the…)

In other words, what the learned Judge was saying in his God-know-how-many-pages judgment is that he believed Tun Adnan 100% (regardless if he contradicted himself most of the time) and he believed the rest of the other witnesses (who contradicted Adnan) 0%. With this judgment (which was not released until April the 15th, 1986), Pairin was therefore the legal CM of Sabah. End of story. (Sounds like the Perak Fiasco case, right?)

Well, almost the end of the story. The moral of it all is what the Federal Government
wants, not what Adnan, Harris, Pairin, Mustapha or even Justice Tan wanted. Sure as Hell it didn’t care what the people wanted (even though it might have been exactly what the Sabahans wanted).

On 23 February 1986, when Pairin was in KL to attend the Rulers’ Conference, he was asked by the Press of his opinion with regards to the rumors that a few PBS politicians were intending to quit the party. So confident was he of his powers that he condescendingly brushed aside the matter as mere rumors and speculations.

On 24 February 1986, Francis Liong (Asst. Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries) announced that he and 5 other MPs (Haji Adut Sigoh, Thomas Anggan, Wences Lojinga, Bernard Chin and Ignatius Malanjum) were quitting PBS.

The 6 has earlier written to the Speaker asking him to ignore the pre-sign letters of resignation which might be submitted by PBS in the event that they quit the party.

The 10-month old PBS State Government is now left with only 22 elected MPs. (The initial 26 elected MPs were appended with 5 frogs from USNO/Berjaya making it 31 in total until the fateful day in the Assembly when Pairin had to withdraw his Constitutional Amendment Bill due to the fact that 2 of the 5 frogs went missing, and the by-election which they won 2 and lost 2.)

The crisis intensified when rumors surfaced that all the Chinese MPs might leave PBS to form their own party (Parti Cina Sabah). The PBS people were able to locate Wences and Haji Adut in KL and after some hard bargaining, was able to get them to withdraw their pledge to leave PBS.

That made the total 24 plus 6 in the 54 seat Assembly, too close for comfort considering the fact that Sabah politics revolves around these frogs. A few more jumpers and that would be the end for PBS.

(The former Pakatan state government of Perak should have learnt from Pairin.) His decision was to seek a new mandate from the people (before other PBS MPs could jump) and this he made certain of when he obtained an undated pre-signed (by Adnan) declaration of dissolution of the Legislative Assembly.

However, Adnan was still in KL so Pairin had to backdate it to the 24th (the day Adnan left KK for KL). Pairin immediately called a press conference at 5pm at his office and announced hat “rather than hang on to a weakened government under siege, the PBS has decided to go back to the people to get a clear mandate as to who should rule.

The Legislative Assembly is dissolved effective today (February 26th) although the
declaration was signed by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri on the February 24th.” It was also his chance to get rid of the turncoat Speaker. Abdul Salleh Ghapur (former Merotai MP) filed a writ on March 1st at the KK High Court seeking to declare that the dissolution was null and void in view of the outstanding Mustapha writ. He also sought an interim injunction against the EC from conducting a general election in Sabah.

The EC which met on 3rd March was only too obliging (for whatever reasons that they have) and cited administrative problems and a lack of funds (Ha! Ha!) to hold such an election at this juncture of time, henceforth deferring the decision (probably until they have received instructions from the Federal Government).

The newly formed PCS did not want to be left out and started their propaganda machinery. They announced that they will contest in 9 Chinese dominated constituencies at the polls.

Meanwhile everybody was holding their breath awaiting the High Court ruling, due on 12th March. Would the 12th March ruling be the end of the story? Not bloody likely! Look at it this way, if new elections were held, the Mustapha writ would have been inconsequential owing to the fact a new CM would emerge from the polls, regardless if it was Pairin, Mustapha, Harris, Bob the Builder or Optimus Prime.

One, Mustapha would be implicated in the “Palace Coup”. (Chinese idiom – “Water wash also not clean”) Two, Pairin would have been the undeclared victor as it was his dissolution (as CM) that would spark a new round of elections.

At 8am on the 12th of March 1986, a crowd was already building up at the KK High Court compound. Some estimate it at about 2,000 people (predominantly USNO supporters) awaiting the verdict in the hot sun.

The first bomb exploded at 8.45am behind the Public Finance building. 5 more explosions occurred almost simultaneously at the Segama Complex (again), the Central Market, the Sinsurun Complex, the Jalan Tugu Shell station and the Jalan Pantai Esso station. Then the panic started. Everyone started to leave the capital at the same time and causing a massive traffic jam. Just as everyone started to calm down a bit, the 7th bomb exploded at the Jalan Haji Yaakub petrol station at almost 10am. Once again the panic started in earnest.

Meanwhile, the crowd at the High Court compound soon realized that the court wasn’t about to hasten the court proceedings just to impress them, and finding nothing better to do (after the initial excitement of the bomb blasts), they began to march off to Mustapha’s residence (at Tanjong Aru) in a show of support for the USNO leader (which was pointless since Mustapha was in KL).

In Sandakan, almost 3,000 USNO supporters marched through the main street shouting out anti-government slogans. 21 persons were detained by the police. In Tawau, 18 shops were burnt down by arsonists which resulted in 2 deaths. In KL, Mahathir said that the PDRM would ensure the safety of the people and that the IGP was personally flying to Sabah to access the situation there.

In KK, USNO and Berjaya filed a petition to the PM, asking him to intervene and to help resolve the state’s political impasse. PBS appealed for calm and said that the situation was under control. Everything seemed normal approaching evening time.

The next morning, Muslims found painted crosses desecrating the walls of the State Mosque. The Muslim leaders urged the Federal Government to step in before the situation worsened. Over 1,000 Muslims gathered at the State Mosque to protest PBS’s violation of their mosque. Pairin denied that it was the work of PBS and put the blame on irresponsible elements. USNO started to put out a list of 15 reasons branding PBS as anti-Islam. (Here we go again…)

On March 17th, the KK High Court rejected Ghapur’s application. Some 5,000 USNO supporters who were gathered at the court began marching to the State Mosque. As with any large group of people, things soon got rowdy. The police arrested 77 and questioned over 1,000 people. 5 bombs rocked Sandakan the next day.

On March 19th, some 2,000 Muslim protestors marching to the State Mosque had their first confrontation with the police. After repeatedly warning the protestors to disperse (which they did not), the police fired teargas at them. The situation became chaotic when a group of protestors began to burn cars and a few warehouses located nearby.

This forced the riot police to charge them and they soon discovered the torches that were used to light the fires (amongst the demonstrators). When the arsonists and rioters began to flee, the riot police opened fire on them killing 6.

For the first time in Sabahan history, a dusk to dawn curfew was imposed as more and more police were called into the city to patrol the streets. The arriving IGP appealed to Mustapha to use his influence to call off the demonstrations.

The last demonstration was held on March 23rd, led by Harris, Hamid Mustapha (Tun Mustapha’s son) and other USNO members. They were however stopped by the police and were asked to disperse.

Once again the marchers refused this order and teargas was used on them. The police booked 322 people for illegal procession. USNO again petitioned the Federal
Government to intervene but Mahathir was not biting.

His famous words of BN swimming or sinking with Berjaya kept him from doing so and it was also these proud words that have kept him from approving PBS’s application to join BN.

Mustapha and USNO was also no friend of Mahathir. The Federal Government was going to intercede only on his terms, at a time of his choice and in a manner of his liking.

The next day, Mahathir finally came up with a “peace formula” and that is an ultimatum to PBS that they form a coalition party with Berjaya and USNO or face federal emergency rule.

Mahathir stayed in KK for only 6 hours before flying back to KL. Ghaffar Baba tagged along as the Chief Negotiator. USNO (16 seats) welcomed the “peace formula” as they would be part of the state government. Berjaya (3 seats only) welcomed the “peace formula” as they would be part of the state government. PBS (26 + 6 seats) was covertly against the “peace formula” as they would now have to share power with their political opponents, but overtly portray that they were “keen” on it as well for the sake of security.

Moral of story so far, never trust a politician. Mahathir then announced to the press that he was confident that the crisis in Sabah would be resolved in view of the general acceptance of the (his) formula by the three political parties. Mahathir also said that it was now merely a matter of sorting out the details between the three parties before a coalition government is announced.

He had in fact given the three party leaders a mere two days to set up the meeting. BTW, one of the proposals of this formula is that there will be no fresh elections (Pairin will have to withdraw the declaration of dissolution) and that the parties “maintain their respective number of representatives in the Assembly” and another proposal is for Mustapha to withdraw his writ from the KK High Court.

With the impending dateline in mind, the USNO and Berjaya leaders rushed to KL to set up a meeting with Ghaffar, hoping to iron out these details before the situation in Sabah worsen.

On D-Day, the PBS leader has yet to turn up at KL. Pairin instead sent his deputy, Mark Koding as the representative, pleading illness and that his doctors had ordered him to take a complete rest. Not surprisingly, Koding failed to meet up with Mahathir.

While Koding was in KL, the massive propaganda machinery of PBS started working. A signature campaign to reject the Peace Formula was soon started (not by PBS) by a group of people who called themselves “The Voice of the People of Sabah”. Not surprisingly, they were almost all PBS supporters.

Secondly, PBS has started their reelection committee and was actively campaigning. This delay in the negotiation process (Koding might be the rep but he had to clear everything with Pairin) paid off handsomely as the Federal Attorney General Abu Talib somehow managed to convince Mahathir that fresh elections in Sabah is mandatory after the declaration of dissolution has been signed and ratified as the onstitution does not provide for the CM or Governor to withdraw it once it has been officially declared.

Moreover, the KK High Court has ruled against an injunction to nullify the declaration of dissolution. So, while the leaders of both USNO and Berjaya were in KL, hoping that an accord can be established to form a coalition government, PBS was already ahead of the game. Even though Pairin had chosen to publicly embarrass
Mahathir, the PBS leader was not brave enough to think that he could get away with it and hence his trip to KL (this time his doctors failed to order him to take a rest) to meet Mahathir to discuss his counter proposals.

Naturally, Mahathir pointedly refused to see him. Pairin however managed to meet Ghaffar who accepted these counter proposals without discussing them. One of these
proposals is that PBS would only entertain the formation of a coalition government after fresh elections in Sabah has been conducted.

The question is why Pairin would only consider the formation of a coalition government after fresh elections and not before it. The answers are quite obvious. One, if a coalition government was formed without fresh elections, PBS’s representation would only number 26 (as the 6 appointed MPs would be neutralized). Two, Pairin could not get rid of the troublesome Speaker. Three, the majority of Sabahans were anti-USNO and anti-Berjaya after the bomb explosions and the violent demonstrations. Four, Adnan was on his side. Five, the KK OCPD, Supt Victor Lim was on his side. Six, the withdrawal of the writ would not clear him of any wrongdoings, and seven, he revealed a plot by USNO and Berjaya to oust him as CM and to topple the PBS government by producing a transcript of a telephone conversation between Majid Khan (Berjaya’s elections director) and Yaacob Marican (USNO legal team member).

Additionally, there were rumors circulating within the Sabah judiciary that Mustapha had lost his writ at the KK High Court. Pairin also knew for a fact (or was extremely confident) that all the Chinese and Kadazan seats were theirs. Their election strategy was hence centered on the Muslim-majority constituencies. When the EC belatedly announced on April 3rd that the Sabah state elections will be held on May 5th and 6th (subjected to the Mustapha writ), PBS was already well prepared for it.

Pairin can be considered a shrewd, wily, cunning and ruthless man but one cannot call him stupid. Maybe reckless, but never stupid. Far from it, Pairin matched Mahathir in all aspects even to the fact that he can publicly humiliate the PM and get away with it.

With the election date announced and with a strategic plan to make inroads into the Malay vote, Pairin knew that he would have to count heavily on the “sympathy votes” from the Muslim community as his pro-Kadazan stance would be detrimental in such a situation.

To garner sufficient votes to topple the USNO MPs in the Malay strongholds, he resorted once again to the politics of expediency, an anti-Federal Government stance (since USNO and Berjaya are portrayed as pro-Federal Govt). Thus Pairin announced on April 9th that PBS has decided to withdraw its application to join BN.

BN countered this move by revealing that the “Peace Formula” was in actuality part Pairin’s plan and it was the PBS leader that had suggested most of the major elements including the expansion (to 14) and composition of the State Cabinet, the inclusion of both PBS and USNO into BN, the use of the BN logo in the elections and the power sharing scheme of the proposed coalition government (PBS-28 seats, USNO-16 seats and Berjaya-4 seats).

Pairin denied it all and said that Ghaffar had in fact misunderstood him. On April 15, Justice Datuk Tan delivered his judgment confirming Pairin as the rightful CM. Justice Tan also lambasted those who were involved in the Mustapha swearing-in ceremony. Mustapha’s legal counsel, Kidwell QC was so disgusted with the judgment that he left Sabah the same evening.

Nomination Day on April 19th proved to be quite a day when USNO leader Mustapha and his protégé Yahya shocked their supporters by declaring that they would not contest the elections. This was the USNO strategy to wrestle the Chinese votes from PBS as both Mustapha and Yahya were hated by the Chinese people in Sabah.

Worse still, Mustapha flatly refused to campaign for USNO (he thought that his presence would inflame the Chinese). Rumors began circulating that Mustapha was in fact acting on KL orders as part of a grand strategy to topple PBS. Mustapha soon left Sabah on trips to Sydney and London purportedly seeking medical treatments.

Hamid tried in vain to convince his father to make token appearances. In fact Hamid have to leave Sabah chasing after his father (which was rather foolish) to convince him to return that he himself was missing from Sabah. Hamid himself did not even start to campaign in his own constituency until the final few days before Election Day.

USNO was so short of funds that the candidates had to forego “ceramahs” and instead go on a house-to-house campaign to secure the votes. Political funds contributions were far and few in between.

Berjaya was on a totally different tact. Their strategy was to “steal” their coalition partners’ (USNO, PCS and PMS) votes and appending them to their own votes and hoping that the accumulation would be sufficient to tackle the PBS candidates.

They henceforth went all out to promote their own candidates only. This double-dealing soon caused problems for their group of volunteers as USNO and Berjaya’s supporters and workers refused to cooperate and work with each other. Berjaya’s elections funds were also scarce as Sabahans refused to make donations to a party that was considered a loser.

Even the Federal Government did not contribute much to the party (everybody recognizes a loser).

PBS had no such problems. One, its war chest was filled to the brim and over flowing from donations by the Sabahan business community (everybody recognizes a winner).

Two, they were extremely confident of obtaining the majority of the urban votes and
three, because they were so confident in winning the 28 Chinese and Kadazan seats, these were left to the respective PBS candidates to do as they wish (and with more than sufficient funds to do it).

The top PBS hierarchy only concentrated their efforts on the remaining 20 Malay-majority pro-USNO constituencies. Berjaya had tried before and failed miserably, how was PBS capable then?

In a long term strategy initiated by PBS after Pairin was sworn-in, the party had begun (more than a year ago) to move non-Muslim voters into these areas by giving them low cost flats built here. Business districts were also established in these areas as part of their alleged campaign to appease and enrich the Muslims but were in fact to attract the Chinese businessmen to setup shop here and hence settling here as well. New housing projects were also concentrated in these areas.

In the diehard USNO areas, PBS fielded recently recruited well-known Malay candidates and former USNO frogs. In other “cannot win” areas, PBS fielded other “independent” Malay-Muslim candidates to split the vote. Moral of story so far, if you cannot win a contest, make it doubly hard for your opponents to win
it.

Furthermore, PBS started screening (and distributing) tapes of the recent Muslim demonstrations, the clashes with the police, the illegal processions, the effects of the bombings, the fires, and scenes of crowds outside the High Court chanting anti-PBS slogans.

The results? USNO’s strategy of not fielding Mustapha and Yahya backfired. Berjaya’s strategy of going alone backfired. PBS won 34 contested seats (almost 71%), USNO won 12 seats (from 16 in 1985), Berjaya won 1 seat (from 6 in 1985) and PCBS won 1 seat.

PBS was to win the following 1990 State elections (36 seats) and the 1994 State elections (25 seats) making them the first ever 4-term Sabahan state government.

However Mahathir got the last laugh as BN managed to wrestle (cheat?) the state government from PBS in 1994 after enticing enough of PBS MPs to crossover. Pairin lasted less than two weeks as CM before he resigned his position on the 17th of March 1994.


(The Perak Fiasco was therefore NOT THE FIRST TIME a democratically elected state government had lost power after a general election due to party hopping by dishonourable Assemblymen.)


Moral of story: “Go think about it!”

Source : Malaysia Today