Sunday, 9 March 2014

Timeline of missing plane raises questions



Oil slick in sea between Vietnam and Malaysia may be first hint of vanished aircraft

KOTA KINABALU: As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 continues, uncertainty has crept in over the time the aircraft disappeared from the radar and how quickly the search began.

MAS has said that the plane with 227 passengers aboard, including two infants, and an all-Malaysian crew of 12, took off at 12.41am Malaysia time, and it disappeared from air traffic control radar in Subang at 2.40am.

That timeline suggests that the plane was in the air for two hours – long enough for it to fly not only across the Gulf of Thailand but also far north across Vietnam, aviation authorities note.

Flightradar 24, an online aircraft tracking service, said that the last radar contact had been at 1.19am, less than 40 minutes after the flight began.

The missing plane, a Boeing 777-200, is said to be equipped with a transponder that regularly transmitted its position, as calculated from the global positioning system of satellites.

The last recorded position of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was 150 kilometres northeast of Kuala Terengganu, Fredrik Lindahl, the chief executive of Flightradar24, wrote in an email to The New York Times.

That position is a little less than halfway across the entrance of the Gulf of Thailand from northern Malaysia and toward southernmost Vietnam.

A Malaysia Airlines spokesman said on Saturday evening that the last conversation between the flight crew and air traffic control in Malaysia had been around 1.30am, but he reiterated that the plane had not disappeared from air traffic control systems in Subang until 2.40am.

The New York Times report said with no new information about the missing plane, China’s civil aviation authority has urged the Malaysian government to be more forthcoming.

“The Civil Aviation Administration of China has urged the Malaysian civil aviation authority to clarify the situation of flight MH370 as quickly as possible, and to brief the Chinese side as quickly as possible,” it quoted a report by the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua which cited an unnamed Chinese aviation official.

“It also urged Malaysia Airlines to provide active assistance to families of passengers in accordance with the regulations in international civil aviation covenants.”

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam director, Lai Xuan Thanh, said a 20km-long oil slick spotted between Malaysia and Vietnam this afternoon may be from the missing aircraft.

“An AN26 aircraft of the Vietnam Navy has discovered an oil slick about 20 kilometres in the search area, which is suspected of being a crashed Boeing aircraft – we have announced that information to Singapore and Malaysia and we continue the search,” Lai was quoted as saying by The New York Times.

He said he did not know whether the slick was closer to the Malaysian or Vietnam side of the entrance to the Gulf of Thailand.

The report said the last coordinates automatically transmitted by the aircraft were from near the midpoint between the two countries.

The discovery came as an international team of rescuers from, among others, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, the United States, Singapore and the Philippines search for the Beijing-bound aircraft which vanished after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.41am.

“Vietnam has ordered airplanes and military ships to help in the search and rescue … the possibility of an accident is high,” Lai said,.

Lt Col Pham Hong Soi, the head of the propaganda department of the Vietnam Navy for the region near the crash site, said that one rescue vessel had already been ordered to sea and two more had been made ready for departure.

China Central Television said that according to Chinese air traffic control officials, the aircraft never entered Chinese airspace.

The passengers included 154 citizens from China or Taiwan, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans, as well as two citizens each from New Zealand, Ukraine and Canada and one each from Russia, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.

The airline said that it was notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew. Hundreds of family members gathered in rooms set aside for them at a Beijing hotel, and at least two medical personnel went in to monitor them, news reports said.

Boeing said in a statement that it was assembling a team of technical experts to advise the national authorities investigating the disappearance of the aircraft.

Speaking on the search and rescue efforts, Prime Minister Najib Razak said: ”Our thoughts and prayers are with those who are missing on flight MH370.

“An extensive search and rescue mission is underway. We are grateful for the support in this effort from around the world.

“Fifteen aircraft and nine ships are currently searching for the missing plane. Our priority now is to widen the search area and provide support to relatives of those missing.”

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Dompok won’t be allowed to fade away


UPKO to reward departing president with honorary title as party prepares for future without Dompok in charge - Borneo Insider

PENAMPANG: United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Oragnisation (Upko) is planning to appoint Bernard Dompok as the party’s Honorary President when he step down as president on March 21.
Deputy president Wilfred Madius Tangau, who will assumed the post of acting president on the same day, said he has made the proposal to the party’s supreme council as this will be the right to do for a leader who had served Upko well.
Speaking to the press after Dompok’s announcement that he was stepping down as president here today, Tangau pointed out that the departing president is only stepping down from his party leadership position.
“To me, he still be our top leader. Already, there are very sensible proposals, that the Supreme Council invoke Article 63 (i) and (ii) of our party constitution, and make him Upko Honorary President.”
“I for one will personally make the proposal when the Supreme Council next meets. It is only right to do so,” Tangau said. He explained Artilce 63(i) and (ii) of that the party provides for the appointment of an honorary president.
“Words cannot express how sad we all are that he is stepping down. I believe the majority of Upko leaders, what more the members, will find it tough to digest, if they can understand or believe it at all. Such reaction speaks volume about him as a person, but even more as Upko leader. “
“I also know that despite all his great achievements, he will continue to conquer new heights. His vision and work rate is second to none. And Upko will be with him all the way,” Tangau said.
Tangau said that as acting president he would continue Upko’s tradition of speaking up for the people of Sabah and he would work even harder than before, “to stay true north”.
“I never dreamt to be in this position. But if am given the responsibility, I will draw strength from the support of all the members. And especially the proven guiding hands of Dompok,” he said.
Dompok has meanwhile urged party members to rally behind Tangau, calling him the right person to lead the party into the future.
He said members must show the Tuaran MP the same support he enjoyed as he had all the ingredients required “to continue the work all of us have done together over the 20 years”.
The party’s founder diplomatically manoeuvred around questions about senior party leader, Ewon Ebin, who was not at the press conference at his Nabalu Puru Lodge near here that attended by party supreme council members.
Asked why Ebin was absent, Dompok said he understood that the former was busy with his ministerial duties in Kuala Lumpur.
But questions remain over how those who supported the Ranau MP in a bitter tussle for the party’s deputy president post last year will adjust to the new hierarchy in the party.
Tangau won the election by a razor thin margin and Ebin now has no position in the party though he is a Federal Minister.
Dompok said he saw positives in the party election last year as it was the first time was hotly-contested and showed that there was keen debate and diverging views which was healthy for the party.
The event, he said, could be viewed as a new learning curve for the party for a vigorous and healthy culture in party elections.
“The winner in any party election must be the party itself. I thank all party leaders for the maturity shown in the aftermath of the election. We have passed the test, Dompok said.
The departing UPKO leader also spoke of the party’s contribution to trying to find a solution to the perennial problem of illegal immigrant in Sabah which had been acknowledged by Prime Minister Najib Razak during his visit here last year.
He pointed out that Upko had highlighted the development needs of Sabah and the conspicuous imbalance between Sabah and the rest of the country in many aspects of national life, not only physical but economic, educational, and religious.
“We have to do so with courage, sometimes to the point of becoming irritants to our colleagues but these are realities of political life. There are instances when we need to be pragmatic. But at the end of the day, your compass must always be pointing true north. Otherwise you will never reach your destination,” Dompok said.
On his retirement plans, Dompok said he would remain active in the work of several non-governmental organisations as well as in Upko when necessary or appropriate. -BI

Monday, 3 March 2014

Dompok setting the stage to exit?


This articles is from Borneo Insider
His deputy Wilfred Tangau is taking on more of his boss’s responsibilities as the former federal minister takes a back seat on party matters.
KOTA KINABALU: All eyes are on Bernard Dompok, the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko) president, ever since he started delegating duties to the party’s second-in-command, Wilfred Tangau.
Will he step down as party president? Is he planning a career change? Is he disgusted with Barisan Nasional’s increasingly divisive brand of politics? What’s his next move?
Having lost in two general elections Dompok seems to be fighting a lonely battle to keep the party relevant and in the forefront of Sabahans demands for a more equitable federation.
It’s been a long hard struggle. First he lost his Moyog state seat in 1999 when he was Sabah Chief Minister and in last year’s general election, he was unseated by PKR’s Darrel Leiking from the Penampang parliamentary seat. He was then the  Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister.
mptuaran22Another blow to his leadership was when his choice of Tuaran MP Wilfred Madius Tangau join the Federal Cabinet went unheeded. Instead Ranau MP Ewon Ebin was made Science, Technology and Innovation Minister.
In the party election last year, Tangau then secretary general defeated Ebin for the deputy president’s post.
With Dompok’s eminent retirement, the focus is now on Tangau and whether there will be a leadership tussle in the party.
Dompok has already shown that he favours Tangau and delegated his powers to the Tuaran MP when he sent him to attend the Barisan Nasional supreme council meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
Tangau was accompanied by secretary general Donald Mojuntin to the meeting chaired by the national coalition chairman and Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“Transition plan appears to be on the cards … he has to leave at some point because what else is there for him to do,“ said a party insider. Dompok also visited Ranau, his old parliamentary constituency.
Upko will be holding meeting later this month were Dompok is expected to delegate powers again to Tangau to take charge the party. Dompok is said to be travelling to Taiwan to attend to some personal matters.
ewon08Speculation is also rife that eventually the party leadership under Tangau will push for another federal cabinet post or even replace Ebin should the Prime Minister reshuffled his cabinet. – BI

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Philippines protests Chinese water cannon attack

PH protests Chinese attack on fishers 

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez. AFP photo
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez. AFP photo

The Philippines on Tuesday lodged a strong protest against China over the  reported harassment of Filipino fishermen at the Panatag (Scarborough) shoal.
According the Manila Times, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned the charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Manila, but officials did not say how the meeting went.
The DFA said there were similar attacks in previous years against Filipino fishermen in the shoal, which the Philippines also calls Bajo de Masinloc.
Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista on Monday reported that the Chinese Coast Guard used water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen from the area on January 27.
Raul Hernandez, DFA spokesman, said at least nine similar incidents were recorded last year.
“There were certainly attempts to drive them [Filipino fishermen] away from the Bajo de Masinloc,” Hernandez told reporters.
However, the Philippines has not taken official action on those incidents.
The department considers the January 27 attack as an “escalation” of tensions in the area. It said the incident “further threatens the peace in the region [West Philippine Sea].”
“The department strongly protests the acts of harassment and the manner by which this is committed by China to forcefully drive away vessels from Bajo de Masinloc,” Hernandez said.
In the January 27 attack, one of three Chinese coastguard vessels fired water cannons at two Filipino fishing vessels, Hernandez said.
“The Chinese vessel continuously blew its horn and thereafter doused the fishing vessels using the water cannon for several minutes,” he said.
About 14 Filipino boats were fishing in the area at the time, he added.
“The department vehemently protests the acts of China when its law enforcement vessels drove away Philippine vessels seeking shelter on Bajo de Masinloc during inclement weather,” he said.
The official insisted the Philippines can exercise its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Panatag shoal.
He added that Filipino fishermen have the right to pursue their livelihood in the region.
For its part, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Monday maintained its jurisdiction and sovereignty over the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) based on its nine-dash line, the validity of which is being challenged by the Philippines before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
Panatag, a rocky outcrop just 200 miles away from Luzon, is considered a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos. But China claims the area even if it is 600 kilometers away from Hainan, the nearest major Chinese land mass.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd said he was not sure if the incident was meant to harass the local fishermen, citing “inconsistencies” in the reports that have reached him.
“We are not sure at this point in time if we can call it their standard operating
procedure. Kasi [Because] as of yesterday, we had fishermen inside the shoal—inside the shoal who are not being harassed nor intimidated by any entity,” he pointed out.
Nevertheless, he said the Philippines will send a diplomatic message to the mainland “to ask them to explain what this incident was all about.”
“I think it is proper for us to ask them exactly what this incident was all about, what their intentions are. And the DFA and the DND [Department of National Defense] after conferring and after getting the necessary proof, I’m sure, are already drafting the appropriate communications,” Aquino added.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes and is believed to sit atop lucrative deposits of natural resources.
Last year, Manila asked a United Nations arbitration tribunal to rule on the validity of China’s claim to most of the area, but Beijing has yet to participate in the process.


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Heads we win, tails you lose

Opposition-held constituency in Sabah struggles to attract development funds from a government; voters punished for exercising their right to pick their own representative
dr roland chiaKOTA KINABALU: The ugliness of Sabah politics is on display in the state constituency of Inanam. Infrastructure development in the scrappy little town in the suburbs of the city has come to a standstill and mutters of irritation can be heard less than a year since the elections.
Will it grow as time passes? The next general election is a long way off and barring an unforeseen event, time can only get tougher from the constituents’ point of view.
It’s been this way ever since the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost the mixed-community state seat to the opposition in last year’s general election.
In the neighbouring Karambunai constituency, by contrast, development funds are being shovelled in as fast as those running the show can consume it.
Holding voters to ransom if they do not kowtow to the government of the day, is a time-worn and threadbare method of voter enforcement that continues without so much as anyone questioning why is this happening in this day and age.
“We are all paying our taxes … we are contributing. How can they just hold up or “kasih putus (cut) development here,” asked Jinin, a resident of Inanam who has lived here since the 1950s when the town was just a row of wooden shops with a single-pump gas station in one corner.
“Look at the place now. It’s like there has been no planning since then.”
Jinin is referring to the chaotic development that was allowed to take place that has led to Inanam town losing its old charm after becoming increasingly congested, ugly and dirty with overflowing or clogged drains, leaking sewage pipes, broken pavements and litter, the curse of every Sabah town.
But it’s not just the town areas that are in need of development funds. The people in the kampongs have also been left out since since PBS lost the constituency to the opposition.
To be fair, development was not satisfactory even before when the ruling coalition was in control in the constituency, but the situation has become worse with the opposition PKR assemblyman Dr Roland Chia Ming Shen struggling to cope with even less help from the state government.
He’s concerned that his constituency is being sidelined simply to show the opposition is incapable of doing much and as a punishment for voters who dared to elect an opposition candidate to represent them in the state legislative assembly.
It’s not that Chia’s isn’t qualified to do job, but there’s little he can do if the government is adamant that his constituency does not get government funding for projects.
Since the general elections last year, has drifted into a state of development limbo. It’s too populated and important to be totally left out but neither is it in a position to compete for funds with the neighbouring constituency of Karambunai which is still in the BN fold.
Following its defeat in Inanam, PBS has backed away from the constituency to lick its wounds. It has shut down its division in constituency following a revolt and only its Community Development Officer, Sabin Guntilaban, has some say in development programmes.
“But just being a CDO, nothing much can be done,” said a Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) chairman.
The JKKK is a body that look after problems in their respective villages, reporting directly to the development office.
PBS has no one it can turn to since it sacked former assemblyman Jonny Goh for allegedly supporting the opposition during the election in protest of being dropped as the BN candidate.
On top of this, the government has yet to appoint a People’s Development Leader for Inanam and the other constituencies won by the opposition eventhough the other  BN-held state constituencies had their leaders’ named soon after the general election. Being politically-appointees, these leaders are assistants to assemblymen in their respective constituencies.
“I am the assemblymen but being in the opposition, the government does not allow me to appoint a people development leader or other government posts for the benefit of the people,” Chia told the Borneo Insider.
The PKR assemblyman, who has set up his service centre office at Taipan Inanam Town, said he receives no government allocation and the people understand this and his difficulties.
“I try my best to assist the people with the RM5,000 assemblyman monthly allowance. On other days, I voice out problems to the government and so far the relevant departments have been cooperative,” he said.
Lost in all this is the fact that the state government is generously doling out funds and allocations to its elected representatives from money collected through taxes from everyone, not just BN supporters.
If last year’s election is an indicator, the opposition gained the majority of votes in the country and hence are contributing the most in terms of taxes. - BI

Friday, 21 February 2014

Nowhere to hide


By Borneo Insider 21/2/2014

Recent census conducted at water villages in Sandakan is part of a comprehensive approach by ESSCOM to tackle the problem of illegal immigration to the state, says its boss.
Water_Village,_Sandakan_2KOTA KINABALU: Decades of an ‘open door’ policy which allowed hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to pour into Sabah from neighboring countries, has left authorities facing a mammoth task of locating, identifying and determining what they are doing.
A data gathering exercise at four Sandakan water villages – Mangkalinau, Cahaya Baru, Muhibbah, Good View/Forest – proved how massive the exercise is when government authorities found that the villages were mainly populated by foreigners.
“We want to know how many citizens and non-citizens are living there. For the non-citizens we need to know what kind of identification documents are they holding and why they are there,” said Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM), Director-General Mohammad Mentek, the man tasked with drawing up a kind of who’s who list and recommending what to do next.
Mentek said the recent exercise conducted by officials under his command was purely for information gathering and not an immigration raid.
His office is now sorting through various categories of identification documents and planning their next move.
mohammad-mentek-002“We need to check the identification documents they have, whether it’s genuine or not. Some are issued by Federal agencies, the State, UNHCR and others,” he said.
“Those illegals without any identification documents whatsoever will be handled by Immigration Department, Registration Department, Task Force and other relevant agencies.
“Those with no valid documents will be dealt with in accordance with the law. ESSCOM will assist these agencies in carrying out their duties,” he said in an email reply to Borneo Insider.
Calling it a ‘mopping up’ operation, Mentek explained is officials were merely conducting a census of occupants of houses that were left out because nobody was present when the earlier team did their count.
“There are 244 houses are involved, and the Statistics department had already completed the mopping up yesterday 18 /2/ 2014,” he said, adding that the additional data gathered would allow for a more accurate reading and analysis.
Despite finding a large number of illegal immigrants, no arrests were made because the census was purely a data gathering exercise, he said.
“We need to tackle this problem as a whole and provide for a long-lasting and effective solution. How can we know of the actual number of citizens and non-citizens in this area when people are scared, running away during the census?
“With the promise of no detention during the census, we were able to capture a wide array of information and reflect the scale of the problem,” he said.
He hoped the data would help the government plan what to do next such as the cost of resettlement and upgrading of infrastructure in case that was the only solution.
ESSCOM currently estimate is that there are over 126, 000 people living in water villagers in Sabah, however only a comprehensive census would give a more accurate figure.
According to the result of the current survey, ESSCOM discovered that more than 70% of the population of the water village of Mangkalinau were illegal immigrants and foreigners.
The census noted that some had moved in from other squatter areas, some were recent economic migrants from the neighboring countries.
“I expected this based on our census done in Simunol, Semporna earlier last year,” Mentek said.
ESSCOM, he said, had identified several important strategies to reduce the influx of the illegals in Sabah. One of them is the tightening of maritime border control.
Also being studied is a more coherent approach to the task of deterring illegal immigration.
Mentek also emphasised that the the success or failure of their efforts to control the entry of immigrants into the state would depend on the cooperation of general public and employers.
Property owners, he said, should not rent their premises or allow their land to be used by illegal immigrants to build their homes.
“Employers in the state must not hire illegal worker as it is against the law and would attract more illegals to come and stay in Sabah especially in the water village,” he said.
“Bilateral agreements and understanding with neighboring countries are also important,” he added.
The four day census operation was announced on February 14 by the ESSCOM and involved some 450 personel comprising government officials and students. The other enumerators are from the Statistics Department, Sandakan Municipal Council, police, and military, Health Department, National Registration Department and Immigration Department.
“Based on the 2010 statistics, there were 4,500 houses in the villages, which had 13,000 residents but the initial survey showed 5,000 houses with 18,000 residents,”said Mentek on the announcement day. - JJ

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sabah issue not Aquino’s agenda in Malaysia visit

Aquino18KOTA KINABALU: The Philippines’ highly sensitive Sabah territorial issue will not be taken up by President Benigno Aquino when he meets with Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak during his two-day state visit to Malaysia.
“Sabah was not part of the agenda,” Aquino told reporters yesterday during the inspection of Estero de San Miguel Micro Medium-Rise Building model unit for the displaced informal settler families in Sampaloc, Manila, The Philippine Star reported Wednesday.
Sabah is an island strip that Manila previously claimed as its own, but is disputed by Malaysia.
The late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers have claimed ownership but until now, the government is still weighing its options.
In October 2013 Aquino refused to divulge details, however, on what the government plans with regard to the “four options” he mentioned, where the only plausible avenue is for Kuala Lumpur’s compensation to Manila to be raised significantly.
The Malaysian government pays Manila an annual rental fee of at most P75,000 for the 30,000-square mile Sabah property, according to spokesman Abraham Idjirani of the Sulu Sultanate.
Aquino told the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines that talking about Sabah would only expose the “weaknesses and strengths” of the Philippine government’s position at a time when the country may considerably be negotiating with the other party.
“If I’m going to give a blueprint of how we want to handle this then that would produce a disadvantage for the country,” he said.
Aquino said he is optimistic the Sabah claim will be filed within his term provided “the study says that we have a strong case.”
Aquino also revealed there will be bilateral meetings between officials of the two Asian countries, and this will include peace, trade and commerce, among other issues.
He also expressed gratitude to Malaysia for helping facilitate the country’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), where a Bangsamoro Basic Law is now being drafted and will eventually be submitted to Congress for legislation.
Aquino’s state visit to Malaysia is upon the invitation of Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Najib was in Manila in October 2012 to witness the signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
A Palace insider said Aquino’s state visit to Malaysia is preferred by both sides before Najib is again invited to Manila, this time possibly for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF in March.
Malaysia serves as facilitator of the peace negotiations.
The government said the standoff in Lahad Datu, Sabah last year did not affect relations between the two countries as well as Kuala Lumpur’s commitment to help in the peace talks.
A group that called itself the Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo was sent by Kiram to Lahad Datu to assert the unresolved territorial claim of the Philippines on Eastern Sabah (formerly North Borneo).
Kiram and his followers claimed they were being excluded from the government’s peace and development plan in Mindanao

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Huguan Siou reigns but does not rule


The declaration by KDM Malaysia to enter the political fray as a Barisan Nasional component party puts another nail in the coffin of the KDM unity
peter-anthonyKOTA KINABALU: Another crack is beginning to appear in the so-called wall of unity surrounding the natives of Sabah with the emergence of a new political party loosely linked to Umno leaders.
That’s bad news for Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the PBS president and Huguan Siou (Paramount Leader) of the Kadazandusun community. Defiance of his leadership is spreading as he enters his final term in power.
The emergence of non-governmental organisation, Kadazan Dusun Murut Malaysia or KDM Malaysia, was always seen as a sign that not all was well in a community that had once united to oust the state Barisan Nasional government from power back in 1985.
The brainchild of John Ambrose, its founder, and current president Peter Anthony, the NGO’s arrival in 2012 was an anathema to the three established indigenous Kadazandusun and Murut community political parties – PBS, Upko and PBRS.
Why a new native community mouthpiece when there were already so many unless they were not satisfying the immediate needs of the people?
The reason, according to the Sabah political pundits, was the perception that the established parties were more concerned with themselves as political entities rather than helping the community.
Ambrose and Anthony themselves had a falling out and the latter took over the reins of power. Anthony’s close ties with certain Umno leaders place him in a good position to attract aid to the community via the NGO.
Though he failed to gain traction with the state BN, Anthony managed to gain an inside track on federally funded projects to organize community-based programmes like KDM Malaysia Idol with RM100,000 awaiting the winner of the show modeled on the famed American Idol programme.
It helped raise the profile of the NGO and their ambitions grew in tandem. But critics say that though the majority of the leadership are not politically tainted and as such are more acceptable, they also lack experience and are not in sync with the feelings of the people.
On Saturday night at the KDM Malaysia annual general meeting Anthony formalised the pledge to take the NGO to the next level become one of the Barisan Nasional component parties.
“KDM Malaysia is seen as a strong and vital force in determining the future of the indigenous people in Sabah. And I believe that we will have a stronger voice as a political party,” he told members.
Anthony, who retained the president post uncontested, said he would submit their application together with the resolution to the Registrar of Societies next month.
KDM Malaysia was formerly known as Umno KDM Task force until several quarters within the BN in Sabah complained of the existence of the entity even though Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had endorsed it.
It was registered with the ROS on Sept 8, 2011 and its immediate task then was to assist BN’s candidates in the 13th general elections.
The NGO has gained recognition by helping youths in the community obtain scholarships to pursue their studies in universities in the country.
Candidates have to apply for the educational fund through KDM Malaysia and a directive from the Education Ministry for candidates to send their applications through KDM Malaysia was considered a major achievement by the organisation.
“I am not aware of any other KDM-based organisation being given such trust from the government,” Anthony told Borneo Insider when contacted today.
However the response to KDM Malaysia’s move to become a political entity was cold. PBS secretary general Johnny Mositun who is Deputy Speaker of the Sabah Legislative Assembly said he was not a surprised given the past action of its leaders, especially Anthony.
Criticising the KDM Malaysia president, Mositun pointed out that the organisation had only been only masquerading as an NGO when its real objective was purely political motivated. He added that judging from its programmes so far, it was clear where they are heading.
Mositun said the party was aware that Anthony was always aiming to get into politics.
The cold reception from PBS is understandable given that Pairin is the head of the party and the Huguan Siou of the community. KDM Malaysia’s actions would be seen as an affront to the community’s leader.
Upko, headed by another heavyweight Kadazandusun leader, Bernard Dompok was more circumspect in its response. It’s national information chief Albert Bingkasan said the NGO had every right to chart their own future.
Movement for Change Sabah (APS) president Wilfred Bumburing was more blunt and commented that if the organisation was registered and accepted as a BN component, then it would imply the failure of the KDM based parties in BN in voicing the concerns of the people.
Sabah Umno assistant secretary Masidi Manjun, a Dusun, also tiptoed around the question saying Malaysia was a democratic country and everyone was free to take part in politics.
Opposition assemblymen Roland Chia (PKR-Inanam) and Edwin Bosi (DAP-Kepayan) dismissed the political ramifications and said the NGO had a right to transform into a political entity and contest in general elections. - BI

Tuesday, 18 February 2014



The State assemblyman says such calls however should be heeded by the country’s leaders as it signaled the desperation of the people in the Borneo states
KOTA KINABALU: The loud calls heard in Sabah and Sarawak to secede from Malaysia as mentioned by an academic recently should be seen as a cry of desperation over the erosion of their rights as well as mistreatment, a Sabah lawmaker said.
But Wilfred Bumburing, the state assemblyman for Tamparuli, said the idea of secession from Malaysia is not the best option nor is it a practical alternative for Sabah.
He pointed out that as long as the Philippines claim on a part of Sabah remained along with the large illegal immigrant population there would always be an “external threat” hanging over the state.
“The Sulus are now more bold to exert their claim. The moment Sabah is out of Malaysia she will fall into the hand of the Sulus,” the president of NGO Sabah Reform Movement (APS) said in a statement today.
He said that even though a large number of illegal immigrants in Sabah were given Malaysian citizenship, their loyalty to Malaysia remained questionable.
Bumburing believes the heirs to the so-called Sulu sultanate have a long term objective to realise the claim.
“This fact must not be forgotten by the people in Sabah as well as the government,” he said.
He was commenting on a statement by Monash University academician Professor James Chin at a forum on Sunday that a slim majority of East Malaysians wished to withdraw from the Federation of Malaysia.
Chin said that there was widespread frustration in the two states with regards to what they see as an erosion of their special rights and mistreatment by the Federal Government.
But Bumburing said the blame for this sentiment could be laid squarely at the feet of the Barisan Nasional coalition.
He said statements by some BN leaders asking those who opposed the Umno-led BN coalition to leave the country or to look for another country to live in could in its widest sense be interpreted as a call to secede.
He said that statements that Malaysia is only for the Malays also did not help as Malaysia was not made up of only Malays.
“These are irresponsible statements. Those people asking other people to leave Malaysia just because they oppose the government must be stopped using all relevant laws.”
The former BN MP said national reconciliation was necessary to stop the rot and leaders from both sides of the political divide should “seriously look into this in order to save our beloved Malaysia”.
“Malaysia was formed on the mutual agreement by the founding fathers for a country with everyone having equal rights and freedom. For the first few decades the people lived fairly happily together with great hope for a great country in the future.”
However ill-conceived, peninsula-centric policies and heavy-handed efforts to concentrate power in the hands of a few started backfiring and the results were seen in the 2013 general elections when the opposition made major inroads in what was considered the domain of the ruling coalition.
In Sabah and Sarawak too people started to question why they were continuing to lag in development compared to the Malayan states and why they did not have a fair return from the revenue collected from the exploitation of their natural resources especially oil.
Bumburing said Malaysia had always been portrayed as a moderate country but following the elections, the ugly head of racial and religious extremism began to emerge and had made the country a laughing stock of the international community.
To make it worse, he said, the lukewarm government response to the breakdown in race seemed to indicate that the right-wing, racist groups had the tacit support of the government.
“The onus is on the government. I believe, by and large the people of Sabah are loyal to Malaysia but are demanding a fair Malaysia where all citizens are equal and live in peace and harmony.”
Bumburing also said the key to the feeling of inequality could be dealt with if the agreement over the distribution of parliamentary seats between Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah was reinstated so that all had an equal say on Malaysia’s direction
“As long as there is no fairness there will never be happiness for the real bonafide Malaysians in Sabah,” said the former Tuaran MP who noted how the natives in Sabah had seen how a large number of new voters had started to enter the electoral rolls and displace them as a political force.
On the plan by a new NGO called KDM Malaysia to register as a political party, Bumburing said it was their right but there were more pertinent issues that ought to be addressed by the government such as the causes of the racial and religious tensions permeating the country.
He noted however that the move by the leaders of the NGO also signaled the failure of the KDM-based parties in the BN in voicing the concerns of the people or perhaps was another bid to further split the KDM community in order to pursue a “divide-and-rule” policy on Sabah. – BI

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Kadir: Stop playing Santa, Najib

 | February 15, 2014
Blogger Kadir Jasin says that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak may even risk losing his job if he does not stop bleeding the Treasury with his 'cash is king' approach.
PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak should stop playing Santa Clause or risk being booted out of office, said blogger Kadir Jasin.
In a blog post today, Kadir said that Najib must find a more sustainable way to help the poor as many Umno veterans he has met had voiced concerns on the prime minister’s ‘cash is king’ approach, which is bleeding the nation’s coffers.
“Najib has to acknowledge that things are not as rosy as being portrayed by the mainstream media. He has to stop lavishing scarce public funds on cash handouts and salary increases that do not contribute to productivity and sustainability,” said Kadir.
Since taking over as prime minister in 2009, Najib has introduced Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M), which is a RM500 yearly aid to those earning less than RM3,000 a month.
He had also offered a variety of cash aid to civil servants and other types of programmes, from time to time, prior to the 13th general election.
Kadir said that Najib should address growing unemployment rate among Malaysian youths, which is affecting the bumiputras and the Indian primarily.
“In the age bracket of 15 to 19, almost 25.7% of Indians, 15.6% of Malays, 18.9% of non-Malay bumiputeras and  9.9% of Chinese were unemployed in 2012.
“In the 20-24 age group, 14.1% of the jobless were Indians, 9.9% Malays, 13% non-Malay bumiputeras and 7.1% Chinese. This explains the disproportionate involvement of Indians in criminal activities,” he said.
Kadir also claimed that the income gap between Malays and the Chinese has widened since 2009, erasing whatever progress made in the past.
“And the rural households, the bedrock of Barisan Nasional, are worse off now than in 1957 when compared to the urban households. Umno must remember that almost all the 88 parliamentary seats it won last year are in the rural areas,” he said.
Kadir is a former editor in chief for New Straits Times Press and a staunch ally of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Pelauh: Sea Gypsies


This article is from

The Pelauh, the famed sea gypsies who have lived all their lives on boats, are finding their already tough lifestyles even harder as the world shuts them out, forcing them to beg to survive

LAHAD DATU: As dawn breaks, a group of Pelauh or Bajau Laut children, the sea nomads of South East Asia, living by the coast near Lahad Datu town wait to be asked to move from where they are.
“Jalan, jalan” (go away, go away) is the first thing they hear when the shopkeepers arrive to open their stores in the morning. It’s a routine the scruffy looking group aged between seven or eight years and their early teens are used to. With their oversized shirts and light coloured hair ranging from brown to blond they are easily identifiable.
As they saunter away into the back alleys of two rows of shops here, a few pull out plastic bags, the telltale sign of glue sniffing and saunter into the back alleys. Some, after disappearing for awhile, come back with plastic buckets or basins containing handfuls of small fish and shellfish which they attempt to hawk to those coming to the market. All keep a wary eye out for the council enforcement officers.
Widely perceived as scroungers and thieves, they are rarely made welcome. The sight of enforcement officers making their rounds makes them nervous and they quietly slip out of sight. But according to their elders, the children dare not steal for fear of bringing attention to the community and enraging their parents.
The glue-sniffing, some say, is to mask their hunger. Many spend their days on land and return to their small family boats at night, packed inside like sardines if its a large family. Their night’s rest also depends on the weather. Strong winds and rain means they will have to take refuge at shopfronts, sleeping on the five-foot-ways on pieces of cardboard until its safe to go back to their boats.
That’s been the drill for all for the few years they can remember because their parent’s nomadic lifestyle has doomed them to remain on the fringes of society.
Apart from begging, the children are usually seen digging through rubbish bins for scraps like aluminum cans and discarded odds and ends to add to their parents stockpile to be sold for a few ringgit to recycling centres. The monsoon season has forced most of the community to stay near shore and limited their catch and hunger can be seen in the children’s faces.
Occasionally they get a break from this terrible routine when members of the Society for Education of Underprivileged Children (PKPKM) conduct reading classes for them. Food and a bath is part of the welcome offering .

Looking ahead
Their future is bleak and their parents know it. But there may be a glimmer of hope after generations of self-effacing passivity by the community. Some of the elders in the usually reserved community are finding the courage to ask for help to fight off discrimination.
The trigger for this change in outlook comes from a combination of factors and chief among these is the increasing scrutiny the community has come under following the incursion and takeover of a remote village both of here by a group of armed Filipino militants last year.
At present, most make a living going through people’s rubbish. Every morning they set off before bins are collected and search for scrap metal, which they then sell for RM50 a kilogram.
“We are pleading with the government to grant us some form of documents that will allow us to work and earn a living,” Sitolonina, a spokesperson for a group within the community, told the Borneo Insider last week.
“We have been here for as long as we can remember and don’t see any reason why we should not be given these documents.”
She pulled out a British North Borneo currency note she said was given to her by her grandmother, as though it proved she is ‘local’. Her grandmother had told her to show this to anyone who asked about her status.
She said those in her community were desperate to work but were to scared to venture far from the sea as they could be stopped and questioned. But at the same time if they did not veure out to find work they were finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
“With work, we will be able to feed ourselves and make a living rather than like this begging for food around the town because no one dares to hire us to work,” she explained.
She said the local authorities had tried to get them to shift to Kunak, but when they had gone there they had nowhere to stay nor could they place their children in school.
But here her story raises questions about how the ‘government’ help was organised, coordinated and offered. While in Kunak, she said, her husband and others were asked to meet a local government representative and they were given RM500 “just for show”.
“The man who gave it to us then took it back. He said it was for show. My husband was puzzled. He asked his why and told him we are not actors but are really looking for help,” she said.
“So, we came back by ourselves here,” said Sitolonina as she showed a news report recounting the incident.
Despite the controversy, there was no official explanation of what transpired and why the transplanted community returned to Lahad Datu town.
Sitolonina says if they can get some form of documentation legalising their stay in Sabah they could try help themselves and gain access to basic facilities such as houses, mosque, school and other just like others without any middleman.
“No one seems to care for us and help us to apply. I am trying to do all the application myself … sometimes they’re people like you come and I ask them advice how to go on from here.”
The conundrum she is now facing is a typically bureaucratic one. She can’t submit her application without a guarantor. But who other than the government or someone in the closed community could act as one for people such as herself?
Hard life
Life has never been easy for the ‘Pelauh’ but it is even more desperate now. Unlike in the past when they could go into the jungle and caught down a tree or two to mend their boats, now they need to buy the wood but don’t have the money to do so. All they can now do is patch the boats as best as they can which makes it dangerous for them to go too far out to sea.
Other than fishing and sifting through garbage, members of the community also try to get employment. But getting proper work is difficult for a number of reasons. Though they say they would do any job they can find, potential employers lose interest as soon as they find out they do not have proper identification.
Sitolonina claims a cousin who ventured too far inland to find work was arrested as he had no identity papers. He is now at a detention centre for illegal immigrants in Tawau Tawau.
“He just went inland to find work as just living in a boat will not earn you money. That’s why he went and now he is in detention in Tawau.
“He is not (a) Philippines (citizen) but was arrested just because he doesn’t have a document. He doesn’t even know how to speak their language,” she said.
During the Kampung Tanduo incident, she said some of their people also got arrested because they were caught inside the restricted area.
“How can our people know about the restricted area? They don’t know anything about the law or weapons and even not dare kill animals. We just catch fish and try to earn a living.”

Education outlook
Many of the children would like to get an education, but face serious obstacles. They cannot enroll in schools because local authorities are reluctant to recognise them as residents. Without official residency, they are also not entitled to any social benefits.
Sitolonina hopes the government authorities will step in and start a programme to help their children learn to read and write and gain some religious knowledge which she believes is important for their wellbeing.
With an education, she hopes the children of the community can find work and a decent salary instead of frittering their lives away.
“If we have documents we can do that.
Asked how it feels to be treated as outcasts, Sitolonina shrugs: “Nothing. we’ve always lived like this.”
But she’s insistent they not be labelled criminal. “We are not thieves … we beg for money from people like you because we have no choice.”
Without residency documents the cycle of exploitation, nomadic wandering and poverty remains firmly in place. – JJ/CA

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sarawak to get a new Chief Minister

Taib’s friend to take over as Sarawak Chief Minister while one of the nation’s longest serving politicians takes over the Governorship of the state.

KUCHING: Adenan Satem is the man of the moment in Sarawak. He will be sworn in as the state’s new chief minister just over two weeks from now on Feb 28.
Adenan, 70, will take his oath of office before Yang di-Pertua Negeri Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng on the final day of his extended tenure as Governor.
On the same day, departing Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud will become the new Yang di-Pertua Negeri. He will be sworn-in before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Feb 28.
Taib, 78, handed over notice of his resignation to Salahuddin at the Astana Negeri this afternoon.
He also officially informed the Governor that Adenan would be the new chief minister.
Speaking to reporters after seeking an audience with the Governor, Taib explained that Adenan, currently Minister with Special Functions, has wide administrative experience.
“He is the right man for the job,” he said.
Taib said he will also resign from his Balingian state seat in March setting the stage for a by-election.
He said that leaders of the state Barisan Nasional component parties have backed Adenan’s elevation to the chief ministership.
“They have assured me they will give their full cooperation to him,” he said, adding that PBB leaders will also extend their cooperation to him.
“I have no doubt about their assurance,” he added, pointing out that those who gave the assurance are deputy president II Abang Johari Openg and senior vice president Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
Taib also gave an assurance to the people of Sarawak that the state is in the hands of capable leaders.
“There is no need to worry, ” he said, pointing out there would no change in the present policies and directions under Adenan.
He said that he had laid a solid foundation for the team under Adenan to follow.
“(Even) if there are changes of policies and directions, I don’t expect it to be drastic,” he added.
Rumours about Taib’s impending resignation as the chief minister began after Salahuddin’s term was extended in December by just three months to end on Feb 28.
Confirmation came during the PBB supreme council meeting last Saturday, with an announcement that Taib would step down as chief minister, the post which he has held for 33 years.
The supreme council also gave Taib a mandate to choose someone of his choice to be his successor.
Taib’s choice of Adenan is no surprise. They have been friends for decades. Adenan served as Taib’s political secretary when Taib was in the Federal Cabinet. He will be the fifth chief minister of the state since Sarawak united with Sabah, Malaya and Singapore in 1963 to form Malaysia.


Thank you to all visitors. While here I am also inviting all to visit
An accident along jungle track connecting several villages in rural Sabah has enraged villagers forced to trek for hours through mud and then cross a treacherous bridge to get to town:

mail22TENOM: It’s hard to comprehend that 50 years on, a jungle track that is almost impossible to pass in the rainy season, remains the main route connecting a group of villages in Kemabong in Tenom district.
For as long as they can remember villagers have been uncomplainingly using this dirt track to get in and of the area, taking their children to school, going to the hospital or simply stocking up on essential items available in Tenom.
Back in 1985, amid great excitement, a gravel road leading to the villages of Sumumbu and Kapulu was built by a logging company in 1985. After the logs were extracted, no further development was forthcoming.
mail44A crude and narrow log bridge, a few thin logs placed over a deep gully in ‘Camel Trophy’ style, the famous off-road competition, is the only way for vehicles to cross and the villagers, all mostly traditional farmers use the route daily to send their produce to Tenom.
Teachers at the two schools and students from the surrounding villages come close to getting a mud bath on rainy day and have to endure clouds of dust when the weather turns drier on their trips to and from school.
During the rainy season, the road is a nearly impassable quagmire of deep mud and makes the usually hour-long trip to Tenom town four hours of hell.
The horrendous condition was exposed when a villager complained that that residents in the area were facing problems getting to or out of the area after a four-wheel-drive vehicle tumbled off the bridge and into the gully badly injuring the driver and passenger.
KOLOROK44The accident on Feb 3 almost claimed the life of a 40-year-old teacher and his 10 year old son when they tried to cross the log-bridge.
The affected villagers have had enough and have demanded the government step in.
Lukap Ukui, 53, the chairman of the Sumumbu Umno branch, has been at the receiving end for ignoring their plight until now. But he says he is as disappointed that their many appeals to the government to upgrade their road had fallen on deaf ears.
Ukui wants the state Barisan Nasional government to act swiftly, but fears that their wishes may not be answered any time soon.
One of the problems is that the Sabah Forest Industries and Sabah Forestry Department, both state government’s agencies have refused to permit any effort to upgrade the road as it crosses the Rundum Forest Reserve.
With lack of enforcement, there are fears that illegal logging and poaching would become easier for many who are now only deterred by the poor travel conditions.
Residents of Kg Kolorok, another village in the district, are also complaining that their 60km road has never seen a `good day’ since its construction in the 1980s. It is impossible for vehicles to use the road during the rainy season.
Just last month farmer, Andingos Ukun, 28, took about four hours to make the crossing on his motorcycle when he had to send his infant son to the Tenom Hospital for treatment.
He said he spent most of the time pushing his motorcycle through sometimes knee-deep mud while his wife who was wife cradling their crying child in a homemade sling wrapped around her shoulders carefully picked her way through the mud.
“This is our life here … no one cares. We are not asking for the sky. We only want basic things like roads like any other village in the state. Why is no one listening?” Ukun asked. – AM

Monday, 29 April 2013

The incident that changed Sabah

FMT Staff
| April 28, 2013

Rebel priest, Benjamin Basintal, who stood up for social justice once blogged: 'Let us fix a collapsing Malaysia once and for all and let's begin now.'
KOTA KINABALU: Benjamin Basintal died last month. Few will remember that name unless they happened to live in Sabah in 1990.
It was perhaps typical that the daily newspapers with their jingoisms and fawning, sloppy journalism ignored the death of the former Catholic priest-turned-teacher from organ failure at the age of 59.
A bit odd because Benjamin, then a young priest, was the man at the centre of a curious event that was credited and blamed, depending on which side you are on, for the near landslide victory of the opposition Parti Bersatu Sabah government in the 1990 elections.
This was before the state was perversely opened to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, especially Muslims, who were swiftly granted citizenship in an alleged scheme to re-engineer the Christian-majority state into the Muslim one which it has since become.
On July 16, 1990, a feisty local tabloid, Borneo Mail, published an intriguing report on its front page immortally titled: ‘Priest missing – linked to secession plot?’. It appeared on the morning of the state election.
The paper, quoting reliable sources, reported that the priest was believed to have been detained under the ISA in connection with a plot to take Sabah out of Malaysia. It also reported that several other priests were being sought by police for questioning.
Syed Othman Syed Ali, the state police chief at the time, immediately ordered an investigation of the Borneo Mail and its journalists under both the Internal Security Act and the Printing Presses and Publications Act for the “inflammatory” nature of the report.
The article was written by then Borneo Mail chief editor Pung Chen Choon. He became the first journalist in the country to be charged under the Printing Presses and Publications Act which carries a penalty of three years jail or a fine of RM20,000 or both.
The case was heard in court over the following two years with several high-profile witnesses called and widely reported by both the local and national media. But then another strange thing happened; it fizzled out and was quietly shelved as though the outcome was too frightening to pursue.
Pung was defended by Chong Kah Kiat who went on to become Sabah chief minister. Chong was assisted by lawyers Richard Barnes, who is now linked to out-going Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman, and Gerard Math Lee Min. Current Attorney-General of Malaysia Abdul Gani Patail, then a Senior Federal Counsel, led the prosecution.
KL was paranoid
Some argue that while the Borneo Mail report was speculative it was not far from the truth. Many say that federal authorities were in a heightened state of paranoia about a plot to take Sabah out of Malaysia as they are aware that there has always been nationalistic undercurrents in the state in respect to the peninsula.
Benjamin’s family have always maintained that the former priest was indeed hounded and was being sought by the police along with others he associated with. Church authorities later acknowledged he had been forewarned to “go on leave”.
His elder brother Francis said in a recent interview that his brother was known to campaign for justice for the poor and forgotten and this had put him at odds with the authorities.
But what was he to do? He was a priest and he saw many of them (his parishioners) living in hardship and in distressing circumstance in kampungs in the interior of Sabah.
“Many of his parishioners and the people in the kampungs used to warn him that there were certain men in shiny black shoes asking questions about him.
“They were protective of him and told him not to drive his old and battered vehicle as it was well known to the men who came in Proton Iswara’s with Wilayah (peninsula) number plates.
“These people were going in and out of the kampungs and town in Membakut and Kg Bawan, chit chatting with the people and asking about my brother,” said Francis.
How he was allowed to leave Sabah without the authorities knowing, remains a mystery. According to his brother, Benjamin caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport and from there made his way to the United States after being told to take leave by his superiors in the church.
This was a period, it must be remembered, when Sabahans were defiant and proud about their independence and would denounce Malayan politicians as greedy and domineering. They were confident of their harmony and unity and ability to see off any challenge hurled at them.
The report in the Borneo Mail that Benjamin had gone missing relegated the Barisan Nasional to a footnote in the election and the Christian-dominated PBS emerged victorious much to the fury of then PBS-hating prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Umno-led BN coalition government in Kuala Lumpur.
Rare victory
Mahathir had himself only just survived a bitter political battle during the nasty campaign period against his former colleague Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and his Semangat 46 faction of Umno.
Though unsurprising, the slap-down delivered by voters in the state resulted in Mahathir unleashing a series of outrageous, ham-fisted measures that eventually brought Sabahans to their knees and toppled the PBS state government four years later.
But Benjamin’s fight for justice for his people was a rare victory for the opposition in a time known as Mahathir’s era. The people of Sabah along with those in Kelantan had shown that they were unafraid to say “enough” and “no” to bad governance and misrule.
Benjamin, a young man then, influenced by liberation theology and eager to promote equality along with other reform-minded individuals, encouraged his parishioners and others to question both state and national leaders and what they were delivering.
He was then the rector of a church in Beaufort, a quiet provincial town about 90 kilometres south of here. He was not reticent about speaking his mind, much to the discomfort of his superiors in the Catholic church as well as politicians who sought him out.
He continued to speak his mind after he returned from the US with a degree in journalism and political science. He left the priesthood shortly after and devoted himself to teaching till his death on March 3.
In the 2008 general election he stood as an independent candidate against the Barisan Nasional’s Anifah Aman in Kimanis after he saw that the younger brother of the chief minister Musa Aman was ineffectual in improving the quality of life of the people in his constituency. As expected, he lost, polling just 205 votes but still left his mark.
“Anifah was scared of his outspokenness. He felt threatened by Benjamin’s knowledge and grasp of issues. My brother would tell me he had been approached and told by people close to Anifah not to write or say such things,” said Francis.
In several musings made both in the newspapers and in blog postings Benjamin made in 2008, he spoke of the divisiveness and greed within his own community.
The majority of Kadazans, Dusuns, Muruts and Rungus (KDRM), he lamented in one posting, don’t feel they are united as one community. “Brother (is) fighting against brother. They see people who are greedy for positions to a point where they have to fight their own fellow brothers to get the social status and positions. ”
Pairin ‘motivated by greed’
He was also unabashed about criticising the community’s revered Huguan Siou Joseph Pairin Kitingan who he charged was not capable of leading anybody as he was “motivated by greed and positions … instead of being an agent and force of unity of the KDMR he is a destroyer of that unity and force”.
Benjamin urged his parishioners to free themselves and not be mere followers, saying: “Ducks are wonderful birds but I prefer the eagle as a symbol. Ducks are guided by sounds and influenced by immediate noises and tend to be followers most of the time. Be like the eagle. Be independent-minded, fly high and determine your own destiny.”
“If our actions do not promote justice and if we are not involved in changing the unjust system of society our work will be destitute of positive effects, that is, they are in vain and useless.
“This is the age of participation and the highest level of participation in transforming society is that of the promotion of social justice wherein the poor and oppressed are genuinely liberated from the cycle of economic and social poverty.”
The way Benjamin saw it, Sabah with its abundant natural resources on one side and many of its people abjectly poor on the other side was a gapping wound. The state’s wealth that could help lift them out of the poverty trap was instead paying for vanity projects elsewhere in Malaysia and this was an affront to him.
“Let us fix a collapsing Malaysia once and for all and let’s begin now,” he once said in a blog posting.
The first time Benjamin disappeared, he influenced an election. His passing may do just that again if only people pause to remember what he stood for – social justice