Once rich North Borneo is stripped to the bare
Published on: Sunday, December 15, 2019
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THE nation has been staring at 1MDB for a few years already which is indeed a very unfortunate kleptocracy and Sabah cannot avoid contributing funds direct or indirect to settle the massive debts (uncertain how many tens of billions Ringgit) of 1MDB.

Since the early days in Malaysia, there had been massive flight of wealth including “ill-gotten” gains overseas for all sorts of reasons including migrating.  

Such “ill gotten” sort of gain is still leaving Sabah and other states legitimately or otherwise. Is this being tracked by the authorities? 

This article only provide a tiny glimpse of all the rotten gains from the tropical forests or south sea timber in great demand overseas. There is also 1989 WWF’s book titled “Timber from the South Seas” giving a very good account of our timber being traded mainly in Japan with focus on an analysis of Japan’s tropical timber trade and its environmental impact. 

Then until the new millennium, the forest had been very much depleted (details of our timber extraction are in my book “Sabah wealth image of woods power” ISBN: 983-2653-08-8 in 2004) for the period 1967-2002 and replaced by the mono crop which has been considered the “golden” crops by the planters. We know who are responsible for our lost treasures in the once pristine forests. A very thick book could be compiled if all the materials available are easily accessible.

Unknown to many then, there is a small book titled “Kechik di Sabah: Kisah Sebenar” by Syed Mamood Syed Ismail with first edition 1981 by Syed Mahmood Enterprise Ltd’,HongKong and printed by Chung Hwa Printing Co. Ltd, HongKong.

That book is very revealing of all the wealth obtained by Syed Kechik who came to Sabah in September, 1965 and in a few years accumulated massive wealth and it was reported in the first page of that tiny book that the largest bank in the world had reported that Kechik has not less than USD538m largely obtained from timber land concession in Sabah. 

In that little book, lots of other valuable assets were alleged owned and accumulated by Syed Kechik. Was any of such ill-gotten gain both inside Sabah and outside recovered from Syed Kechik? 

Whoever sent him to Sabah as a young unemployed lawyer are bound to be by those unforgivable activities in Sabah.

That person could be the “catalyst” in the premature demise of the pristine forests in Sabah as he was director of Yayasan Sabah (YS) for some years. YS was supposed to be the Sabah Sovereign Wealth Fund for the people of Sabah but soon in the PBS Government in the early 1990s, the shares for the people were quietly withdrawn after several dividends were distributed. 

I hope to start a new Sabah Sovereign Wealth Fund for the discovery of special recovery exercise (SRE) of lost federal revenue yet to be revealed to the Federal Government and the recovery can be into many billions for decades. This has nothing to do with MA63 but a loophole to be closed in the revenue system.

Then we had the unfortunate incident on 6th June, 1976 and thereafter Sabah was prone to giving away further wealth within our soil in oil and gas plus the island of Labuan in 1984. 

We are now told that since 1976, Sabah had received RM15.6 billion for the royalties of 5pc for PDA exploration and oil and gas production. How much we have lost is anybody’s guess especially PDA 1974 Act 144 is opined to be illegal, null and void. 

While the leaders in Malaya had promised the “moon’ just prior to the formation of Malaysia of three or four (Singapore included until 1965) parts, MA63 had been largely “forgotten” in its implementation in terms of revenue due to Sabah.

We had seen over the five decades that Sabah has been getting less and less and now have to share in the burden of repaying the massive debts (international) of anything, including accrued interest of RM100 billion.  Sabah’s demographic growth also had been extremely unusual and yet allocation of development fund is lesser rather than a matching increase over same period. Are we not going through many whammies for decades and for how long more that we have to go on like that?

The day of reckoning can be any time and I call on those who have enriched themselves by exploitation over the natural wealth of Sabah as provided by the creator God search their conscience as the “karma” can be anytime for them. It would be good to repair the degraded earth to mitigate our common guilt forever. God is watching over our excessive depletion of the earth with a heavy heart. Can we be indifferent or complacent for allowing the earth, especially in Sabah and Borneo, to be bare of the pristine forests? 

I think in the hearts and souls of many genuine Sabahans that such tolerance for so long must come to an end and who is going to take the blame if “intolerance” can get better in a bigger group out to see any positive changes for our fortune in our own land?

Who want to be “destitute” likely in current global prevailing difficult economic cycle which can last longer than usual and more painful for most people in today’s regional conflict and challenges?

In difficult economic scenario other adverse human developments can arise that may sink communities into desperate stances in education, health, welfare, social liaison and even harmony, All these we must be avoided in society in nation building.

To add to our midst, terrorism in certain groups are also emerging to give us so much concern and our productivity can be adversely impacted.

Let my small contribution in this letter be an alert for us to ponder as how the slippery financial and economic road can be halted very soon in resources rich Sabah once but now very much depleted beyond the control of most of us.

We pray that we can trust God to deliver us from such turbulence and tribulation and our faith in God in consolation would help us with our endurance so far to have life improvement.


Joshua Y C Kong

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