By Syed Akbar Ali
Our family has always enjoyed traveling to
At Pulau Selingan (
This year we went snorkeling in Sibugan and Mantabuan, off Semporna in the same area as Sipadan and Mabul. The sea was again just beautiful. Fish and other marine life abound in the clear waters. Even with some cloud in the sky, you can see clearly for about 50 feet or more into the water.
Dato Zainuddin Mydin the former Minister of Information also noted once that real Malay culture (minus the Arabic wannabe influences) is still found in
The folks in Semporna have fancy names like Sirasal, Karangan and Mary Jane. Some of the women here who speak English sound like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - they are of Filipino ancestry, from over the water.
But I think they have got it right in Sabah and
The problem starts when the religious freaks start laying their snares to trip the people up. And when I say religious freaks it includes both the Arab wannabe serban variety as well as the orang putih sponsored “missionaries”. They are both equally dangerous and are beginning to cause schisms and rifts among the people. Maybe they should all go diving in Sipadan minus the snorkels and gear and make the sharks happy.
But today I would like to share with you the fact that the people in Sabah and
Lets admit it –
Malu nak kata kita ini orang yang sudah maju, berpendidikan, prihatin, negara kita dah maju dan sebagainya when within our own borders our people are scratching a living, hardly making it above survival.
What works in
In education, I think what is needed are large doses of technical and vocational education. The people need basic skills to build decent sized and comfortable homes, good plumbing, sewerage, bridges, boats, nets and fishing gear. A lot of them live off the sea. They also need useful vocational skills which can improve their livelihoods and lives immediately.
Government run scuba diving schools to train the locals can help them tap the vast number of diving enthusiasts who visit the region. There is no such thing. Apa pasal? Why not?
Government run hospitality institutes can train locals in hotel management, food & beverage management, travel services and so on. I don’t think there are any (or enough) in Semporna or
No point training nuclear scientists just yet - although Tawau has produced at least one submariner for our first submarine. What is found in abundance in this area are the beautiful sea with fish, lobster and shrimp, beaches, white sand, magical islands, vast oil palm plantations and huge tracts of land. This is the wealth of the nation. The locals need practical skills to optimize their standard of living based on these natural resources available in their neighbourhood.
Folks from the Peninsula like TSH Resources, IOI Group, Felcra and other individuals are major landowners in this area. They have developed vast tracts of oil palms. We must make sure that the locals too can develop things on such large scale in their own neighborhood.
The final point to note is that all these people, especially the Bajaus and the Sulus (and even Mary Jane), were here long before our country even came into being.
They inhabit a vast tract of the ocean and inhabit the thousands of uncharted islands from the Phillipines to
I think it is we who must understand that to tell them now that they have suddenly become Malaysians, Filipinos or Indonesians is an administrative inconvenience that must also be mind boggling to them. They were here first. Here are some pictures we took.
A paradise island off Semporna, inhabited by the Bajau folk.
Where the water turns dark blue the coral reef ends and the sea falls off to some depth, about 200 feet. Crystal clear water.
Bajau folk living in abject poverty in paradise. You can see their houses here.
A close up shot of one of the Bajau houses and their kids. These are fellow Malaysians.
A superior neighbourhood minus the trappings that make life easy. Brilliant sunrises and sunsets and being close to the water does not a comfortable life make.
These two Bajau kids were walking the beach collecting plastic bottle caps. They were so happy to show us what they had collected. While . . .
. . . right next to their feet we found these beauties. Shells, conches, clams of huge sizes. Others collect these shells and derive greater value from them, as in the next picture.
A wash basin fashioned out of a real 'giant clam' shell at a restaurant in Semporna. There is real wealth in the neighborhood. People need to be equipped with skills and knowledge to improve themselves.
Some of the Bajaus who have moved up a little in life live here, the "floating Village" on stilts in Semporna. They then join the 'urban poor'.
Security is well guarded by the Police, Army and Navy. The Marine Police patrols the area constantly. A local Policeman said that on the high seas plenty firearms are available and used quite indiscriminately, even for small robberies or skirmishes. The picture shows a Swedish made water jet propelled patrol boat of the Marine Police. The 30 footer can turn on a dime and hit about 50 knots top speed. Quite impressive.