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Site should be restored for history, tourism
Published on: Sunday, January 16, 2022
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Top: The building that once served as the NBCC head-quarters and later as Land Office and Welfare Department. Bottom left: The ruins today. Bottom right: Sabah being the last addition to the Empire which took place in the upstairs of the building.
I REFER to your front page report “British Empire Ended With Sabah” (DE 20.12.2021). I am surprised that this crucial information that sets Sabah apart in Malaysia and the Commonwealth was not public knowledge all this while.

I believe many also knew about it only after DE ran the story quoting Chief Editor James Sarda who revealed it in his speech at a book launch of former Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat. 

It should also be of interest to people in Britain that Sabah (British North Borneo) was the 54th territory to join the British Empire now referred to as the Commonwealth and capitalise on the potential.

I hope the State Government, especially the Tourism Ministry, realise how important this makes Sabah and seek a Federal Government allocation, like it did for the Agnes Keith house in Sandakan, and restore the “Pillars of Sabah” site that was destroyed by fire many years ago.

Now that it has been confirmed in his book by Mr Stephen Holley, the Secretary of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) that it was where the British Military Administration that took charge after the war (from the British North Borneo Chartered Company) handed it the Crown in the upstairs of the wooden building six months before India became the first to be given independence.

It was also interesting to note that the building served as the headquarters of the British North Borneo Chartered Company when it was built in 1910. 

I remember seeing it often in my younger days whenever going to the bank but thinking it was an eyesore. Perhaps this was because it was then painted blue, instead of white.

In fact, all important buildings anywhere in the Commonwealth are always painted white, a colonial trademark.

I have been trying to get a copy of Mr Holley’s book “White Headhunter In Borneo” but no bookshop seems to have it. 

Hence, for the benefit of those who may not have access to the book, it would be appreciated if you could publish the relevant portions where these facts that make Sabah unique have been stated by Mr Holley.

I was also surprised to learn from the report that Mr Holley was Sabah’s first State Secretary for several months and that he was among those who signed the Malaysia Agreement 1963, as then Under-Secretary to last colonial Governor Goode.

Keep up the good work. This is what makes the Daily Express irreplaceable to Sabahans.

JAL

- The fact that the “pillars” site was where Sabah became the last addition to the once mighty British Empire, or the last to go in, was actually mentioned several times in DE reports, especially when the subject of the “pillars” was raised.

It’s just that nobody seem to have noticed it until that report came out. Credit must go to two people, i.e. Chong Kah Kiat and Stephen Holley himself.

When Chong asked if I could speak at his event, I was hesitant as I did not know what to say. More so when he said that the other two guest speakers would be first Mayor Tan Sri Ghani Rashid and another past Mayor, Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, both heavyweights when I am only a journo. 

But since, Chong was appointed as Special Tourism Advisor to the Chief Minister, I thought it would be a good idea to ask him to whisper to the CM about restoring the Pillars site for tourism, besides also the Sandakan Death March route and having a cable car to Mount Kinabalu for non-climbers and day trippers, including honey-mooners.

And Holley because if he had not decided to come from UK on a last visit at age 80 around 2000, this information would have gone with him to his grave. He died five years later, after completing the book.

As for your request for the relevant paragraphs to support this claim to history, it is reproduced below from Holley’s book on the reconstruction of Sabah after the war:


“And so, on the 15th day of July, 1946 the British Empire, on which the sun never set, acquired its last colony. Sarawak had earlier been taken into the fold. 

In a bomb-scarred building, on salvaged furniture, with those assembled in jungle greens and crumpled suits, began a venture with no more elevated goal than to restore a system of government which would enable the needs of health, education, agriculture and commerce to be addressed and revenue to be collected.

And those were noble aims at the time for the world was still in shock. The wounds of war take a long time to heal.” 

(Chapter 5, page 29)

“One of my duties as Assistant Secretary (General) was that of Clerk of the Advisory Council. On the 15th February, 1947, in the top floor of a hastily restored Land & Survey office, resplendent in its whitewashed walls and red painted galvanized roof, I read the proclamation appointing our first Colonial Governor (Sir Edward Twinning).

“He was welcomed by speeches from OKK Sundang, Mr Phillip Lee Tau Sang and Mr J Bryant, members of the Advisory Council representing the various communities.

“The arrival of Governor Twinning marked the beginning of a new era…the attitude of the British Government to its Empire was changing. 

“India was shortly to become independent, and independence with an adequate economic base and an acceptable form of democratic structure became the aim of the colonial service.”

(Chapter 6, page 37) – ED





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