The Opposition’s Fight Club

If you recall the 1999 movie, The Fight Club—a cult Hollywood offering starring Brad Pitt and Ed Norton—the first rule was, “Don’t talk about the Fight Club.” The second rule was, “Don’t talk about the Fight Club.” Sad to say but Sabah’s opposition are (again) running their antithetical version of this movie. Constantly and incessantly they are lobbing strident vocal grenades at…wait for it, each other. Griping, ranting, sniping, jockeying and accusing each other of being not worthy of the rakyat’s support. Makes you wonder why they are so excited about the coming PRU, and who they actually want to unseat. Hey! look over there, the unblinking lizards of the Incumbents.

And how they extolled themselves: how good they are, and how clever they are that they can decide for us, little people. There is a recent article in this news site where a party member was waxing lyrical about the prime credentials and high schooling of his three deputy party presidents. He disparaged the people who had the temerity to not support them and question their “intellectual integrity”, calling them the failures, the poor and the uneducated—the “nincompoops”. This is exactly the kind of discombobulated and tone-deaf, and elitist thinking that got us into this present deep morass. This is exactly the “We-are-so-intellectually-superior-so-we-know-what’s-good-for-you” attitude that voters hate. Well may he heed the words of a late eminent politician who said, “Everyone…is three individuals. What you think you are. What you are. And what others think you are.”

If there is one thing that we can learn from Donald Trump’s seemingly implausible ascendancy to the U.S. presidency, it is this: He knew how to talk about the people’s actual concerns. He talked for Middle America—”the forgotten men and women”—about economic atrophy, loss of jobs, security and illegal immigration, terrorism, and law and order. He railed against the influence-peddling moneyed lot, the entrenched but out-of-touch politicians, and about the self-serving and corruption of the ruling elites in the swamps of Washington DC.

Well, we are the many forgotten lot of Sabah. Too many, I regret to say. We do not want to be talked down to; we want our leaders instead, to talk (and act) for us. Instead of hearing about the uncomely warts and pimples of your fellow (but different party) opposition wannabes, we want to hear how you are going to intelligently allocate and maximise the impact of the annual RM4 billion or so state budget. How you are going to help our unemployed youngsters, many with degrees but who are jobless, work at McDonald or daily-paid. How government can help working mums and dads. How to keep us Malaysians safe from the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Sabah. How to improve KK City Hall and the town and districts councils which are frankly short-budgeted every year. How to leverage the resources of Sabah for the benefit of the majority of the Rakyat, and not for a few individuals or large corporations only. How to positively engage the Federal Government (Yes, in a federation, Putrajaya is not going to close shop anytime soon) for the betterment of Sabah in a healthy, mutually beneficial state-federal relationship. How to arc a 20-year trajectory of our state’s development to make everyone prosper and benefit. I know that is a lot to ask, but I rather hear about these than the endless internecine sniping.

Show us a path.

Someone said that during election time, the most dangerous place is between a politician and a microphone. Personally I would not hold it against a politician if he/she wants to grab that mic, but really, talk for us—for our rights, our future, and our prosperity.


Killing Us Softly

Once I ranted about the state of traffic jams in KK and Penampang, and a friend, in a throwaway comment, said “Biasa lah tu.” No, it is not. And there lies the crux of the problem: People (and authorities) just get used to problems that have slowly crept up to them, and they think, “Biasa lah tu.” You know what? People used to ride buffaloes to town along the now-jammed-up Kiansom road. I know—I have used the road for 57 years now.

This is what author Jared Diamond in his book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, called “Creeping Normality”— how societies have slowly destroyed themselves without noticing it until it was too late. These societies did not know that what they were doing was harmful because the affects happened very gradually. An example that Diamond uses is how the people of Easter Island were willing to chop down the last trees of a once luxuriantly forested island. The problem is very gradual process, and people often do not realise until they are in a lot of pain. Like the bliss of no traffic jams and no traffic lights (The first one in the whole of Sabah was that one in front of Wisma Muis; I know—I was there, getting excited for being stopped by a traffic light. Imagine!) being slowly erased from the collective memory of living motorists and road users.

Cheers, Rayner.

Tapai Rangalau (Rambutan)


Making wines from fruits, like grape wines, is essentially converting the sugars in the fruits to alcohol, mostly ethanol, through the process of fermentation. So rambutans should be a good candidate for making tapai.

First, we just need the sugar-full flesh. There:



Then we bring it to a slight boil with low heat. We need to do this to kill the unwanted micro organisms that can make the fruits go bad, like turn into sour acids. Tapi jangan lah sampai terbakar.


Ok, we have to let it cool to room temperature. We don’t want to kill the little bitty yeasts, do we? Now add the yeasts, about 2 sachets per kilogram of flesh, and do mix well. I used Brewer’s Yeast from Cons Food.

I would have loved to add a bit of ammonium phosphate [(NH4)3PO4] to the mix as fertiliser for the yeasts but I didn’t have a chance to source this. Second round brew, definitely.


And then, let’s be traditional, we put the whole mash inside a jar/tajau to ferment.


The plan is to let the mash-inside-a-tajau sit for 5 days open to the air so allowing oxygen to be accessible to the yeasts as they multiply, and for the next 3 weeks, close it to encourage anaerobic fermentation (the plastic seal just loose enough for carbon dioxide to be vented out as the pressure increases inside the tajau.

So, after 4 weeks, wala! we have alcohol as the yeasts ate the sugars and produce ethanol. Johnny, you’r listening? You know, the stuff you drink, and after a few glasses, bleary-eyed and frisky, you get into the mistaken belief that the hot babe with the bee-stung lips across the bar is actually ogling you?

So, did the brew come out well, and how did it taste? Haha, go to my Facebok.


Datuk Marcel Leiking’s Pure Kadazans

In response to Datuk Marcel Leiking’s statement:

Race, as are many “pigeon holes” that we people are wont to ascribe to human beings, is a slippery slope to navigate on.

More so when the concept of pureness, or more specifically the qualification to attain such ideals will draw as many opponents as supporters. When dealing with people, there is no absolute metric to measure and to qualify people. Such is life; the only absolute labels are the elements in the Periodic Table. If today the Kadazan Society Sabah draws up a qualification list as to who can be accepted as a Kadazan, I am willing to bet that there will be as many likes or dislikes.

Perhaps the way to think about this is that this is not about “pureness” but rather that it is an individual’s choice to accept the ways, mores, culture, thinking, etc., on what is to be a Kadazan, and affirm that he/she is so, and acts so. Even so, there are no absolutes here, unless we draw up a DNA qualifying standard such that so and so’s genome qualifies as Kadazan based on an accepted reference ideal.

I know for a fact, for example in Penampang, many of my friends are second or third generation of Chinese lineage. Many are also are the grand and great grand kids of the Shantungs of Donggongon. My own late grand father on the maternal side, who had a house just across the road from the late Datuk Fred Jinu’s house in Tunon, had a full Chinese name with the siang “Ho”. My Tunon uncles and aunties, and their children, do not consider themselves as lesser Kadazans too. I have friends who are Muslims and happy, nay, proud, to think themselves as Kadazans. I have Penampang and Papar acquaintances who do not look like the typical Kadazan (if there is such thing as a typical Kadazan look) because of their part-orang putih heritage. Gundohing Joseph Pairin and Gundohing Donald Mojuntin are examples of having children that, on a pure genetic measure, will not qualify as Kadazan. I am quite certain though that their boys and girls are happy to be called as from the Kadazan race because that are their choices.

What kids (in the old days) liked or disliked about padi planting

Monotok (planting rice seeds): Easy job! Make a shallow hole by using a sharpen pole, put in the seeds, and cover with earth.

Ma’ngngahgakom Karabau: Tiring! After the padi are harvested, the buffaloes are allowed to free range any where. This is the time when the cows get pregnant. After 3 months of freedom, and for the alpha male, enjoying his harem, the horned animals are not going to give up easily and be tied or fenced. Persumably they know what’s in store for them next: 2 months of back-breaking work pulling the ploughs. So, we kids got the job of chasing and chasing these beasts and tire them out before the adults can collar them. It took hours! Sometimes the alpha male will fight back. Woe to you if they escape to the rumbia trees or the rubber plantation. They know how to hide and keep quiet.

Ma’ngahradu: Tilling the padi field involves 3 implements: the radu, ragus, and surud. Radu is the first used (see pic below). The ground is soft but not mud yet so it is hard hard work. It needs special skill to tilt the implement left to right for just the right length of time so the earth is evenly tossed up. Woe to a kid who breaks the radu. Usually there is no spare and father have to wait for his kampong buddies to finish their fields first.

Ma’ngahragus: The second tool is usually two large and thick wooden boards stuck with nibong spikes laid side by side and pulled by the animal. Easily the best-liked work. You just sit on a stool which is stuck to the ragus and guide the buffalo concentrically around the field (would have been nice to have an iPod then) to break and flatten the ploughed clumps of earth. Still, if you are a kid, you better impose your will on the buffalo right from the start and show that you are the boss for it knows you are a kid. If it thinks it has the drop on you, you will be zig-zagging every where, and it will refuse to budge many times. Horror of horrors, one time the cranky animal just went running in a straight line, ploughing through and flattening the newly-made buluntung. Mother hollers! again from half a kilometer away, “KUROION NU NOH ILO KARABAU (What have you done to the buffalo)?!!!

[Update, 25th Nov] Apparently even a stool is a no no here for the old folks; you are supposed to stand on the ragus all day long and guide the buffalo. My elder brother, in a flash of innovative thinking, stuck a chair on the ragus, and over it a large colorful umbrella. Ah, now that’s meragus for you. Mother hollers again…

Mongosurud: The last tool, a comb-like implement, (see picture below) is used to break finely the last clumps of earth and to sieve the grasses and vegetation. This is the most fragile of the 3 tools. Light work, this, except when the danged animal is in one of its moods, then you have to walk as fast as the buffalo wants to drag the surud (no stool here, sorry).

Mamabas: Buluntung are the field bunds. After each planting season the bunds are eroded and in a state of disrepair. Before planting the seedlings, the bunds need to be rebuilt by taking mud hand by hand and pasting it over the old bunds. Sheer hard work. An acre has 208 x 4 feet of buluntung.

Mananom: Planting the seedlings (totok) one by one by hand after the fields have been nicely prepared (see pic below). Most often the kids are excused from this because they can not plant the seedlings in a straight line. Of course, that becomes the incentive not to learn, haha.

Mamagamas: This is heavy work. After 3 months since planting, the seedlings have grown to two and a half feet tall…and so are many of the weeds! And for some fields, the weeds have grown all over the place. Now you have to pull them one by one, clump them together, walk to the edge of the field and throw them away.

Popokotop Karabau: This is my least-liked part. During rice planting, all buffaloes must be fenced or tied for they love to graze on the padi plants. (Can you imagine if you are a buffalo, and as far as the eye can see is green green grass just across the fence?). But the poor but valuable animal still have to eat for 6 months before they are allowed free. Kids have the monopoly on popokotop karabau: you ride on the buffalo and lead it to where there are grasses for it to eat (at kampong common areas, not someone’s lands) with mother’s instruction still ringing in your ear, “Don’t come home until the buffalo’s stomach is distended to the max!”. Problem with this is the obstreperous buffalo will take its time grazing. Hours! Even if you bring it to a place with the most luxuriant growths of grass this side of Eden, it will still take its own sweet time munching.

Ma’ngahwas: Draining the rice fields of water after the plants are 4 months old. This is fun time for kids! There are lot of fishes in the fields and it is time to collect them. In the old days this is where kids get the most protein. Since there were no freezers then, extra fishes were preserved by pickling them with rice and Pangi—a seed of a local tree that contains minute amounts of cyanide—and presto, you have bosou/nonsoom.

Mongomot: It is harvesting time when the padi stalks become ripe. This is about the month of March when the season turns to the dry season. Each stalk of padi needs to be cut off by hand one by one using an implement called Lingaman. The womenfolk do most of the harvesting. Somehow the men were excused, or at least not yacked at if they choose not to join. Harvest work becomes easier because of Mitabang—people cooperate to help each other and harvest in turn.

Mongogik: I hate this work. This is where the stalks of padi are pooled together and stepped on to separate the seeds from the stalks. The padi seeds are sharp and can be painful for non-callused feet. Because I and my siblings are not full time farmers (parents insisted we go to school every day) our feet soles are thin-skinned. Ow, ow, ow!




The Issue of Stateless Children

The Daily Express newspaper today covered the issue of giving birth certificates to stateless children. Here’s a bit of commentary from me:

Let me first start with an observation: We human beings are very tribal. Be it whether you are a supporter of Liverpool, of a particular race or religion, members of a clan, gang member of the local triad, inhabitants of a state or country, your views will be coloured or askewed because of who you are. As baseball great, Yogi Berra said, “Where you stand is where you sit.”

On the subject of stateless children, and on a broader arc, the issue of illegal immigration in Sabah, for the government, these tough and fractious issues are just some of those that have to be considered and rationalised, if not resolved. In addition, there is the whole matter of governance: nationally and locally, there are far-ranging implications on economy, society, culture, security, and dare I say, religion. For the government of the day, this a hot political potato that is wrapped with the attendant collary: Damn if you do, damn if don’t. Further, Malaysia has international obligations in accordance to treaties that she has signed and ratified, especially those that cover human rights, refugees, and child protection.

Malaysia is not alone of course in facing these types of intractable immigration problems. Even great nations such as the U.S., France and Germany struggled and spin their wheels on this multi-faceted dilemma.

For example, see here for the U.S.:

There are a number of international instruments that ensure a child is not denied her/his nationality, some of which Malaysia has ratified (some with reservations). These include The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“everyone has a right to nationality”), Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam (“A child shall from birth, have right to a good name, to be registered with authorities concerned, to have his nationality determined.”).

The following are however are not signed by Malaysia: The 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness which oblige countries to treat stateless persons the same as other foreigners, particularly with regard to work authorisation and the issuance of identity and immigration documents.

Our own Federal Constitution (Article 14(1)(b) Part II Section (1)(e)) guarantees the right to a nationality to a child not only through his/her parents but also if the child would otherwise be stateless (“every person born within the Federation of whose parents one at least is at the time of the birth either a citizen or permanently resident in the Federation,“ or “every person born within the Federation who is not born a citizen of any country,” if born on or after Malaysia day to Malaysian citizenship by operation of law”).

As a purely abstract and faceless argument in defending tribalism, it would be easy to urge, “Round up the illegals and throw them to the Celebes Sea or Sulu Sea. But it is a different proposition to actually look into a stateless kid’s eyes and personally condemn him/her to a life fraught with dangers, starvation and uncertainties.

Many years ago part of my job was prosecuting fisheries cases in court. There was one case where a 50-year old Filipino was caught by the Marine Police and handed to me for prosecution. So here he was (with his thin and dirty toddler child with his arms wrapped around his father’s legs) electing to plead guilty to a charge of possessing bombed fish because he can not afford a lawyer He was looking at 6 months jail because he also can not afford to pay the RM1,000 fine. So he asked me (the prosecutor!) for a loan because he said if he goes to jail, his family will not eat. I gave him the loan.

My colleague, who was also prosecuting fisheries cases in Beaufort has a similar story. He successfully prosecuted another Filipino man for fish bombing and the guy went to jail. Before he went in, he pleaded to my colleague to please check on his family. So my colleague went, and found the family (one child was still breast feeding) in abject poverty, and with nothing to eat in the middle of a mosquito-infested swamp with just a tarp supported by poles as an abode. And so my colleague ended up sending food ever day for one week while waiting for the family’s relatives to come. When I asked him why, he just said simply, “They are people.”

It might warm your heart to know the guy paid his loan 1 week later.