Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Unduk Ngadau beauty pageant: Huminodun’s legacy

Contestants for the Unduk Ngadau 2006 (click pic to enlarge).
Photos Copyright © 2006 New Sabah Times.


Few of the hundreds of tourists who come to visit the state during the month of May would have expected the throngs of beautiful Sabahan women, clad in clothing that resemble large pieces of beautifully complex jewellery. Pure black velvet adorned with intricate golden trim, exquisite beading, sparkling sequins and other stunning details comprise the gorgeous traditional costumes attributed to the contestants of the state’s largest annual cultural beauty pageant, the Unduk Ngadau.

The Unduk Ngadau is held initially on district levels, culling beauties from the farthest reaches of Sabah, and, to an extent, beyond, as representatives from the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan are also accepted. The winners of the district-level competitions then push through to the state level of the Unduk Ngadau, where they compete with the most intelligent and most attractive young women found throughout the state.

This year sees 45 young beauties vying for the much coveted position of Unduk Ngadau (loosely translated as the “Zenith of the Sun”), for an opportunity to stand as the year’s current earthly embodiment of the great Huminodun. This is the legend behind Kaamatan.

As the myth goes, a divine couple Kinoingan and Suminundu had a child, and it was a strong, beautiful girl that they named Huminodun. She grew up to be courageous, spirited, intelligent, and ultimately the perfect example of what a young woman should be. One day, it so happened that the crops were not growing very well in the fields of Sabah, and the people were starving. Kinoingan and Suminundu sadly decided to offer their daughter as a sacrifice, to save their people. Huminodun selflessly agreed to die for the sake of her community. When she died, seeds of all varieties seen in Sabah today, particularly rice, emitted from her body, giving the people of the state a new source of food and a chance at survival.

While the Unduk Ngadau does not count human sacrifice as one of its categories for picking the victor, it does look for certain qualities in its contestants, traits that round the young women out as leaders and excellent examples of their communities. Beauty, grace, courage, confidence and spiritual strength are all key to selecting the bearer of the Unduk Ngadau crown.

Last year’s queen, Madelyne Nandu of Penampang, only had wonderful things to say about her tenure as reigning Unduk Ngadau 2005. Her life, she says, was filled with visits for charitable causes (the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Children’s Ward, for example), her attendance at several important occasions such as openings and launches and of course requests for her presence at various events of Kadazandusun cultural significance. This is definitive proof of the fact that the competition is not simply about beauty or looks: it is an important phase in the life of the queen, a constant exercise in humility, compassion and having just a little bit of fun.

This year’s Bongawan representative, 19-year-old Berlinda Mailin, adds on to the aspect of personal improvement by pitching in just some of the things she has learned on her way through the district round: “The competition has had a great impact on my life. The experience is amazing. It’s the first time I’ve joined, but I’ve already learned so much about the language and the culture.” She also touts the competition as an excellent tourism resource, and believes that it should be mined for all its tourist-attracting potential. “The Unduk Ngadau is what makes Kaamatan so special. It makes the festival so interesting: all the colours, costumes, all the beautiful girls. Without the Unduk Ngadau, there is no Kaamatan,” she states strongly with all the fervour of a political candidate.

It is comforting to know, however, that the girls also participate in the competition for reasons more metaphysical. “I believe in the spirit of Huminodun,” says Tambunan’s Saldivilla Wences, a 24-year-old flight attendant for Saudi Arabian Airlines. “It actually motivates me to try my best to be beautiful, to be successful. I’m very inspired by the legend.”

The Unduk Ngadau is not simply a glorified show, where girls are prettied up and pampered before being sent out on an endless parade of flowers, where the lady with the loveliest locks and sunniest smile wins. It is a living, breathing entity, a hallmark of Kadazandusun culture and tradition. It represents the strength of the community, and its willingness to believe in the lasting power of legend.

Saldivilla Wences put it best when asked about her reasons for joining the competition. “We don’t come to win. We come to respect the spirit of Huminodun. We are inspired and challenged to live up to her great standards. We come to remember her for rescuing us from starvation. There is no point in coming only to win. If there is no belief in her spirit, then there is no Kaamatan."

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Brunei to fly AirAsia from July 11

By Azlan Othman

Following months of suspense, Air Asia, the leading and largest no frills airline in Asia, will finally spread its wings to Brunei.

In an interview, the no frill's airline Group CEO Dato Tony Fernandes, told the Bulletin yesterday that the first direct flight will touch down in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 11 and bookings are open from June 2.

"We have been given approval to operate one flight a day. The aircraft will depart from the low cost carrier terminal in Kuala Lumpur at 3pm and leave at 6pm from Brunei. We are very excited, at last," said Mr Fernandes.

Asked on the introductory fare, he said, they are looking at BND$39 during the booking period from June 2 to 30 using a Boeing. This is for travel from July 11.

The CEO said initially AirAsia will fly a Boeing but very soon will transfer to Airbus. "From June next year, all our flights will use Airbus. We now have six Airbuses and two will be delivered in July," he added.

Since September last year there were media reports on AirAsia beginning its daily flights to Brunei. Mr Fernandes said they were waiting for the regulatory approval.

"It is normal. Sometimes it takes a bit longer than expected for us to get landing rights. As a low cost business, many countries sometimes look at us in a different way. They also see benefits from us and that could be the cause. We are looking forward to the Brunei-Malaysian market and we are very excited," he added.

"We are always excited about new Asean destinations. Our whole aim is to unite Asean. Bringing Brunei as the seventh country in Asean means there are only two more Asean countries that we don't fly to namely Laos and Myanmar," said Mr Fernandes.

Mr Fernandes said flights would depart from the low cost carrier terminal just behind the satellite terminal of KLIA. There will be buses to the terminal from KL Central at the cost of RM$9. There are also inter-terminal bus links between KLIA main terminal and the satellite terminal.

The AirAsia CEO said his company was looking for office space in Brunei. "But we have about 12 travel agents selling our products in the country on top of Internet and phone bookings," he added.

"Many Malaysians want to come to Brunei. Just like any other destinations we go to, once we plan new flights, we bring a whole lot of new tourists," he said.

On future plans, he said, hopefully, we will start increasing our frequency (of flights) to Brunei and hope to operate two/three flights a day.

"We are also improving our connectivity, like from KL to other places. The other big news for us is we are opening hubs in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu and we will be flying inside East Malaysia where from Miri you can go to Kota Kinabalu, or between Sibu and KK as well as from Kuching to Brunei or from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei. We will also be bringing tourists from China, which Brunei Tourism can now handle," said Mr Fernandes.

We still have flights available from Labuan and Miri, which means Bruneians and Malaysians have a choice of three places, added the CEO.

On the possibility of flying to destinations like Thailand or Singapore from Brunei, he said, "Right now, we don't have the rights to do so unless we have the permission from the Brunei government to do that. Obviously, it has to be done by the Brunei national carrier. But we have flights from Miri to Johor Bahru from where they can connect to these destinations.

"Brunei has been a very special place to me, having been here many times. I received many letters from Bruneians and we kept promising that we will come to Brunei. We will have a big launch in Brunei," he said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dayak community in Sarawak to usher in Gayak Fest on June 1

By Magdalene Rogers

KUCHING - The ethnic Dayak community in Sarawak will again usher in the celebration of the end of the harvesting season or the Gawai Dayak come June 1.

Here, the local celebrants comprising the Ibans and Bidayuhs could be seen busy doing their last-minute shopping and preparing for their way back to their longhouses or villages that are situated typically in the outskirts of the city.

George Harri, 28, and his brother, Charles, 30, are amongst the hundreds of the community who would either drive their way back for the celebration or take the express buses or boats.

Harri, who works in a bank here, told the Bulletin here that the brothers would make it a point every year to join their other siblings and relatives back in their Bidayuh village of Quop, located some 10 km from here.

"It is somewhat tradition for us to do that as most of us, there are two other older sisters and their own families, barely have the time to go back to the kampung (village) as work takes up most of our time...," he said.

During the celebration, Harri said the entire family would hold an open house in their late grandad's 50-year-old house, which has so far been renovated and refurbished, for friends and relatives to visit.

