By Rahmat bin Haji Abdul Rahman
Tawau is situated on the southeast coast of Sabah. It takes about 10 hours from Kota Kinabalu City by road.
It used to be the gateway for illegal immigrants from Indonesia via Nunukan, Pulau Nyamuk and Sebatik.
To enter and exit Tawau town, every vehicle with passengers has to show their documents and identification before they are allowed to pass due to security surveillances.
Illegal immigrants from Indonesia used to enter Sabah illegally to obtain citizenships from the National Registration Department.
But quick actions taken by the Federal Government of Malaysia and Sabah in handling the repatriations of those illegal immigrants in 2002 in Sabah turned the image of Tawau to a less populated district.
During the era of the British North Borneo (Chartered) Company in the 1960s, Tawau was thickly covered by virgin tropical rainforest with many wild animals.
Today, the virgin tropical forest no longer exists in Tawau. Only the tallest tropical rainforest tree is seen from afar raising curiosity. A scientist from the United States of America had come to make the measurement.
Similar thing happened in other districts namely Kudat, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna, which underwent virgin tropical rainforest extinction.
In the 1930s, Tawau prospered rapidly due largely to its agricultural potential. The inhabitant population rose to 1,800 in 1931.
The Kuhara Rubber and Manila Hemp Estates and the Kubota Coconut Estates were the two largest plantations of the time.
Sandakan was the permanent seat of the government and centre of commerce. Tawau was a small but prosperous town.
In the 1960s, the huge lands of the virgin tropical rainforest were logged to make way for coconut trees for its copra.
Due to the unprofitable commodity, the lands were later planted with cocoa.
However, today the lands are planted with palm oil.
A town area was developed on the unfertile lands by the Chinese immigrants in 1898.
The ethnic Bulungan and Tawai who first lived in Tawau were poorer. The huge lands did not belong to them anymore.
The environment in the sub-urban area of Tawau is very unhygienic. The drainage system is in need of serious attention from the relevant government agencies.
Rubbish is thrown indiscriminately along the main roads of Tawau to Kampong Tanjong Batu Darat. One no longer sees crystal-clear water from the small streams and rivers in Tawau District.
The highest hill near Kampong Tanjong Batu Darat is half bald. Trees were cut half way leaving the residents to wonder aloud that, "These were the works of the contractors and politicians that destroyed the nature given by God." The project was ordered to be abandoned because residents complaint about the dusts blown downhill.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday