Archive for August, 2008

Probably Nothing

Written by Jaxon S on Sunday, August 31st, 2008 in Borneo Blog.

But I’m quite happy that as of today, this blog is on #1 on Google and Yahoo for the keyword “Borneo Blog”.

Maybe it’s going to drop tomorrow, who knows, but it doesn’t really matter so long as Borneo Blog stays on page one of both search engines for the keyword.

Being in the #1 is probably nothing though. I don’t really know what to make of this.

Are You Passionate About The Heart Of Borneo?

Written by Jaxon S on Sunday, August 31st, 2008 in Borneo Environment.

… and has a Master’s degree in natural resource management, corporate social responsibility or related field?

Or preferably has private sector experience and a Master in Business Administration degree and a minimum of 5 years experience in corporate social responsibility, entrepreneurship and extractive extensive industry experience?

If you are, someone is hiring.

I’m not even close to qualifying for the job, which goes to show how formidable the task is to protect the Heart of Borneo.

The Philippine Claim On North Borneo

Written by Jaxon S on Thursday, August 28th, 2008 in Sabah Claim.

The article below first appeared in the Manila Times in May 1962, more than a year before Malaysia was formed. It is republished in The Mindanao Examiner on Wednesday, Aug 27.

It’s a long article, over 5,300 words. Only read it if you it matters to you.

The Philippine Claim to North Borneo: A Statement of Facts.
By Senator Jovito Salonga


There is ample justification, I believe, for the statement that emotionalism has beclouded and confused the North Borneo question. There are Filipinos who summarily adopt the my-country-right-or-wrong attitude; in specific terms, they tell us, “Let us have North Borneo by all means,” little realizing that by such a hasty, imprudent posture they render no little disservice to the very cause they propose to champion.

At the other end of the line are the faint-hearted souls who cherish a host of vague, nameless fears, and who have not stopped imagining the catastrophic, nuclear wars into which the Philippines would be drawn should it so much as attempt to press the claim to North Borneo, regardless of the merit or validity of such a claim. Responsible quarters confess to no little measure of amusement over the unrestrained enthusiasm, on the one hand, of home-grown nationalists in supporting claims — without adequate study of their validity — of sister countries in Asia over territories held by Western powers, and their unconcealed dread, on the other hand, in espousing a claim — without the slightest inquiry into its possible merit — over a portion of the globe’s surface which may belong as a matter of law and equity to Filipinos.


Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Is Fourth Richest King In The World

Written by Jaxon S on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 in Brunei.

Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, is the world’s fourth richest royal with a net worth of US$20 billion (RM66 billion), according to Forbes Magazines.

Brunei, a tiny sultanate sandwiched between Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island, has a population of about 400,000 people.

Forbes says the sultan’s wealth is based on oil and gas reserves, “…but with oil fields set to dry up in 10 years, production has been cut. He is currently battling with brother Prince Jefri over allegedly misappropriated assets; an arrest warrant was issued for Prince Jefri this summer when he reportedly failed to appear in a U.K. court to address charges.”

He was crowned 40 years ago and is Brunei’s 29th sultan in an unbroken 600-year-old Muslim dynasty and rules concurrently as its prime minister, defense minister, finance minister and head of religion. [Source]

The Top 10 richest royals are:

#01. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Age 80) (Thailand) (US$35 billion)

#02. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 60 (United Arab Emirates) (US$23 billion)

#03. King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, 84 (Saudi Arabia) (US$21 billion)

#04. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, 62 (Brunei) (US$20 billion)

#05. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 58 (Dubai) (US$18 billion)

#06. Prince Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein, 63 (Liechtenstein) (US$5 billion)

#07. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, 56 (Qatar) (US$2 billion)

#08. King Mohammed VI, 46 (Morocco) (US$1.5 billion)

#09. Prince Albert II, 50 (Monaco) (US$1.4 billion)

#10. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, 67 (Oman) (US$1.1 billion)

There you go. Brunei Boleh, Borneo Boleh!

By the way, do you know that the word Borneo originated from the word Brunei, which itself is the name of a tree, Bruni? More in this later…

Yong Teck Lee, Deputy Prime Minister Of Malaysia

Written by Jaxon S on Friday, August 22nd, 2008 in Borneo Politics.

If this was going to be true, the Malaysian Bornean state of Sabah would create a history by having its first deputy prime minister in the form of Yong Teck Lee.

According to a list of “upcoming Malaysian cabinet” released by God knows who, Yong would be one of the three deputy prime ministers and he would be in charge of Sabah and Sarawak. The prime minister is of course Anwar Ibrahim.

There was no deputy ministers yet in the line-up. Now compare that to the present Malaysian cabinet. Which one do you think is better?

Elusive Bornean Clouded Leopard Captured On Camera

Written by Jaxon S on Wednesday, August 20th, 2008 in Borneo Flora and Fauna, Borneo Wildlife.

Motion-sensitive cameras have captured images of a highly elusive Bornean Clouded Leopard in its natural habitat in Sebangau National Park in South Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo Island.

A team of researchers from Oxford University set up 22 remote cameras, of which one of them captured the Bornean Clouded Leopard, the smallest of the big cats.

BBC reported that the cat was first classified as a separate species in 2007 after genetic testing highlighted at least 40 differences from clouded leopards found on mainland Asia.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph quoted Dr Susan Cheyne, from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, as saying that, “These cats are extremely elusive and shy.”

“If they are surviving in an area that has had extensive disturbance from mankind and logging then it is very positive. As the level of disturbance in the park decreases then we hope they will do well.

“They also provide a good indicator of the health of the forest as cloud leopards are the largest predator in Borneo. If there was insufficient prey, they would not be able to survive.” [Source]

Bornean clouded leopards are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and there are thought to be around 10,000 of them left in the wild.

With long bodies and short limbs, clouded leopards are expert tree climbers. They feed on monkeys, birds and wild pigs.

They also have the largest canine teeth relative to their body size compared to any other cat.

Professor David MacDonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, said: “The Bornean clouded leopard is a top priority for our programme, and we are very excited by this evidence that they occur at Sebangau - a great deal remains to be discovered about these beautiful felids, which are a flagship for conservation in South East Asia.”

The team also captured pictures of endangered Orang-utans, gibbons, the mysterious Sun bear and other smaller cats such as the marbled cat and flat-headed cat.

“Some analysts are now saying that had Oplan Merdeka succeeded, it would have resulted in Sabah seceding from Malaysia, just like Singapore. Sabah could have formed its own independent state. And this development could have helped avoid, or at least mitigate, the problem in Mindanao.” [...]

Sabah, which when roughly translated means “the land beneath the winds,” was bequeathed to the Sultanate of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei as a reward for helping the latter in driving its enemies.” [...]

“It is understandable that Malaysia would prefer a Bangsamoro homeland to be set up in Mindanao rather than in Sabah. And the more the Filipino Muslims will be preoccupied with fighting in Min­danao, the more they will forget about the Sabah claim. [...]

“It is not even far-fetched to imagine that Malaysia is still supplying arms and logistics to the MILF while brokering a peaceful settlement between the rebels and the government.” [...]

Read the whole article, “The genesis of the Moro problem” from the Manila Times and decide for yourself what kind of analysis this man is trying to make.

When I was in primary school — or was it in Form One or Form Two? — I had learned from a geography lesson that Ghana was the world’s biggest cocoa producer. I said, “Wow”.

I had wanted to visit Ghana ever since because, according to villagers in Tandek, my birthplace in the northern part of Sabah, I could reach Gana in three days of trekking through the jungle.

It was only years later that I realised that Kampung Gana and Ghana were two different places. And it was not until 2004 that I finally managed to set foot in Kampung Gana, which is now a resettlement scheme for several hundreds hill tribe families.

Here is my story from that visit. Too bad I’ve lost all the pictures from that trip when the hard disk on my old computer conked out.

Kampung Gana - A Real-Life Strategy Game To Eradicate Poverty

KOTA MARUDU: “Sejak aku berkelana, tiada yang tahu, apa yang ku cari” (Ever since I’ve been wandering, I know not still, what is it that I am looking for), so goes the lyric of a dangdut song that wafts through the planks of a small wooden house in Kampung Gana, a remote resettlement scheme here.

The song by Indonesian dangdut singer Rhoma Irama grew louder as I approached the house on the southern edge of the scheme.

Closer inspection revealed that a portion of the house — the living room if it can be called one — has been turned into a sundry shop where a diminutive woman of 35 sells some basic goods. A crate of carbonated drinks lies half empty on the rack.

“People like to listen to this song. It suits the surrounding,” said the owner, Rondiwul Sogulai, who hails from Kampung Sonsogon Paliu, about two days walk from Kampung Gana.

She started the shop in 1999, two years after she moved into the scheme. “It is not so profitable but that’s all right as long as I don’t suffer losses,” she said.

Relocated after much persuasion

Like the 200 other families, who are either among the state’s poor or hardcore poor, she was relocated to Kampung Gana after much persuasion.

She had lived deep in the jungle in the northern part of the Crocker Range where the people used to wander the woods to hunt or gather its produce for daily subsistence.

Hundreds of others, who are still skeptical of what the scheme can do to change their life, are staying put in the jungle and continue to live in dispersed hinterland locations.

Those who did move had found a permanent home and wander the jungle no more but have they found what they were looking for?

Life almost the same

“Life is the same as far as I am concerned, only slightly better for the children because they can now go to school,” Rondiwul said.

She cannot read much for she has never been to one.

But she did manage to learn about money, the basic principle of buying in bulk at a certain price and selling at a friction higher, and of simple profit and loss calculation.

Strategy game

Those who are familiar with computer games will probably see how close this settlement comes to resembling an “empire-building” strategy game where a player needs to introduce an array of elements into a scenario to move a civilisation.

Among these elements are the creation of farms to feed the community, learning centres to enhance knowledge, marketplace, access roads for trade caravans to ply — all of which result in increasing their ability to utilise the resources around them.

These basic elements are already in place in Kampung Gana but they are still in bad shape, to say the least.

Coordinator of the Gana community forestry project Naan Ibrahim, 52, said that at the moment the economic activities among the villagers are still in the early trial-and-error stage.

“They plant some tapioca, corn and hill padi but only on a small scale…these are for subsistence only. They hardly have surplus to sell,” he said.

The 200 families who have so far agreed to move into the scheme are also constantly at the mercy of the weather.

“Rain is good for us because it gives us the water supply and waters our plants but it can also cut road links because rivers would become swollen and the road muddy and slippery,” Naan said.

Those who drive to Kampung Gana have to cross rivers, which is only possible during the dry season.

But this resolute man refuses to give in to the difficulties he faces in the scheme.

The guy from Tambunan who asked to be transferred back

“Actually, I was transferred from this village to my hometown in Tambunan in 2000 but two years later, I asked to be transferred back to Kampung Gana…I could not abandon these people, not when things are still in the process of settling down,” he said.

To enliven the spirit of the people, he has started a small orchard and hill padi plot at the front and back of his house “if only to show that there are things that we can do on our own to make life better”.

Ray of hope

The primary school, Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Gana, which has 245 pupils, is good though and looks similar to other primary schools near towns.

SK Gana headmaster Junick Umboh said the school started taking in pupils in 1999.

“At first there were problems because some of these pupils started their Year 1 at high age, say 10 years old. So after learning the basics, we quickly moved them to higher classes according to their age but they had trouble catching up with their studies,” he said.

But they were in high spirit to go on schooling and this, coupled with dedication from the teachers, might just be Kampung Gana’s best hope yet for the future, he said.

Still a lot needs to be done

On the scheme, he said there was still much that the government could do to make it a success.

“First, you have to facilitate easy movement of people by building good access roads which are passable irrespective of the weather. Then bring in telecommunication facilities so that you can communicate with the outside world,” he said.

In a way, the authorities in Sabah are playing a strategy game, a real-life one at that, with the ultimate aim of freeing the people from of the clutches of poverty.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Kota Marudu member of parliament Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, who visited the scheme recently, admitted that much still needed to be done there.

“We will ensure that what we have planned for this scheme will see a successful implementation,” he said.

Survey works for padi plots for each of the families had now been completed and so did the survey on the Kampung Talantang-Gana road, Ongkili said.

There was also a proposal to plant rubber and to turn Kampung Gana into the state’s main producer of organic vegetable.

“The Agriculture Department has conducted trials and found that this place is suitable to produce organic vegetables…plant anything and it will grow,” he said.

This resettlement scheme will be a test of the government’s determination to wipe out hardcore poverty — those with a household income of RM300 or less a month — by the year 2010.

In the meantime, residents like Rondiwul will have to make the best of whatever is available.

[This article was published in Bernama and several local newspapers in May 2004)

Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is currently in Sabah, the Malaysian state on Borneo Island.

He is in the state in conjunction with the annual memorial service for some 2,400 allied forces who died — either killed or too weak to walk and left to die — in the 250km forced march from the Sandakan prisoner of war camp to Ranau during the Second World War.

Downer attended the service in Sandakan on Friday and later joined some 40 Australians to retrace the footsteps of the POWs, covering the final 100km of the journey.

Downer and the group began trekking from 7am yesterday (Aug 16) and is expected to complete the march to the Kundasang War Memorial on Wednesday.

The Star reported that Downer was part of the McGuinness McDermott Foundation team, which aims to raise about RM8mil for cancer patients at the foundation’s Women and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide.

Downer, whose father was also a prisoner of war in Singapore, said his participation this time around was aimed at drawing more attention to the sacrifices of Australian soldiers.

“So many were killed, tortured and treated barbarically. We should remember that man has treated man in that way within living memory and that what has happened in the past should never be repeated.”

He said many Australian families had some ties with the war. His father, Sir Alexander Downer, Sr, was with the Australian army serving in the Malay peninsula. [Source]

The walk will be documented by a Channel 10 TV crew for viewing in Australia from November.

Kota Kinabalu City[Pix by Kota Kinabalu City Hall] Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah, is AirAsia’s most popular destination. The city by the sea beat 56 other destinations serviced by AirAsia, Asia’s biggest budget carrier. Kuching and Langkawi came second and third respectively, according to a survey conducted by the airline.

The airline’s inflight magazine, “Travel 3Sixty”, says the other seven most popular destinations in its top 10 list are Bangkok, Jakarta, Macau, Bali, Kota Baharu, Shenzen and Phuket.

The magazine based its findings on the number of passengers flying to each destination per month.

But the magazine should get its facts right

One complain though. The next time the magazine wants to publish articles about Sabah and Sarawak — the two Malaysian Bornean states — it could use some double-checking of facts to avoid making glaring factual errors.

Take for instance in the column about Kuching being the second most popular destination. Why did the writer urge tourists to visit the 56Okm Kinabatangan River Wildlife Sanctuary in that column?

First of all, no Kinabatangan river in Sarawak, let alone in Kuching.

And the 560km Kinabatangan River Wildlife Sanctuary is non-existent.

The sanctuary is located in the lower Kinabatangan area or also known as the Kinabatangan floodplain or in Malay, the Dataran banjir Kinabatangan, which is 27,000 hectares in size, not 560km long.

Kamurang jangan main-main, nanti itu Bung Moktar Radin kasi tunjuk dia punya sleigh of hands baru kamurang tau.

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