"We will serve the usual lemang (glutinous rice) and so far, there is no one to do the tuak (or rice wine) so we got to make up for that with the more modern serving of beer and the soft drinks. There is, of course, plenty of curry and merry-making such as dancing till late or we have our own karaoke session," he said.

Meanwhile, the locals would have a Gawai Dayak public holiday on the eve and on the day itself and most are also already making plans to visit their Dayak friends, despite having to drive long-distance.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, May 29, 2006

MAS urged to reconsider Miri-KK route

By George Francis

MIRI - The Miri Chinese Chamber of Commerce and local tourism industry's key players have appealed to Malaysia Airline to reconsider scrapping the Miri-Kota Kinabalu domestic trunk route.

"Scrapping the sector from MAS domestic trunk route will have a big impact on the budding tourism industry in Miri," said Sim Hock Guan, chairman of MCCC.

He said Miri still needs full services between Kota Kinabalu and Miri, for tourists using Kota Kinabalu as a gateway to Sarawak, particularly in the northern region.

"As Miri is still without any direct international flight, it is critical for MAS to retain the route for tourists."

Sim, who did not belittle the role played by budget airline AirAsia, said however that it would be inconvenient for tourists if the Miri-Kota Kinabalu flight were pulled off of the MAS domestic trunk route.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Survey: Sipadan's damaged area at 372-sq metres

Kota Kinabalu: A survey assessing the damage on corals in Sipadan by a barge carrying construction materials revealed that the area affected was 372 square metres (3,984 square feet).

This was made available by the Director of Sabah Parks to the WWF-Malaysia's Vice President Emeritus Tengku Datuk Seri Zainal Adlin, who is also the Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board.

"The incident is most unfortunate and should not have happened. Although the damage is minimal, appropriate actions should be taken by relevant authorities against the contractor for unauthorised usage and encroachment of the barge into Sipadan," said Tengku Adlin.

He also expressed full support on the State Cabinet's decision to suspend all construction works on the island, which includes reviewing the scope and specifications of the basic facilities project.

Based on a WWF-Malaysia report published in 1993, the Sipadan reef area covers 208 hectares of the island. However, survey revealed that damages done on the reefs were less than one per cent.

Adlin said Sipadan reefs are healthy and that relatively healthy reefs can, by nature, recover rapidly when stressed or damaged.

A management plan based on sound science must be in place as soon as possible to overlook various activities on the island and its reefs.

Furthermore, an annual 'state of the reef' report to monitor corals and numbers of visitors in a year could aid the reef's assessment, highlighting management efforts and provide interested stakeholders with relevant information.

He said that managing the security aspects and biodiversity of Sipadan island are two completely different matters.

The island's security and biodiversity must be clearly delineated, said Tengku Adlin, adding that Sabah Parks needs a full mandate and proper management plan for the latter with full assistance by the Government, private sector and local community stakeholders.

WWF-Malaysia hoped that the management plan will be developed through participation and input from dive operators, divers and local communities as well as non-governmental organisations.

A transparent, participatory process will build more capacity amongst all stakeholders to help Sabah Parks manage Sipadan.

"Sipadan is a national treasure that is also highly valued by people all over the world. The minimal impact of the barge incident will probably not affect the exquisite diving on Sipadan," says WWF-Malaysia's National Programme Director, Dr Dinoysius Sharma.

Source: Daily Express

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sipadan Incident: Ministry to act against contractor for coral damage

KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment has been directed by the State Cabinet to take appropriate action against the contractor for damaging the corals at Sipadan Island.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman said Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat has briefed him and the Cabinet Ministers over the incident at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Musa who is also Finance Minister said Kah Kiat was asked to explain to the media what actually happened so that the people would know.

“He (Kah Kiat) has briefed the Cabinet Ministers based on the report by Sabah Parks. The Cabinet wanted a thorough explanation on the incident,” he told reporters after presenting scrolls to 297 newly trained teachers at the Gaya Teachers Training College convocation here yesterday.

Musa said he had also directed a review of the project’s scope of work on the island including disallowing the use of heavy materials.

“The incident was unfortunate and I don’t want it to recur,” he said.

“It should not have happened and now we leave it to the Tourism Minister to take the appropriate action,” he added.

Deputy Chief Minister Kah Kiat is also the Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister.

The Sipadan incident came to light when FiNS Magazine associate editors Andrew and Antonella Ferrari took pictures of the steel barge and damaged corals when they were diving in this world famous dive island about a week ago and posted them on the internet.

They said that in the process of being beached, the steel hull of the barge brought in by the contractor had wiped away corals like a giant knife slicing through butter, leaving in its wake hundreds of square metres of unnaturally flat limestone and a veritable wall of corals.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister said there had been no reports about Sabah teachers being unhappy with their posting to the peninsula.

He said Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun who was responsible to look after education in Sabah did not raise the matter during the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“If there is a problem, usually the Minister will bring it up for discussion,” he said.

He also said Sabah should have no problem sending teachers to serve in Peninsular Malaysia if there were adequate teachers from the state.

“There are a lot of teachers from West Malaysia serving in Sabah. So, I think it is a good idea to send our teachers over there if we have enough to enable them to improve knowledge and gain more exposure,” he said.

And, advising the young teachers to be prepared to teach in the peninsula, the Chief Minister said whatever problems they faced initially would be overcome once they got familiarised with their new workplace. – Paul Mu

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Sipadan Incident: Contractor Dishonest

Project was initiated by Sabah Parks following a directive from the
Joint Committee of Management and Supervisory of Sipadan in August last year


Project suspended pending review of scope of work

KOTA KINABALU: The contractor appointed to put up basic facilities on Pulau Sipadan has admitted damaging the corals at this world famous dive island.

Kumpulan Surati Sdn Bhd has apologised and will take full responsibility for the coral damage.

The company admitted that it was in the wrong after being summoned by Sabah Parks to explain why it had used a steel barge to bring building materials to the island when it was only allowed to use a boat (kumpit).

Speaking to reporters after briefing Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman and Cabinet Ministers at a post-Cabinet meeting here yesterday, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said the contractor was dishonest.

He said the contractor applied to Sabah Parks to use a 33-horsepower boat to transport building materials to the island and it was approved.

“But they instead used the barge without telling us,” he quipped.

FiNS Magazine associate editors Andrew and Antonella Ferrari took pictures of the steel barge and damaged corals when they were diving in Sipagan about a week ago and posted them on the Internet.

They said that in the process of being beached, the steel hull of the barge had wiped away corals like a giant knife slicing through butter, leaving in its wake hundreds of square metres of unnaturally flat limestone and a veritable wall of corals.

Kah Kiat who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said the damage to the corals was minimum and that the area affected was only 3,984 sq ft, contrary to what was reported by the international media.

A group of divers led by Sabah Parks’ deputy director Dr Jamilis Nais was at the island last week to assess the damage.

“The damage was not substantial as reported. It was only about 0.1 per cent of the 208-ha island which has 12 principal diving spots,” he said

But, he said damage has been done even though it was minimal and the contractor must be held responsible.

“And, they would be asked to pay for the work to clean up the damaged area to be undertaken by Sabah Parks,” he added.

According to Kah Kiat, Sabah Parks initiated the project to build toilets, resting place as well as proper sewerage and sanitation system on Sipadan in pursuant of an instruction by the Joint Committee of Management and Supervisory of Sipadan in August last year.

“It was not the State Finance Ministry’s project,” he said.

Last week, the Chief Minister had ordered a full probe on the Sipadan incident.

Kah Kiat also said the project on the island would be suspended pending a review of the scope of work as instructed by the Chief Minister .

“He also wanted to minimise the use of heavy materials,” Kah Kiat added.

Meanwhile, Kah Kiat said the Joint Committee which involved both the state and federal government would meet after June 7 to discuss the future of the island.

“I also had a meeting with the Chief Secretary to the Federal Government and Federal Attorney General in Kuala Lumpur recently regarding the island,” he said.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sipadan Incident: Sabah Parks get local support

KOTA KINABALU: Under fire over the damage of a section of the coral reef off Pulau Sipadan, Sabah Parks have received support from local dive operators.

In a statement posted on Saturday in online dive magazine Fins, the operators said: "The construction of permanent facilities represents a major ongoing financial commitment by Sabah Parks and the Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment to ensure adequate infrastructure to preserve Sipadan’s environment. We are grateful for this support."

An angry Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman had taken Sabah Parks to task for allowing a barge laden with construction material to dock at the island, damaging corals the size of at least two tennis courts. He has ordered a halt to all construction on the island and an investigation into the project.

Acknowledging that "error by the contractor" had led to the destruction of the corals, the dive operators said it was easy to be swept away by the "emotional impact of the moment", but the most constructive course of action was to concentrate on the future.

"We are collectively committing to working with local and national Government parties, who are currently conducting a damage assessment survey, to devise and implement a programme for rebuilding and restoring the affected area as soon as possible.

"No doubt this will take time, but this is our home, and also our business, so we have the biggest stake in ensuring a positive outcome."

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Hibiscus chosen as symbol of Visit Malaysia Year 2007

Logo of Visit Malaysia Year 2007

By Lyna Mohamad

Found in abundance throughout Malaysia and originally chosen as the national flower in 1960 by its first prime minister, Tunku Abd Rahman Putra Al-Haj, a stylised illustration of Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis has been selected as the logo for Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

The flower is selected due to its five petals which symbolise the five principles of nationhood in Malaysia while the red heart-shaped petal signifies Malaysians welcoming the world with open arms, which is further reinforced by the letter "M".

The logo which carries the slogan "Celebrating 50 years of Nationhood", the word "Malaysia" is written in freehand to conform with the overall design of existing "Malaysia Truly Asia" tagline while presenting a liberal nation and its accommodating population with the intention to portray the prevailing sense of casualness and lack of formality in the country that often impresses many visitors.

Representing the country's 50 years of independence while at the same time reinforcing Tourism Malaysia's existing corporate logo is the five dots of the stamen and the imagery also denotes Malaysia's rising prominence in the region as a modern nation and indicate hope and happiness.

The five petals of the VMY 2007 logo in different pastel colours - red, orange, yellow, blue and green - symbolise the vitality, openness and hospitality for which Malaysians are well known (red), warm, tropical holidays all year round (orange), constitutional monarchy, belief in God and the rule of law that contributes to the nation's socio-economic and political stability (yellow).

The blue meanwhile symbolises clear and friendly tropical skies, its rich, warm seas and endless hours of fun and recreation and green conveys their rich tropical, natural heritage, the million year-old rainforests and the vast biodiversity and ecosystems that they have to offer in abundance to the world.

Malaysia first had its VMY in 1990 and the following VMY was held in 1994. VMY 2007 aims to aggressively develop and market Malaysia as a major international tourist destination, further increase foreign tourists arrivals, encourage visitors to extend their stay and increase their spending while holidaying in the country, popularise and promote tourism-related activities, programmes and events showcasing the uniqueness of Malaysia as a tourist destination and to stimulate the growth of domestic tourism.

Among the highlights of events and festivals during the VMY 2007 include Floral Parade in Kuala Lumpur (January 2, 2007), Le Tour de Langkawi (February 2-11, 2007), Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix (March 16-18, 2007), Colours and Flavours of Malaysia Parade, Kuala Lumpur (July 7, 2007), Rainforest World Music festival, Sarawak (July 13-15, 2007), and the Merdeka Day Parade throughout Malaysia (August 31, 2007).

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sipadan incident: Dive operators show support to Sabah Parks

By Jaswinder Kaur

KOTA KINABALU: Under fire over the damage of a section of the coral reef on Pulau Sipadan, Sabah Parks have received support from local dive operators.

In a statement posted Saturday in on-line dive magazine Fins, the operators said: “The construction of permanent facilities represents a major ongoing financial commitment by Sabah Parks and the Sabah Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment to ensure adequate infrastructure to preserve Sipadan's environment. We are grateful for this support."

An angry Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman had taken Sabah Parks to task for allowing a barge laden with construction material to dock at the island, damaging corals the size of at least two tennis courts. He has ordered a halt to all construction on the island and an investigation into the project.

Acknowledging that "error by the contractor" had led to destruction of the corals, the dive operators said it is easy to be swept away by the "emotional impact of the moment", but the most constructive course of action is to concentrate on the future.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Sabah's Low Cost Carrier Terminal ready year end

Kota Kinabalu: The main contractor for the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Package Two upgrading project has promised to complete the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) building in Tanjung Aru within six months.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the turnkey contractor, Global Upline Sdn Bhd's adviser Tan Sri Ting Pek Khing, assured him that work would be completed by the end of this year. It would be located at the current second terminal site.

However, the whole project under Package Two costing about RM720 million that started on Monday is expected to be completed within 36 months.

The upgrading of the airport would also see the establishment of a stand-alone Air Traffic Control Tower, the Department of Civil Aviation building and extension of the runway from 2,988 metres to 3,780 metres.

The new LCC terminal would also have six parking bays for aircraft, he said, adding that the extension of the runway would also allow unrestricted B747-400 aircraft landing at the KKIA.

Speaking to reporters after the ground-breaking ceremony officiated by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin on behalf of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at the site in Tanjung Aru, Monday, Chan said work on the new LCCT has to be fast in view of the growth and demand for travel by low cost carriers.

On reclamation near the soon-to-be-demolished Sri Tanjung squatter site, he said the project would adhere to strict Environmental Impact Assessment requirements.

The new LCC terminal is expected to accommodate up to three million passengers a year with a built-up space of 12,300 sq m compared to the existing terminal which handles about 500,000 passengers per annum.

Once completed, it would position Sabah as an important LCC hub not only in the country but in the region, especially with new routes to be explored by Air Asia like southern China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Chan also said the Federal Government acknowledged the need to upgrade KKIA as it was the second busiest airport in the country after Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang.

As for the main terminal building of the KKIA, which houses the national carrier Malaysia Airlines he said it would be expanded to accommodate nine million passengers annually compared to its current capacity of 2.5 million passengers.

Parking bays would be also expanded to take in more aircraft. Among others, the upgraded KKIA would incorporate additional aerobridges for the main terminal from the current five to 17, while the latest baggage screening system used in the KLIA would also be installed.

Musa, in his speech read by Yahya, said the number of both international and domestic visitor arrivals increased by 18.7 per cent per annum from 774,475 in 2000 to 1.829 million last year.

"Obviously the potential for tourism is still great as between January and March this year, Sabah recorded 173,037 international and 247,256 domestic arrivals," he said.

As for the aircraft movements, the total number of landings and takeoffs at KKIA rose by 4.9 per cent from 41,355 in 2000 to 52,609 in 2005, he said.

AirAsia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Datuk Tony Fernandez, in welcoming the new development, said the present terminal was too crowded.

Apart from introducing more direct international flights from here, AirAsia also planned to operate domestic flights such as KK-Tawau and KK-Miri among others.

Source: Daily Express

Monday, May 22, 2006

Kota Belud bowled over by Ian Wright's charm

By Roy Goh

KOTA BELUD: Man-about-the-world Ian Wright stole the hearts of many, including those who didn’t know who he was, during a film shoot in Kampung Pirasan, here, over the weekend.

The travel show host attended a wedding — where he presented the newlyweds with a goat, had lunch in a local restaurant, checked out some buffaloes and even tried ninggat, a concoction of betelnut and areca leaves.

Wright, of Discovery Travel and Living’s Globe Trekker, arrived in Sabah on Saturday.

Since last week, the Globe Trekker crew has been filming popular spots in Malacca, Penang and Langkawi.

They will film orang utan and Mount Kinabalu before moving on to another State by the end of the week.

Sabah Tourism Board assistant communications manager Hezrina Ibrahim said the Briton, with his trademark plaid shirt and jeans, had been a crowd puller with his easy-going charm.

"This is his first visit to Sabah, but Globe Trekker has been here before," she said.

Hezrina said most of Wright’s scenes were spontaneous, especially when he mingled with children and villagers, or when he tried the ninggat.

Content & Photo Copyright to and Courtesy of New Straits Times

Kaamatan – a celebration of racial harmony

PUTATAN: Kaamatan is a celebration depicting the harmonious relations of the multi-racial communities in Sabah, said Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Yahya Hussin.

He said the unique harmony that existed among the people of the state meant that other festivals were celebrated together irrespective of race and belief.

“Everyone here together celebrate Hari Raya, Christmas, Kaamatan and so on. None of us feel odd about celebrating the different festivities,” he said adding that the people should be proud that they were able to co-exist together in peace despite coming from diverse ethnic groups.

Yahya who is also the Minister of Community Development and Consumer Affairs said this in his speech when he launched the Putatan district Kaamatan Festival here yesterday.

He was pleased to note the presence of other races who came to celebrate the Kaamatan together with the Kadazandusun community.

“These are the things that make Sabah special from the others,” he said.

Also present at the event were Penampang district officer, Stephen Sondoh, Putatan member of parliament, Datuk Dr Marcus Mojigoh and Local Government and Housing Assistant Minister, Edward Yong.

Meanwhile, Dr Marcus in his speech urged youths to enrol in the higher learning institute that will soon be set up by the government for arts and drama.

He said the young people of today should also be more enterprising and not wait for handouts from the government.

“There are many opportunities provided by the government. All one has to do is go out there and make full use of them,” he added.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Rainforest World Music Festival: Rhythm of the Rainforest

SARAWAK’S annual Rainforest World Music Festival has grown into a phenomenal crowd-puller with some of the best acts on the World Music circuit and a faithful audience that keeps coming back year after year since its inception in 1998.

With the next edition already on track for July 7 to 9 at the Sarawak Cultural Village, Santubong, near Kuching, here’s a chance to reminisce past editions of the festival.

Magick River and KLPac will be screening an exciting documentary about the Rainforest World Music Festival. Rhythm of the Rainforest captures the power and passion of this music festival and why it draws people back year after year.

This fast-moving, freewheeling documentary (produced and directed on a shoestring budget by well-known writer-musician and regular festival-goer Antares in association with the Sarawak Tourism Board) captures the life-affirming power and passionate pulse of the Rainforest Festival. Meet indigenous musicians from the remote interior of Borneo.

Chuckle at the exuberant antics of hardcore celebrants and savour a mouth-watering buffet of fabulous performances from every continent.

Whether you’re a Rainforest Festival virgin or veteran, you’ll relish this vibrant tribute to an unforgettable event. Featured acts from previous years of the festival in the DVD include Shooglenifty (Scotland), Petrona Martinez (Colombia), Djamel Laroussi (Algeria), Foghorn Stringband (USA), Faiz Ali Faiz (Pakistan), Fawzy Al-Aiedy (Iraq), Issa Bagayogo (Mali), Acquaragia Drom (Italy), Yelemba D’Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Silverio Pessoa (Brazil).

There will be two public screenings at 3pm and 8.30pm on Sunday (May 28) at Indicine, Kuala Performing Arts Centre, Sentul Park, Jalan Cochrane, off Jalan Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is RM10 with the option to buy the DVD for RM20. The DVD retails at RM29.99 (not including postage). Browse www.magickriver. net for details on how to buy it.

As for this July’s edition of the festival, head over to www.rain, call 082-423 600 or e-mail stb@sarawak for information and ticketing details.

Source: The Star

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Destruction at Sipadan terrible

KOTA KINABALU: The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia says the damage to the coral reefs of Sipadan is a "terrible occurrence", but the real concern is the ongoing destruction of the reefs in the entire Semporna area.

"The Semporna area is home to Malaysia’s largest concentration of coral reefs. Sipadan is one small reef, albeit a special one," said WWF Malaysia marine coordinator Ken Kassem said on Friday.

"Other reefs are much larger and harbour globally important biodiversity."

According to WWF, dynamite and cyanide fishing are common, while pollution, coastal development and sedimentation from land-based sources threaten the complex ecosystem.

Coral reefs, described as about the size of at least two tennis courts, were scraped bare by a barge carrying tonnes of construction material to the island recently.

The WWF says that with time the reef will heal with little human intervention.

After the incident, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said that a RM5 million tourist facility was being built on the island, but Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman denied knowledge of the project.

He has ordered a full probe by Sabah Parks.

"We hope that this incident highlights the fragile nature of these ecosystems and the need for better management throughout," said Kassem.

"Current resources are not enough for the agencies in charge to handle these complex problems alone. More support from the private sector and local communities is needed."

Source: The Star

Need for Sipadan projects questioned


KOTA KINABALU: Stop planning more buildings at Pulau Sipadan as existing structures are sufficient to cater to divers, said a former senior official of the state tourism ministry.

Former State Tourism, Culture and Environment permanent secretary Datuk Wilfred Lingham said there were about a dozen structures, apart from public facilities like toilets, in Sipadan.

Six dive operators, who were asked to move out from the island last year, had left these facilities behind.

Wilfred also questioned the need to build a restaurant and dive shop in Sipadan, adding that such facilities were available at Pulau Mabul, a 15-minute boat ride away, and in nearby Semporna town where many divers stayed.

Wilfred’s remarks came a day after Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman ordered a suspension of construction work on Sipadan following an incident on May 15 in which a barge destroyed a coral patch the size of two tennis courts at the island.

In Petaling Jaya, IZATUN SHARI reports Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Kamaruddin Siaraf as saying the damage to Sipadan's coral reef would not affect the country's tourism sector much.

He said this was because of remedial actions taken by the relevant authorities.

He said Sabah Parks and the Fisheries Department as well as the armed forces and police were monitoring the activities of vessels in the island's vicinity.

“Previously, we allowed anybody to go there but now the Sabah government is controlling tourist arrivals,” he told reporters after launching the “Cuti-cuti Malaysia Travel Fair” at the One Utama shopping centre yesterday.

He also said the ministry expected to receive responses from the international community on the matter.

Source: The Star

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sipadan: Full probe ordered

KOTA KINABALU: Furious that corals the size of at least two tennis courts were damaged at Sipadan island, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has ordered a full probe.

Musa is taking Sabah Parks to task for allowing a barge laden with construction material to dock at the island, knowing very well that it was an environmentally sensitive area.

"I have suspended all construction work on the island. Sabah Parks has failed in carrying out its duties. They have been entrusted to look after the island and should monitor all activities there.

"I am instructing a full probe. This should not have happened and it is unacceptable. I want Sabah Parks to submit their report to me as soon as possible," said Musa, clearly angered by the incident, at his office in Wisma Innoprise yesterday.

And the Chief Minister is in the dark as to how the project was approved.

"It was reported in the media that the project for the construction of several facilities is worth RM5 million. In May last year, a proposal was submitted to me for a RM2.6 million project to build some facilities there.

"I asked the then Finance Ministry permanent secretary to check and brief me further, but I never heard anything again until I read reports about destruction at Sipadan," he said.

Musa said, to the best of his knowledge, the project was initiated by the Tourism, Environment and Culture Ministry through Sabah Parks.

He said he would be calling Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat to clarify the matter.

Chong was quoted as saying that a company had been awarded a contract to build a central rest area on the island for day-trippers and quarters for park rangers, and that it had been approved by the State Government.

The issue came to light when it was reported in several dailies that a section of corals near three popular dive sites — the "Drop Off", "Barracuda Point" and "Turtle Cavern" — were smothered by gravel.

Musa said Sabah was serious about protecting the island and that was why it had instructed operators to vacate it last year.

He also disclosed that the contractor concerned was Kumpulan Surati Sdn Bhd.

Sipadan was at the centre of a tussle between Malaysia and Indonesia until the International Court of Justice at The Hague declared that it belonged to Malaysia.

News of the damage of the corals has been splashed across dive-orientated websites and forums as far as Britain and Australia.

The dive community is shocked and dismayed at the incident and are questioning authorities on their negligence in allowing such a tragedy to befall one of the world’s best dive sites.

International photojournalist Andrea Ferrari blogged an entry on a Singapore-based dive magazine highlighting the incident and described in detail what he saw and felt.

The Italian, who has dived on Sipadan countless times in the past 15 years, said it was heartbreaking to see the damage caused by the barge’s steel hull which wiped out hundreds of years of nature’s work.

"The damage is incalculable — one of Sipadan’s most precious and beloved spots is no more — transformed by a single inexplicable act of human carelessness into a grisly mass of broken and pulverised corals."

English underwater photographer, Alex Mustard, said that the damage was limited to a small section of Sipadan "about the size a couple of tennis courts" and all the other dive sites on Sipadan remain undamaged.

"The positives I hope that come out of this accident are that far more care is exercised when any development is planned for the island — and hopefully no further development is planned," he commented.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Sabah Parks failed: CM

Kota Kinabalu: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has ordered the immediate suspension of all construction activities on Pulau Sipadan until further notice. A clearly displeased Musa also ordered a full probe on the destruction of pristine corals there by a steel barge early this week, saying Sabah Parks had failed in its duties to monitor all activities and protect the island at all cost.

"Sabah Parks has failed in carrying out its duties. They have been entrusted to look after the island and should monitor all activities there. "This should not have happened. It is unacceptable. I want a full investigation into this matter and Sabah Parks must submit a report soon as possible," he told a press conference at Wisma Innoprise, Friday.

He would also meet with his Deputy, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister who had requested to see him today (Saturday) on the issue. Chong had on Thursday said Sipadan would be closed indefinitely, if necessary, to restore corals damaged by the barge used by the contractor to build amenities on the island.

According to Musa, who is also Finance Minister, he last heard about the project a year ago when it was submitted to him and the scope of the project was for RM2.6 million. "As usual I gave a memo to the (then) Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary (Datuk S. Abdillah) to check and brief me," he said.

However, the former Permanent Secretary apparently failed to do so and Musa only heard of the project when local newspapers reported it this week. He said as far as he knew, the project was initiated by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry through Sabah Parks. He believed the project received the green light from the Joint-Committee to oversee Sipadan which involved the State and Federal governments.

According to him, the contractor for the project in Sipadan is Kumpulan Surati. The joint-committee is jointly-chaired by State Secretary Datuk K.Y Mustafa and Federal Chief Secretary Tan Sri Samsudin Osman that was formed after Malaysia won sovereignty rights over Sipadan and Ligitan islands at The Hague in July 2003. Following this, the joint-committee recommended to the Government to limit the number of people into the island and imposed a total ban for overnight stay as well as ordering all structures, except those for the security personnel and Sabah Parks staff, to be demolished.

"The reason we asked the (dive) operators to vacate the island a few years ago was because we did not want any major development. We wanted to protect the environment there. The island cannot take any major development," he said.

Musa said any facilities like toilets should be built out of lighter and environmentally friendly materials and not concrete or steel. The barge, which was found beached at Sipadan last week, was off-loading gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh and bulldozer using a giant crane. It scraped off the corals at the famous Dropoff Point.
The incident, which was posted in the Internet by bloggers, received tremendous reactions from the people concerned that the environment on the world famous diving site would be destroyed.

Source: Daily Express

Friday, May 19, 2006

Brief Sipadan closure option

Kota Kinabalu: Sipadan will be closed to the public indefinitely if this is necessary to restore damaged corals at the world famous diving site.

A furious Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said Thursday the authorities had not anticipated that a steel barge would be used by the contractor awarded the RM5 million project to build amenities on the island.

The barge, which was found anchored at Sipadan, had scraped clean the pristine corals at one section of the island.

"I will initiate such closure indefinitely if it becomes necessary and if people say this is needed to restore the originality of the corals in the island," said Chong. The barge had tonnes of building materials, bulldozer and heavy machinery.

"We are not going to bulldoze the island or any trees," said Chong, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister. Calling the contractor "irresponsible", he said he had asked Sabah Parks to take action but not to the extent of cancelling the contract.

Explaining, he said the Government, through State Ministry of Finance, had awarded the contract to the contractor to build basic infrastructure such as toilets, rest house and other amenities for tourists heading to the island for scuba diving.

"We need a restaurant to cater to divers numbering 120 each day, we need a place for visitors to rest and drink," said Chong, revealing that the project was to be implemented in stages within two to three years.

According to him, the contractor had no approval to go to the island with a barge and that what was approved was only a motor-launch to transport construction materials.

Earlier, Chong launched the Crafts Exotica 2006, Sabah World Museum Day 2006 and Children's Discovery Centre at the State Museum here.

He said the day it happened, the Parks officer in-charge on the island was called to Kota Kinabalu for a meeting, leaving other park rangers at the island.

Chong said he was told the park rangers were caught by surprise and could not stop the barge because it just turned up on the island.

No matter how little the damage, the damage has been done, he lamented, pointing to the fact that the incident was splashed across the globe via the Internet, including by bloggers.

"The contractor has admitted to the mistake and has been cooperating with the authorities," he said, adding that Sabah Parks has also sent in officers to assess the damage to the corals.

Source: Daily Express

Sipadan island may be closed indefinitely

By Roy Goh

KOTA KINABALU: The Government may indefinitely close dive haven Pulau Sipadan to visitors, to allow the regeneration of coral damaged by a barge.

On Monday and Tuesday, the barge was ferrying building material and equipment to the island and damaged a section of coral near three popular dive sites: the "Drop-off", "Barracuda Point" and "Turtle Cavern".

A RM5 million project to build a central rest area on the island for day-trippers and quarters for park rangers and security forces personnel has been approved by the State Government.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said yesterday that the contractor was not authorised to use a barge but a kumpit (traditional wooden boat used to transport goods or passengers).

Sabah Parks director Datuk Lamri Ali said a heavy fine would be imposed on the contractor, who has admitted fault and would co-operate in the coral restoration efforts.

Last year, five dive resorts on the island were closed after the Government decided that only park rangers and security forces personnel would be allowed to remain on the island overnight.

All the buildings were demolished, except for a few used by the rangers and security forces and an old restaurant which now serves as a rest area for day-trippers.

Chong, who is also Tourism, Environment and Culture Minister, was launching three programmes: Sabah World Museum Day, the Children’s Discovery Centre and Crafts Exotica 2006 at the Sabah Museum.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Probe on Barge Threat to Sipadan Island

A photo which shows a section of the damaged coral
The steel barge anchored at the island’s dropoff point

Photos Copyright © 2006 Alex Mustard and Andrea & Antonella Ferrari, courtesy of New Sabah Times.

KOTA KINABALU: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said yesterday he has ordered Sabah Parks to immediately initiate an investigation into the presence of a barge at Sipadan Island.

The steel barge is anchored at the island’s dropoff point.

Kah Kiat said the contractor who is putting up some basic facilities on the island was authorised to use boats (kumpit) to transfer building materials like cement and sand to the island but the use of barge was never allowed.

“This is an abuse of nature. We want to get to the bottom of the matter and the culprits must be punished,” he added.

Expressing grave concern, Kah Kiat who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said he has been informed that some corals had been damaged by the barge.

“The damage is said to be substantial and as a result, we may even have to consider closing the island indefinitely to let the island rest and regenerate,” he said.

FiNS Magazine associate editors Andrea & Antonella Ferrari took pictures of the barge and damaged corals while they were diving at Sipadan on Tuesday and posted them on the Internet.

They claimed that in the process of being beached, the barge’s flat steel hull wiped away corals like a giant knife slicing through butter, leaving in its wake hundreds of square metres of unnaturally flat limestone and a veritable wall of coral.

Both Andrew and his wife Antonella said the damage was incalculable.

“I can only hope nature will be able to mend this terrifying gash but it will surely take decades or hundreds of years,” Andrea said.

He said as a passionate diver and environmentalist and an undisputed lover of Malaysia’s natural heritage, he wondered why the enormous barge was allowed to anchor at Sipadan. - CBH

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

ED: Also see FiNS Magazine contributor, Alex Mustard's Updates from Sabah blog entry.

Hold contractor responsible if Sipadan damaged: Nature Society

Kota Kinabalu: The giant barge that apparently beached and scraped off pristine corals at Sipadan's famous Dropoff Point was bringing in materials and heavy equipment to build a RM5 million tourism facility comprising a restaurant-cum-clubhouse, scuba shop, office and staff quarters, sources said.

Although well-intended to boost the island's tourism, the contractor had to first secure permission from Sabah Parks headquarters for all transportation activities for the project

Parks officials would then supervise the movement of boats and materials into the island. This is where things supposedly went wrong.

It now appears that the contractor did not have permission to bring in the barge. Even it's application to bring in a "kumpit" (small indigenous boat) was not given until 16 May, 2006.

Attempts to get the contractor concerned for comments were unsuccessful.

May 13 to May 16 were days of full moon and high tides, but by May 14, the giant barge had already arrived, the sources said.

The "disaster" happened when the barge was beached to off-load the massive cargo of gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh, prime movers a large bulldozer by means of an onboard giant crane.

"If indeed true that the company had brought in the steel barge without a permit, as alleged, then the contractor should be charged for encroachment as well as for any damage caused to Sipadan," said Kadir Omar, President of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Sabah branch.

"This is the view of Malaysian Nature Society because they have damaged a national icon, damaging the very attraction that Sipadan has to offer to the world," he said.

"The big question mark is if strict approval were needed for bringing in a small kumpit, why was such a huge monster mobilised without any permit?" Kadir asked.

Robert Lo, Managing Director of Sipadan Mabul Resort, is more pessimistic. "Not only the fantastic corals at the top of the Dropoff Point have been scraped off and flattened as seen on the Internet, but Sipadan's equally famous underwater cavern may now collapse because this giant barge is sitting right on top of it," he said.

Terence Lim, a former Dive Master Instructor with Sipadan Dive Centre, agreed with Robert Lo.

Though the cave entrance is 60ft below water, its thinnest ceiling section is probably no more than 15-ft thick between it and the island's surface.

Terence noted that this underwater cavern was the very feature that attracted late dive legend Jacques Cousteau to Sipadan.

To the left of the main chamber is a big chamber called Turtle Cavern where some turtles end up getting lost and die, leaving behind their skeletal remains.

To the right is a tunnel which spirals downwards leading to the bottom, neither too deep not too shallow - a unique feature of Sipadan loved by many divers who actually use it to train for cave diving, four at a time the most .

"It is a very beautiful cave system about 100ft deep where the ceiling rises gradually inside and is very fragile," Robert said.

"If that thin ceiling collapses, the beach will collapse and part of the island will collapse as well," Robert added.

"This is why the barge must be pulled out immediately. It is in the wrong place," he said. "Once this roof collapses, it is too late," Robert added.

"We don't even allow our paying divers to stand on corals, but here a huge barge had scraped them off and is sitting on the coral reef," lamented Robert.

"We all feel very sad."

Terence Lim said below the big drop-off is the habitat which guarantees sighting of the spectacle of hundreds of giant humhead parrot fish which sets off to feeding from here early each morning, then swim towards Barracuda Point and around the islands reefs.

"So the Dropoff is the site where we will take our divers at 5.30am to see them come up to nibble at the coral tips before moving on and then return at night to sleep," Terence said.

"The wealth of spectacular corals at the Dropoff is the reason we see a diversity of hundreds of species of fish, large and small but much of that coral scene apparently and been scraped clean, judging from Andrea's (internet) pictures," he said.

"The Internet pictures also reveal a table coral completely covered by gravel which apparently fell from the barge ," Terance said.

Source: Daily Express

Sabah Harvest Festival with all the trimmings

Tati Susanna was one of the heroines in a play by
ERA Budaya Papar. Copyright © 2006 The Star.


THE phrase Kotobian Tadau Tagazo Kaamatan, a traditional blessing, was heard throughout the day during the Harvest Festival celebration at Flamingo Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on May 13.

The Kadazandusun Kaamatan festival, or better known as the Harvest Festival, is one the most celebrated festivals in Sabah.

The festival is particularly significant as it marks the occasion to honour “Bambarayon'' (the spirit of rice) and to thank god for the successful harvesting of their crops.

It is also an occasion where friendship and brotherhood is renewed through mutual forgiveness in the activities held during the festival.

The celebration began with Magavau, a Kaamatan ritual ceremony. Magavau in Kadazandusun means to recover what one has lost.

The ritual is actually a traditional dance performed to bring home the lost, stolen or stray bambaazons, which are rice spirits.

The ceremony included performances by Kadazan artistes like the Kinabalu Kings as well as sketches by ERA Budaya Papar, a theatre troupe from Kota Kinabalu.

The sketches were all based on Kadazan folklore and represent significant aspects of the Kadazan lifestyle.

There were also game booths where guests were invited to participate in traditional Kadazan games like finger wrestling, arm wrestling as well as blowpipe competition.

Throughout the performances, the Kadazandusun Cultural Association Klang Valley also conducted their annual Unduk Ngadau competition, which is a beauty pageant open to all Kadazan girls.

The girls in the pageant were judged on their appearance, costume and presentation.

Tati Susanna James Kenson, the reigning queen of Unduk Ngadau 2005, made a special appearance.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mystery barge caused damage at Sipadan Island?

Kota Kinabalu: A giant barge has apparently flattened corals at Sipadan's legendary Dropoff Point inflicting "incalculable" damage, according to a report containing pictures of what are believed to be the damaged section posted on the Internet by FiNS Magazine Associate editors Andrea & Antonella Ferrari.

"I am sitting here with tears of rage and frustration in my eyes like many other fellow divers today (16 May) after having witnessed a major and unexpected man-made disaster which struck Sipadan's reefs last night," Andrea said.

"An enormous steel barge carrying thousands of tonnes of course gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh, prime movers, a large bulldozer and gigantic crane - which had been incredibly allowed to anchor right in front of Sipadan's legendary dropoff before unloading its cargo on the supposedly protected island - was pushed against the reef by wind, ending up beached on the island like some monstrous whale," Andrea reported.

"In the process of being beached, the barge scraped clean thousands of years of nature's delicate work between the old pier and Barracuda Point," he claimed.

"The barge's flat hull wiped corals away·eaving in its wake hundreds of square metres of unnaturally flat limestone, and veritable wall of corals and debris piled up against the beach," they further reported.

Andrea, author of several books such as Malaysia - A Diving Guide, Malaysia - An Underwater Paradise and A Diver's Guide To Underwater Malaysia Macrolife, said he and his wife had been diving in Sabah's spectacular reefs we for the past 15 years.

"Such is the unquestionable love we feel for this country that we're planning to relocate here soon to live among Sabah's lovely wildlife," he said.

Acknowledging that accidents at sea can and do happen, Andrea said he had a few questions he wished could be answered:

Why was that enormous, slow-moving barge allowed to anchor at Sipadan?

What was it doing in the first place when divers aren't even allowed to wear gloves in order to avoid damaging fragile corals? Why are enormous quantities of building materials being unloaded on Sipadan? What is being built there? And, if anything had to be built, why not use wood, as has always been the case until now?

He said such large amounts of building material surely necessitate the cutting down of many trees and the clearing of a large swathe of the island's forest.

Where were the staff who were stationed on the island when this happened?

Source: Daily Express

Aussie Girl's Ape Mission in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Eight-year-old Jessica Crow had a great time when holidaying in Sabah recently.

She spent one glorious week with her parents, Julian and Susan Crow, and an elder sister Hayley, 11, and now the delighted Aussie girl wants to repay the favour.

Jessica has launched a campaign to raise funds to look after two-year-old Naru, one of the orangutans they met at the Sepilok Otangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary in Sandakan.

She is currently running the fundraising campaign at her school and among Brownie members.

This Melbourne family earned the free one-week holiday in Sabah, sponsored by the Melbourne Zoo to promote its Twilight Programme, after winning a competition.

Susan in an email said Jessica was going all out to help the young ape.

She said organisations could also join this worthy effort by having their own campaigns to help the orangutans which are estimated to number between 10,000 and 20,000 in the wild.

Susan also gave a detailed account of the family’s adventure from visiting the city’s local markets to taking the tree-top canopy walk.

At Sepilok, they were shown a video and talked at length with one of the helpers.

“We really appreciate the highly dedicated job they are doing at the centre (Sepilok).

“Taking 10 to 15 years to rehabilitate the orangutans before sending them back to the wild is a labour of requires substantial and constant funding,” she said.

The Aussie family also visited Sukau where they had a close encounter with a herd of grazing elephants.

The Crows originally from Britain, are all ``dedicated animal and nature lovers’’ and when they were told they won the free trip to the ‘Land Below The Wind’, they were over the moon.

“It was like winning the lottery. Initial disbelief was followed by mild hysteria — that we were going on this dream trip, especially when we are all great lovers of flora and fauna and we love to travel,’’ said Julian.

After Julian had qualified as a quantity surveyor in UK, he and his wife headed out to Ndola in Zambia in 1989 to work.

Their love for outdoor life and interest in wildlife grew after eight years of being close to the African bush and numerous weekend camping trips.

While they were in Zambia, Hayley arrived “all red and squiggly” and she quickly grew up as a "bush baby".

After the Crows moved to Swaziland, Jessica was born.

"With easy access to Swaziland’s nature reserves and South Africa’s game parks, both our girls began to love the wild and any animal that they came in contact with,’’ Julian said.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Celebrate Sabah's Kaamatan Festival in Style

Hinava served in small china spoons is among the favourite appetisers both among locals and foreign guests. Photo Copyright © 2006 New Sabah Times

By Nazri Noor

Every May, Sabahans of every race and religion gather to mark the Kadazan Harvest Festival, or Kaamatan. The festival celebrates (and, through traditional rituals, ensures) good harvests of rice and involves much revelry, and tourists and locals alike are attracted by the plentiful drinking and eating and the various activities that Kaamatan has to offer.

Participating in the season’s joyous celebration is the Le Meridien Hotel’s Circle restaurant, which now offers a sumptuous Kaamatan buffet featuring many traditional Kadazan delicacies.

The selection begins with an impressive array of appetizers, giving an appropriate introduction to the intense diversity of flavors Kadazan food has to offer. One can opt to begin with bergadil sardin, or sardine cutlets, taufu sumbat, which is deep-fried tofu stuffed with fresh vegetables, chicken pineapple salad, grilled eggplant, and rojak.

Acar rampai (pickled vegetables), tuhau and bambangan (both preserved wild roots) serve as relishes, and accompany any combination of main dishes fairly well, with the hefty, flavorful doses of sour-spice bite they deliver.

A definite must-try is the famous hinava, or raw fish in vinegar, a delicious starter for every Kadazan meal.

A number of delectable Malay and Kadazan main courses follow. Seafood selections are varied and equally appetizing: steamed siakap in garlic soy sauce, sotong masak kicap, udang galah cili padi, or king prawns cooked in chili, and ampap, which is fish braised in a claypot with herbs and spices to the point that even the bones are edible.

Ayam dengan nangka lemak kuning is also recommended. Chicken is cooked in jackfruit, turmeric and coconut milk, the result being meat subtly infused with the sweetness of the fruit, offset slightly by a little spice. Kari daging dengan ubi kentang, or ox curry with potatoes, serves to round out the offering.

Vegetable choices include steamed long beans, kangkung cooked in coconut milk and ulam-ulam sambal belacan, a form of salad eaten with preserved shrimp paste.

And what would a Kadazan buffet be without an apt selection of rice dishes? Diners can choose from regular steamed white rice, fried rice in the local style, or a delicious and innovative take on the fried rice recipe, which uses red mountain rice in place of plain white.

One might question the seemingly excess emphasis on rice, but there are sound reasons for its prominent inclusion in any meal, for reasons both cultural and culinary.

Rice holds a place of importance for many Asian races, but this is doubly true for the Kadazans, who adhere to a legend that led to the festival’s celebration. The God Kinoingan and his wife Suminundu had a beautiful daughter, named Huminodun.

It was a season of drought and the people of Sabah were starving, so Kinoingan offered his daughter as a sacrifice. Upon her death, hundreds of rice seeds emerged from her body, growing into strong crops and providing a sustainable source of food for the people.

Huminodun is also the reason behind the many beauty contests held during this month. These contests, called Unduk Ngadau (literally translated as the Heart of the Sun), seek young women who share the same characteristics Huminodun had in life: strength, courage, beauty and grace.

As one would expect, rice is used in many aspects of Kadazan cooking. Lovers of Asian food may likely have only encountered white rice in their gastronomic explorations. Kadazan cuisine offers a unique reddish-brown strain of the crop called mountain rice.

It is prepared with plenty of water, and is thus very glutinous and surprisingly very filling. This rice is eaten with meals and also cooked into various native cakes, a number of which are offered as desserts at the buffet: kuih, bubur pingat pisang (banana rice porridge) and bubur kacang merah (red bean porridge), in addition to an assortment of fruit, puddings and French pastries. The Kadazan also prepare a specialized form of wine from rice called tapai.

Tourists are advised to monitor their intake of this excellent yet extremely potent beverage.

Join Le Meridien’s Circle in celebrating this occasion. Kaamatan is a rich festival that has maintained tradition for generations, and has much to offer for those interested in expanding their experiences with Sabahan culture and food.

The buffet is available daily from 6:30pm to 10:30pm, and is priced at RM56++ for adults and RM28++ for children under 12. The Circle Kaamatan buffet runs to the end of the festival, at the end of this month. Call 088-8332238 for reservations.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Monday, May 15, 2006

Miri jazz fest reflects the city's life

Musicians woo the crowd during the Miri International Jazz Festival.
Photo Copyright © 2006 George Francis

By George Francis

MIRI - Sarawak's inaugural Miri International Jazz Festival at the Pavilion was described as one of the most enjoyable experiences, showcasing the best of international musicians - a rewarding effort of the Sarawak Tourism Board.

"It is only in Miri that you can see this set of standard for a new genre of music, the type of crowd and enthusiasm because of the city's cosmopolitan charm and warm intimate settings," said Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan, who was among the crowd on the second night.

He said the spirit of the audience was a testament to the vibrancy of life that makes up Miri today.

"Inspiring by notable jazz bands in this festival, who won't not tap their feet or dancing on the floor to the international exponents of jazz musicians," he said, pointing to the dancing crowd and partakers of food stalls and entertainment by the seabeach.

"This is what Miri can offer to locals and expatriate here, foreign tourists, visitors from neighbouring Brunei Darussalam, Sabah and Labuan, especially the expatriate communities living in these Borneo territories."

Dr Chan said the festival is for the people to enjoy the sensation of exceptional musicians, also as a tourism product for Sarawak that will be included in the annual calendar event.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cloudy skies mar Sunset Symphony but ensemble plays on

NO STOPPING US NOW: The orchestra playing under the windy condition as the sun sets and the moon rises.

By Jaswinder Kaur

KOTA KINABALU, SABAH, SUN: CLOUDY skies marred the Sunset Symphony at the northernmost tip of Borneo at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, Kudat, yesterday, but the Kota Kinabalu Symphony Orchestra played on.

It was the 100-person ensemble’s second performance at the venue, playing under the setting sun as well as the rising moon. This year’s event was special, as the rising moon, also known as the Flower Moon, was believed to be at its best in 19 years.

Despite strong winds and the cloudy skies having obscured the view of the setting sun and the rising moon, the ensemble enthusiastically played classics such as "Dengarlah Sang Ombak Berdesir" from P. Ramlee's film Penarik Beca.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, was at the venue to welcome guests – NST pix by Edmund Samunting.

Courtesy of New Straits Times

Tip of Borneo's musical experience like no other

THE sounds of music and songs reverberated through the breathtaking Tip of Borneo, against the backdrop of sunset, captivating some 1,500 people, on Saturday.

On a special stage erected at Simpang Mengayau, the crowd consisting of invited guests, locals and more than 100 foreign tourists, were spellbound listening to a variety of classical favourites and popular Kadazandusun, Malay, Chinese and English songs rendered by the Kota Kinabalu Symphony Orchestra.

Among those present were Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, and his wife Datin Ivy, and Sabah Tourism Board Chairman, Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin.

Although the raging wind condition was beyond human control, music conductor Yap Ling was in full control of his 100 young and aspiring musicians who were able to provide performance with great precision and excitement.

The overlooking blue sea with the evening sunset at the brink was an enchanting moment for the audience although the clouds were not permitting to watch the largest moon in 19 years even after the show ended at 7pm.

The outgoing Resident Conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra Datuk Ooi Chean See's special appearance as the guest conductor at the symphony event added extra beauty and value to the concert, the second held at the popular tourist spot after the first last year.

Source: Daily Express

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Gallery at Sabah Foundation in memory Of Tun Mustapha

By Muammar Kamaruddin

KOTA KINABALU -- There has been on one like Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun in Sabah since the well known leader, who waged a guerrilla warfare against the Japanese Occupation in Sabah during the Second World War, died in 1995.

Sabah has yet to find a match to his leadership skills, charisma and valour.

Mustapha became a household name here when he displayed his bravery in resisting the Japanese army occupation of Sabah during the World War Two.

He further reaffirmed his popularity in the arena of politics when he went on to win in all the elections he participated, even if his presence during the campaigning period was only through his face on the posters and not by any physical attendance.

The legacy of this "Father of Sabah's Independence" has been now immortalised by the Sabah Foundation through the setting up of the Galeri Tun Mustapha at the foundation's building here.

Yang Dipertua Negeri Sabah Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah officiated the gallery today in conjunction with the 40th anniversary celebration of the foundation.

Although he did not get a formal education, Mustapha who was born on July 31, 1918, gained wide experience as he started working very young. As early as 10-years old, he served the British Resident in Kudat, became an office boy, then a clerk.

Former Chief Minister and Yang Dipertua Negeri, Tun Sakaran Dandai who later became the right man of Mustapha said that the bravery of Mustapha was proved when he fought against the Japanese from his guerrilla base at Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in Southern Philippines.

His valour and calibre as a fighter moved the British to appoint him as the Native Chief Class 1 for Kudat District in 1951.

Sakaran who came to know Mustapha when he was holding that position, described him as a highly versatile person, not only in terms of general knowledge but also religion, culture, entertainment, social graces and sports, with the thinking of someone way ahead of his time. Mustapha was also one of the engineers of Sabah's independence from British rule with the joining of hands with Malaysia on Sept 16 1963.

"At that time there was no political party in Sabah which was seeking independence, everything was arranged by Mustapha who by then had become a close friend of Malaysia's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra and second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak," Sakaran said.

As preparation for Sabah's entry into Malaysia, several political parties were formed, with Mustapha himself heading the Parti Kebangsaan Sabah Bersatu (Usno).

When Malaysia was formed in 1963, Usno became the party to rule Sabah state while Mustapha became the state's first Yang Dipertua Negeri.

He, however, resigned from this post in 1965 and on July 22 1966, he was appointed as a member of the Federal Cabinet, becoming the Minister of Sabah Affairs and Public Defence.

In April 1967 Mustapha resigned from his post as minister to participate in the first Sabah state elections. The state seat he contested then was Bengkoka-Banggi, his birth place.

The influence of Mustapha provided a landslide win for Usno in the elections and Mustapha himself was appointed the third Chief Minister of Sabah on June 6 1967.

Before this, in 1966, he had also established the Sabah foundation with the aim of providing help and raising the living standards and education of the people, particularly the Bumiputeras.

Mustapha led Sabah for 13 years until the loss of Usno in the hands of Parti Berjaya which was led by Datuk Harris Salleh at the 1976 state elections.

Following the loss, Sakaran said Usno continued to be an opposition party until it was absorbed by Umno which spread its wings to Sabah, with the blessings of Mustapha in 1991.

Many bitter moments were encountered by Mustapha when he was the helm of the state, Sakaran said. Besides the unstable financial condition of Sabah, Malaysia also faced confrontations with Indonesia and armed threats from the Philippines as both the countries were then opposed to the formation of Malaysia.

Mustapha became elusive, distancing himself from Sabah politics after the dismantling of Usno, and remained so until he took his last breath on Jan 2, 1995.

The special gallery opened here today is in remembrance of Mustapha's services and contribution to the state and people.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sabah a truly nature, adventure, exotic place, say newlywed Polish


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah still lives up to its portrayal of nature, adventure and exoticness for Europeans visiting the state. Newlywed, Wojciech Polcynski and Marta Gutkowska of Warsaw, Poland said they were not disappointed to spend so much to come here for their honeymoon. "It is beautiful," said Wojciech when approached at the Monsopiad Cultural Village yesterday.

"The weather is what I like it to be all the time – warm and sunny. And there is still so much nature as compared to the two cities we visited earlier". Sporting his wedding ring, he said that they were married merely two weeks ago and had decided to travel to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Thailand for their honeymoon.

"We are glad to have included Kota Kinabalu in our itinerary. We did not like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur that much because it was too city-like," he said. He added however that they did enjoy their trip to Taman Negara.

"We managed to get to know some Orang Asli while we were there. We also saw some animals and the forest," he said.

Before going to Thailand, he said that he hoped to see some more snakes such as cobras, pythons while in Sabah.

"I heard that you can see a cobra at the paddy fields as there are many rats there. I wish I would have the opportunity to see one," he said.

His wife, Marta said that she particularly found Kuala Lumpur too noisy for her liking.

"We did not find the peace we wanted to find," she said.

According to them, Warsaw is also a bustling and busy city.

"Everyone is busy with their work and business. It is not a city where you can find your own pace and relax like here in Kota Kinabalu," said Marta.

Since arriving on Wednesday, Marta said that she enjoyed the genuine friendliness of the people of Sabah the most.

"In Poland, the people are so sad looking. They don’t smile so much and they are not too friendly," she said.

In addition, to the people, Marta who enjoys eating fish said she was in paradise where food was concerned.

She added that she has already tried the ‘hinava’, a local fish delicacy and that she liked it very much.

However, while Wojciech hoped they could extend their holidays here, Marta said that she would like to go home as their family is back in Poland.

"But truly, we had an enjoyable time in Kota Kinabalu. It is not like the cities in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore," she said.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Monday, May 08, 2006

Labuan's laid-back Water Village

Media personnel and officials from Tourism Malaysia
enjoying a view of the village from a wooden bridge.
Boys jumping into the water during
bath-time at Labuan's Water Village.
Media personnel and guests having a
Malay-style lunch at Kg Patau-Patau 2.

Media personnel and guests walking along
the wooden bridge to Kg Patau-Patau 2.

Photos by: Achong Tanjong ; Copyright © 2006 Brunei Press Sdn Bhd.

By Achong Tanjong in Labuan

I recently got the opportunity to visit for the first time Kampung Patau-Patau 2, which is popularly known as Labuan's Water Village.

It is not as large as Brunei's Water Village but it boasts the unique cultural heritage of the Brunei Malays. Their daily life is similar to that of Kampung Ayer in Brunei. A majority of the residents of Kampung Patau-Patau 2 are Brunei Malays who still have very close family ties with the Malay community in Brunei.

Kampung Patau-Patau 2 is provided with pipe water, electricity, telephone lines and other facilities. There are also mosques, schools and canteens in the villages.

A majority of the villagers still depend on fishing to earn a living, especially the older generation. The younger people mostly work elsewhere and some even hold important positions in the government and private sectors.

But what surprised me and the other Mega FAM guests was that the surrounding waters were very clean and free of floating household rubbish. The water was calm and quite free of water-taxi boats.

We saw young children jumping into the water to take their bath. Walking along the wooden bridge that links the "mainland" to the village, we saw fishing boats and people repairing their fishing nets in the corridors of their houses.

Our arrival at the parking lot of the village was greeted with a Malay traditional welcome - the beating of "Hadrah" and "Bunga Rampai".

Our lunch at Kampung Patau-Patau 2 was hosted by the Persatuan Nelayan (Fishermen Association) and held at the house of Awg. Adillah bin Arsat, aged 27. He said there are about 100 houses in Kampung Patau-Patau 2 with a population of more than 1,000 people, most of whom are full-time fishermen.

Seven of the houses in the village are involved in a "Homestay" programme, which is run by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia with the cooperation of Fishermen Development Authority to promote eco-tourism.

Awg. Adillah said since the programme was introduced, Kampung Patau-Patau 2 had received an overwhelming response not only from domestic visitors such as from Sabah and West Malaysia but also foreign tourists such as from Japan, Korea, China, Thailand and Indonesia.

Under the programme, the tourists experience the daily life of fishermen. The activities arranged include fish processing, making of salted fish, catching crabs and cooking a fresh catch for lunch or dinner.

The visit was one of the media activities held in conjunction with the Labuan International Sea Challenge 2006. The media were invited by Tourism Malaysia.

Other places of interest in Labuan visited by the media included The Chimney, Bird Park, Peace Park/ Japanese Surrender Point, War Memorial II, Marine Museum and Labuan Museum.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin