‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and ‘Thrilla in Manila’ rank among the finest in boxing’s history

Reggie Jackson was a left-handed slug-hitting baseball player whose consistent post-season success earned him the nickname ‘Mr. October’. Jackson hit 563 home runs and his World Series batting average was so much better than his regular season average that he became something of a legend.

But there is another American — arguably the best known sportsman in the planet and one whose influence went way beyond the boxing ring in which his legend grew and grew and grew — to whom October is a very special month. Two of the peerless Muhammad Ali’s greatest victories came in the month of October.

On October 30, 1974, Ali stunned the world of boxing by knocking out the seemingly indestructible George Foreman in Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The author Thomas Hauser best captured the impact of that moment when he said that it “inspired more global joy than any other athletic achievement in history.’’ That may have even been an under-statement, for such were the worldwide celebrations that followed.

A year later, on October 1, 1975 — exactly 40 years ago today — ‘The Greatest’ outlasted his greatest opponent after 14 brutal rounds of gladiatorial severity in what was billed as ‘The Thrilla in Manila’. Ali later said that it was the closest he had come to death.

“You get tired. It takes so much out of you mentally. I was thinking in the end. Why am I doing this?’’ Ali was quoted as saying the morning after the Manila fight in his hotel suite by Mark Kram of Sports Illustrated.

Total respect for Frazier

“What am I doing here against this beast of a man? It’s so painful. I must be crazy. I always bring out the best in the men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I’ll tell the world right now, brings out the best in me. I am gonna tell ya, that’s one helluva man, and God bless him.’’

For all the taunting and teasing, for all the insults that Ali consistently threw at ‘Smokin Joe’ from the beginning of their epic three-fight (Ali won the second and third) rivalry, there was no boxer that Ali had more respect for in his entire career.

After Eddie Futch, Frazier’s trainer, threw in the towel at the end of Round 14, Ali hailed his opponent as the “greatest fighter of all time, next to me.’’

If those two October slug-fests rank among the finest in the sport’s history, then a lot of things contributed to making them very, very special.

The most powerful nation on earth was shamefacedly pulling out of a war in which it was never going to triumph, in Vietnam. And Americans craved for any kind of diversion that would help them forget the folly of a faraway conflict from which some of their most courageous young countrymen were returning, not as heroes, but looking like zombies in need of serious psychiatric care.

Inspirational icon

And Ali, as a celebrated conscientious objector, was at once hero and villain but a demi-god among African-Americans and anti-war protesters in colleges across the country — as well as to millions of youngsters around the globe.

Put off once because Foreman had cut his eye in training, ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ in the brutal dictator Mobutu’s impoverished capital city of Kinshasa saw many critics hit out at Ali — apparently in his own cause — for signing what they thought was a suicidal contract to fight a man whose arms looked like boulders supporting an over-bridge.

Many feared for the 32-year-old Ali’s safety as he trained in the forests of Zaire, holed up in a small village about 80 km from Kinshasa. Going into the ring, he was a 40-1 outsider with the bookmakers; and that’s as bad as it can get in a one-on-one contest of any kind.

But Ali, steeped in intense self-belief, had his own plans. And they became clear as the fight made its way towards rounds four, five and six. Leaning on the ropes, his back bent like a question mark, the great man soaked up everything that Foreman threw at him.

Then, when the moment came, Ali grabbed it. As Foreman began to visibly tire, his feet heavy, and his mind a mess, Ali moved in for the kill and felled his opponent with a single right, without even bothering to follow up with a couple of more punches even as Foreman slumped.

Brutal battle to the finish

A year on, in Manila, Ali and Frazier found new vistas in their own heart and soul; in an extraordinary contest in which boundaries were pushed back to the very limits, the two men went at each other as if they were ready to lay down their lives on that day. It seemed that nothing short of that would stop either of them.

Once again Ali proved what a resilient fighter he was; he stood up to the Frazier barrage time and time again. And finally, in the 13th round, Frazier’s mouthpiece parted company with him and went flying and Ali pummelled him into submission in the 14th round.

“What a great fighter he is,’’ said Frazier of a pugilist whose physical courage and tactical flexibility were unmatched among his peers. Great fighter or the greatest of all time?

This piece was written by Nirmal Shekar of The Hindu

Musa Aman is well known in Malaysia and across the globe as a leader who is totally committed to development and good governance. His record 3 terms as the Chief Minister of his home state of Sabah exemplifies Musa Aman’s commitment to a development Agenda, rising above all other political considerations. He ushered in a paradigm shift towards pro-people and pro-active good governance, bringing in a positive change in the life of many in Sabah. His tireless efforts were guided by the principle of Collective efforts, inclusive growth where each and every person was an important stakeholder in Sabah’s development journey.

When he took over as Chief Minister on 27th March 2003 Musa Aman did not have much time to settle into his new job. The state was reeling under the aftereffects of a severe cash crunch and there was nothing much in the State Treasury. Even Yayasan Sabah (YS) was badly in need of funds and retrenchment and Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) was the order of the day. The entire world had written off Sabah and it was believed that Sabah would take years to develop. Musa Aman proved them all wrong. In a record span of time Sabah was up and running and today it’s reserves in the State Treasury is more than RM3 billion and has become the cynosure of the world’s eyes.

Musa’s success as an administrator lay in his out of the box thinking. That’s why when he recently spoke to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak he emphasised that the Sabah State government needs greater autonomy for rural development projects.

The Sabah government wants autonomy in terms of planing, funding and implementation of rural development projects so that they can be completed and delivered on time. There are too many Federal agencies involved at the Federal level at the implementation stage that contributed to the delay of projects. Development of rural areas has been hampered due to delay in channnelling of funds, bureaucracy and politicking.

Billions of ringgit were channelled by the Federal Government for development projects involving rural roads, rural electricity, rural water supply and household assistance program via Shafie Apdal’s Rural Development Ministry in the past, but, there was so much hiccups and many projects were delayed and some have not even taken off. With greater control of development funds by the State Government, the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects would be more structured, streamlined and aligned with the State’s overall development objective. Hence by giving more autonomy, Sabah can plan and implement projects in a more holistic manner.

Sabah State Government knows the Sabah turf better. Besides, Sabah State Government is more than able to manage funds from the Federal. Sabah State Government under Musa has a good track record in managing its finance which is proven by Sabah having the best record of financial management in Malaysia for two consecutive years and awarded a ‘clean bill’ by the Auditor-General for 14 consecutive years as well as given ‘AAA’ ratings by Rating Services Berhad RAM for six years in a row. All these happened during Musa tenure.

It is Musa’s firm belief also that – “a Government does not have any business doing business”. What a government should do, however is to create a positive climate that will bring investment. Instances of these approaches were seen time and again, last year Sabah received RM2.4 billion from local investors and RM1 billion was injected by foreign investors and gave a boost to employment creation in Sabah. There was quantum jump in both the MoUs inked and the investment coming. Sabah development Corridor (SDC) has RM135 billion worth of cumulative investments, out of which, RM45 billion have been realised.

Musa did not have much time to catch his breath when he took over as CM in 2003 facing grave adversities and in challenging circumstances. But he rose to the occasion, turned every challenge into an opportunity and transformed Sabah into a state that not only Malaysia but also the entire world is today proud of.

This was told to me by Musa a long time ago but its so meaningful even now, “It is said that community who fails to learn lesson from the past lag behind. Our own experience is no different from this saying. We have to build a better Sabah by taking appropriate lesson from our own history. And we have to define the road today itself. The challenge before this ever-changing society and time is to turn change into progress. Like what Nelson Mandela said: “Vision without action is, but a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with the action changes the world”.

This piece came out in Daily Express Sunday Forum today 13th September 2015

Picked this up from Reuters

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, fellow Gulf states raced to shelter thousands of displaced Kuwaitis. Fast forward 25 years, and the homeless from Syria’s nearby war have found scant refuge in the Arab world’s richest states.

The wrenching image of a Syrian Kurdish refugee boy drowned on a Turkish beach has stoked debate in Europe. The official silence of Gulf Arab dynasties makes many Gulf citizens uneasy.

Paintings and cartoons of the young boy’s death crowded Arab social media, one depicting little Aylan Kurdi’s corpse laid out before an open grave with inert figures in traditional Gulf Arab cloaks and robes holding shovels.

Another showed the three-year old’s head slumped toward a tombstone marked “the Arab conscience”.

Sara Hashash of Amnesty International called the Gulf Arab states’ behaviour “utterly shameful” and criticised Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for officially taking in zero refugees.

Turkey hosts almost 2 million, tiny Lebanon over a million and other restive and poor neighbours hundreds of thousands.

The Gulf States’ supporters say the numbers involved in Syria’s crisis are vastly larger than in Kuwait’s case. They point to the funding Gulf States have given to aid efforts in countries neighbouring Syria.

“Qatar is very small and already donating to refugees in Jordan, Turkey and northern Iraq. For logistical reasons Qatar cannot take in large numbers of refugees so instead Qatar chooses to support them financially,” said Abdullah Al-Athbah, editor in chief of Arab Newspaper.

But sympathy for Syria’s refugees is on the rise.

“It gives us a glimmer of hope after these recent drowning episodes to see broad campaigns of sympathy and solidarity with the issue of Syrian refugees by governments and peoples in some European countries,” wrote Zeid al-Zeid in a column for Kuwait’s Al-An newspaper on Sunday.

“But it makes us sorry and makes us wonder about the absence of any official response by Arab states … we’re seeing a silence that’s scandalous.”

Sultan Sooud al Qassemi, a commentator in the United Arab Emirates, said he suspected Gulf States were wary of allowing in large numbers of politically vocal Arabs who might somehow influence a traditionally passive society. But he said Gulf States should open their doors to the refugees.

“The Gulf states often complain that the Arabic language is underused and that our culture is under threat due to the large number of foreign immigrants,” Mr. al Qassemi said.

“Here is an opportunity to host a group of people who can help alleviate such concerns and are in need of refuge, fleeing a brutal war.”

One Kuwaiti analyst, a regular fixture on pan-Arab news shows, raised hackles by saying in a television interview that refugees were better suited to poorer countries, failing to acknowledge the pledges of rich European countries like Germany to take in many thousands.

“Gulf countries clearly can and should do an awful lot more,” said Oxfam’s Syria country director Daniel Gorevan.

He called on Gulf States to “offer up work places, family unification schemes, essentially other legal avenues for them to get into Gulf countries and to be able to earn a living.”

In Arab states beyond the Gulf, there is immense sympathy for Syrians, but mixed views on the feasibility of helping.

“Tunisia is not able to welcome any refugees. We cannot accept Syrian refugees. After the revolution of 2011, Tunisia was the first to pay the price in terms of refugees. We have welcomed 1.2 million Libyans and that has cost us a lot,” Boujemaa Rmili, a spokesman for the Nidaa Tounes party which forms part of the governing coalition said.

Migrants from Syria and Sahel countries into Algeria are estimated at 55,000, a source from Algeria’s red crescent told Reuters. “We have done what we can to offer them the basics including food, medicine, host centres, and we have allowed the Syrian kids to study in our schools,” the source said.


Gulf officials and those defending Gulf policies say the outrage overlooks the billions donated to Syrian refugee camps abroad and the delicate demographics of countries where expatriate workers already nearly outnumber locals.

“Qatar has provided over $2 billion in aid to the Syrian people in addition to the $106 million provided by Qatar’s semi-governmental institutions,” a Qatari diplomat said.

Others felt Gulf states should go further.

“[The Gulf] should accept Syrian refugees. Saudis and Syrians have always been brothers and sisters. Aside from the fact that our religion requires us to do so, helping refugees should be a natural reaction to what we have seen in the media,” 22-year old Saudi student Noor Almulla said.

Another Saudi student, Sara Khalid (23), said Gulf Arab states “as their neighbours and fellow Muslims” had a greater responsibility to Syrian refugees than Europeans.

While none of the Gulf Arab states have signed onto key global agreements defining refugee status and imposing responsibilities on countries to grant asylum, the United Nations Refugee Agency praised the Gulf’s “hospitality.”

“The six GCC governments continue to respect international standards with regards to protecting refugees,” especially in not repatriating them back to their war-torn homes, Nabil Othman, the UNHCR’s representative in the Gulf told Reuters.

While authorities generally apply “humanitarian considerations” to those overstaying their visas, Othman said work or local sponsorship still mostly defined residency status.

Foreign workers outnumber locals five to one in the UAE and Qatar, where well-heeled European families and South Asian workers are omnipresent while long-robed citizens are rare. Refugee camps are, and will likely remain, non-existent.

“The numbers of foreigners are overwhelming. Here we have 90 per cent – do you want to turn local people into minorities in their own countries? They already are, but to do it really?” said UAE Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist.

Over the decades, Saudi Arabia has become home to around half a million Syrians and the UAE to over 150,000, and the welcome extended to these and other expat professionals has helped fuel a boom in Gulf economies.

But since the unrest and wars unleashed by the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings in 2011, those governments have adopted a stricter line on accepting Palestinians, Syrians and Shia Muslims – a sign of just how much the rich and stable Gulf ruled by absolute monarchs is wary of importing political contagions.

Iyad al-Baghdadi, a Palestinian blogger and activist deported from the UAE last year, has criticised the response of the Gulf states and laments the closed borders and repression.

Recalling time spent in a Norwegian refugee camp with Syrian refugee friends, he said on Twitter: “Something about this felt absolutely alien – three grown Arab Muslim men who were made homeless and are seeking refuge in… Scandinavia.”

“The Arab world is 5 million square miles. When my son was born, among the worst thoughts was how it has no space for him.”

Sabah Umno chief Musa Aman has urged party leaders and members in the state to cut the polemics and politicking among themselves, but to instead focus their thoughts and energy on
improving the people’s lot.

Musa, who is also Sabah Chief Minister, said too much polemics and little work done would not bring any benefit to the people, state and country as a whole.

“What is important is to carry out the work entrusted to us by the people. Go down to the ground to meet them and know their problems. I’ve always told Umno leaders and members to talk less and work more.”

Musa said this to reporters after simultaneously opening the Tuaran Umno delegates’ meeting and its Wanita, Youth and Puteri Umno meetings at the Sulaman Community Hall in Tuaran today.

Also present were Tuaran Umno division chief and state Housing and Local Government Minister Hajiji Noor, and the division’s deputy chief, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is also federal Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister.

Earlier, in his speech, Musa reminded Umno leaders and members to continue to focus on the party’s struggle and not lose direction, as it was normal that in any struggle, there would be challenges, tribulations and “thorns”, especially in a big political party like Umno.

“That is why I’ve always told (the elected representatives) that they should not regard themselves as just ‘Yang Berhomat’ (Honourable Member) but also as ‘Yang Berkhidmat’ (Serving Member) to the people.

“This is the way and approach to ensure Umno and the other component parties in Barisan Nasional remain stable and strong,” he said.

He also reminded Umno leaders and members the importance of upholding the culture of being loyal to the party leadership and being united in the interest of the party.

– Bernama

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim friends and all readers to this blog, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! May this Raya comes with full of love, peace and prosperity.


The recent Sabah Quake has left a very damaging effect on Sabah and her people in all forms. The physical, psychological, spiritual trauma felt by Sabahans and friends of Sabah is one that cannot be erased so easily. As someone who has called Sabah my home for many years, I believe I speak for many that the Sabah Quake is a reminder of how insignificant we are to a land that had provided so much for so many. Clearly, life as we live it must take into account natures very living presence that is in as much of a position as human beings are in determining both life and death.

However, what I foresee to be the greatest burden befallen those effected by the quake is an economical one.The quake took 18 lives and left almost 20 people wounded and hurt. Over a hundred climbers were left stranded on the mountain, without other viable exit routes. Numerous homes and building in approximately 18 districts suffered structurally and more than 80 aftershocks recorded by the Meteorological Department, many more will soon be reported.

The point that I am making here is simple; There is a great need for funds designated to restoration works in Sabah. The local mountain guides (national heroes in my eyes) and affected local residents need to be taken care of till Mount Kinabalu is once again ready for climbers. In its current state, no climbers would even dare think of weathering Akinabalu and if climbers are no longer coming, an entire community that depends on this industry to make a living will be severely effected.

Recently in a conversation with Sabah Chief Minister, Musa Aman, I was told that he had appealed to several high ranking officers from PETRONAS ( a government endorsed oil and Gas conglomerate) to assist with the Sabah Quake victims. A verbal agreement was made between Aman and PETRONAS in which this special fund would serve as their CSR for Sabah. This has yet to take place, but for this assistance to make truly help, it needs to come in soon. Similarly, other successful companies and conglomerates need to come forward in a similar fashion. Anyone who has benefited from Sabah needs to pump resources back to the state immediately.

We can never blame anyone for the Sabah quake. Nature is unpredictable as it is beautiful and what happens within the realm of the natural is completely out of our hands. But what we can take complete control of are the aftermaths, the rehabilitation and and the recovery. If we fail to assist and support where it is needed, then blame is inevitable. Conglomerates, such as PETRONAS who have had the support of so many, need to take time from their busy schedule to realize that those servicing the Mount Kinabalu, a cherished and honored world heritage site, are in need of help. Help needs to come sooner rather than later, through swift action and not as lip service.

this piece was out today in the Sunday Daily Express forum

“The U.S. could be poised for a third world war with China and one key to avoiding it could be found in currency accommodation, George Soros said in a recent speech to the Bretton Woods Committee in Washington D.C.

As China’s economy transitions, this could trigger a global military conflict as might other issues in the region, Soros observed. “If the transition runs into roadblocks, then there is a chance, or likelihood in fact, the leadership would foster some external conflict to keep the country united and maintain itself in power,” Soros said. “If there is a military conflict between China and an alley of the U.S., like Japan, it is not an exaggeration to say we could be on the threshold of a third world war. It could spread to the Middle East, then Europe and Africa.”

Not engaging China could be a mistake of historic proportion, he said. “It is in the interest of both parties to find accommodation because the alternative is so unpleasant. There has been a breakthrough in climate policy. There needs to be a similar breakthrough in economic policy. If not, China will align itself with Russia, and then a third war will become real.”

The third world war could already be taking shape in Europe, where “you already has an indirect war between Russia and the west, yet no one realizes this.” Russian military spending is now approaching 10 percent of its GDP, and China has made a similar commitment to spending on armaments, he observed.

After the 2008 collapse, the U.S. was being questioned and the nail in the coffin of world supremacy occurred. It was here history for the U.S. took a decided negative turn, Soros says, as U.S. President George W. Bush’s attack on Iraq “on false pretenses, I must add,” was the point at which the U.S. lost the mantle of global world leader. The U.S. had become sole ruler of world leadership after the collapse of the Soviet Union’s communistic system and in just one short decade lost this title. “This was almost exactly same period of time as Hitler’s” reign in power, less than ten years, Soros noted.

Now the world has broken up into rival camps both financially and politically, he noted, wondering how a catastrophic war will be avoided. “The big question is will they be able to keep the rivalry in bounds.””

Listen the full speech here.

Spanish painter Salvador Dali not only created surreal art, he lived a surreal life too.

In 1924, after World War I a new cultural movement called Surrealism was started by French poet Andre Breton. Surrealism extended beyond painting. It had an effect on film, poetry, music and sculpture. The word surrealism means “more than real” from the French word sur which means “above”. Surrealists wanted to rebel against the rational, everyday world.

Many Surrealists tried drawing without thinking so that they could bring out whatever was in their unconscious mind. The art looks disturbing and sometimes just plain weird, but has a lot of interesting details if you take a closer look.

Above the real

Surrealist artists loved to combine objects that are not usually found together such as a lobster on a telephone. The Belgian artist Rene Magritte created a human head and painted it over with a blue sky full of clouds. This makes the head look as if it is dissolving into air!

One of the most famous artists belonging to the Surrealism movement was Spanish artist Salvador Dali. Born on May 11, 1904, Salvador loved art and playing football when he was growing up in Figueres, Spain. He went to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid when he was 17.

At the Academy, the young Dali had a wild set of friends. He grew his hair and wore his sideburns long. He got into trouble with his teachers and was expelled before he could graduate. Dali experimented with various forms of art. He explored Classical art, Impressionism, Cubism and Dadaism. Ultimately, he got interested in Surrealism through the work of artists like Joan Miro and Rene Magritte.

One of Dali’s most famous paintings is The Persistence of Memory. The painting shows a set of melting clock faces in a beautiful dream-like landscape. There is a weird shape with what looks like a face in the middle of the painting, and another melting clock draped over it. Dali wanted to show that time does not stay fixed. Some people think Dali was thinking about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when he painted the picture. His painting Swans Reflecting Elephants has amazing reflections in it.

Dali created surreal works of art and also lived his life in a surreal manner. He often shocked people with his crazy behaviour and dress. He had a funny, pencil thin moustache that curled up at the ends. Sometimes he and his wife Gala would go to parties dressed in weird costumes that would upset other people.

Salvador Dali died in 1989. He was such a talented artist and he made important contributions to sculpture, film, theatre, fashion, photography and other areas besides painting.

You can go online to look at pictures by Dali, with permission from your parents, on this website: http://www.virtualdali.com

Several unique characteristics go along with the name of Musa Aman. In him, Sabah has had a three-dimensional leader: a statesman par excellence, an astute businessman banker and a thinker with the courage of conviction.

Musa was a successful businessman/banker long before he entered politics but all his life he had strived to make everything he touched more value oriented. He had an inimitable style of winning hearts. He has several friends with views diametrically opposite his, but that has never come between him and them when it comes to frank sharing of ideas and feelings. Rarely does one find a leader with such a fine blend of toughness and tenderness.

Musa has contributed to Sabah polity in multiple ways. He remains the epitome of alternate political thought and functionality. He personifies patriotism. If attributes such as informality in interpersonal relationships, spirit of accommodation, respect for the opposite viewpoint, a complete non-compromising approach towards politics of hate and injustice, etc. are still to be found in present day politics, Musa – among others – deserves credit. His most important contribution is strengthening Sabah democracy. When power politics sounded extremely monopolistic and people wondered if the element of choice had completely vanished from Sabah polity, he didn’t need words to send the message “Boleh Bah Kalau Sabah” to the people with all the strength at his command.

He remains the first genuine leader, the first truly Sabah chief minister who managed to convince Putrajaya to have a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Illegal Immigrants and address Sabah’s Mother of All Problems – “Illegal Immigrants”. He also remains one of the first politician from East Malaysia who is working quietly with the Prime Minister to get an equity in Petronas for Sabah state apart from the oil and gas royalty of five per cent. And for his effort so far Sabah has gotten a 10 per cent stake in Petronas LNG Train 9 Sdn Bhd in Bintulu, Sarawak, which would generate additional revenue to the state and its people. Speaking at the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the 61st birthday of Head of State Tun Juhar recently, Musa Aman said ” Our commitments does not end here. Instead we will continue to double our efforts by working together with the Federal Government to mobilise various programmes to further raise the social status of the people and life quality.”

When Musa took over as chief minister, Sabah was literally on the threshold of the 21st century. And it was a new, young and assertive Sabah with surging aspirations, contrary to the old status quo-ist elements who were in denial. Musa recognised these burgeoning aspirations, and successfully struck a balance without compromising on Sabah’s fundamental values. His regime witnessed the stabilisation of the new economy, and he created an appetite for development-oriented governance.

In ensuring the success and excellence of the public delivery system, Musa pledged to provide good governance. He said, “Our first commitment to the people is to give a stable, honest, transparent and efficient government capable of accomplishing all-round development. For this, the government shall introduce time-bound program of needed administrative reforms, including those for the civil services”. Musa not only strengthened old bridges, he also tried to create new ones to overcome the distances between different social groups, districts and economic strata. His Midas touch impacted every sector of governance. His programmes and policies demonstrated his commitment to a strong and self-reliant Sabah, prepared to meet the challenges of the coming decade.

To make Sabah an economic power in the 21st century, he transformed the economic policy framework. Sectors like public sector enterprises, agricultural produce marketing, small-scale industries, urban land ceilings, highways, rural roads, elementary education, ports, electricity, communal land titles, oil and gas were all subject to far-reaching reforms and raised Sabah’s power graph in Malaysia. Sabah continue to be sought after by foreign investors, especially in the manufacturing sector. Last year Sabah received RM2.4 billion from local investors and RM1 billion was injected by foreign investors. Since the launch of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) in 2008 until August 2014, RM135 billion worth of cumulative investments have been planned and committed, out of which, RM45 billion have been realised.

The State Government has even implemented various programmes for the development of the people such as the Prosperous Mini Estates (Mesej), 1Azam, Local Economy Enhancement, Agropolitan Project and Housing Aid Programme as well as the Prosperous Village Programme. These programs aim to transform selected villages holistically by involving three main aspects, namely the development of human capital, economic progress and improvement in the quality of life.

On the forest front, Musa’s commitment to increase the Sabah’s total protected area must be appreciated as his role for making things happen, without whose support, the translation of policies into actions would not have come about. Today Sabah’s Total Protected Areas (TPAs) of 1,553,262 hectares or about 21 per cent of the State’s total land area is arguably the largest in Malaysia. This percentage has exceeded the original IUCN (International Union of The Convention of Nature) target of 10 per cent and even CBD’s (Convention on Biological Diversity) 17 per cent of various types of ecosystems. What is more important is that, TPAs of Sabah cover a wide range of ecosystems including : pristine lowland forests, pristine highland forests, montane forests, freshwater wet lands, mangrove swamps, peat lands, regenerating lowland Dipterocarp forests and Heath (Kerangas) forests, amongst others. Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon, have additional buffers for reinforced protection and dedicated wildlife corridors to address connectivity and fragmentation. All these possible because of Musa Aman.

Musa has launched to date many ambitious projects: highways to connect to Sarawak, Kalimantan and Brunei along with other towns like Tenom to Sipitang, and to every kampong by road. These projects also revolutionised the real estate sector, commerce and the rural economy. The improved road connectivity further integrated the state through a network of world-class highways, which puts Sabah on the fast lane to socio-economic development. This is indeed, the highway to prosperity!

Musa as the Sabah Security Chief encompassing governance doctrine is also seen in his strategic vision in regards to Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), a security area that stretches 1,733.7km along the east coast of Sabah, from Kudat to Tawau. Esscom was established on April 1, 2013, following the Sulu intrusion in Tanduo, Lahad Datu. With the setting up of Esscom and its restructuring last July 17, cases of cross border crimes in the Esszone have become less rampant. Efficient and effective mechanisms have been introduced such as curfew, and integrated operations which are ongoing. The establishment of the Esscom, re-evaluation of Sabah’s decades old illegal immigrants problem, economic diplomacy, and engagement with the Manila has re-written Sabah’s strategic governance system.

Under Musa Aman, Sabah has become a powerhouse of growth and had emerged as an important contributor to Malaysia’s development journey. Under his able leadership Sabah became known for its quality infrastructure and excellent financial management. Musa Aman’s governance in Sabah saw a government that listened to the people and one that built its success through equal economic growth in all sectors. Through innovation and emphasis on detail he brought in record investment that benefited people of Sabah and drew people from all over Malaysia to work in Sabah and make a living.

On October of last year (2014), this blog hosted an article I wrote on how several public listed companies from Peninsular Malaysia have gained ”ownership” of Sabah’s Native Title lands through seemingly legal yet downright dishonestly via sublease (See here : Living off the Rape: The Lost Native Titled Lands to the Outlanders). After that very same post, the Director of Sabah Land & Survey Department Datuk Osman Jamal came out with a 14 page press statement -“Sub-lease Bukan Pindahmilik dan Rampasan Tanah Tidak Berlaku” (Sublease is not for Transfer and There is No issue of Land Grab) also found at http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2014/11/05/no-reports-on-sabah-land-scam-allegations/). I find it strange that Osman Jamal is somehow insinuating that dealing in NT Lands by non-natives, listed companies and foreigners are officially forbidden but is it suppressed?

This is not a case of bogus natives with questionable native certificates dealing in buying or selling NT lands. The dispute is also not about Natives selling to Natives but the constant abuse of Natives as “nominees” by non-natives, listed companies and foreigners in their pursuit to possess and “own” NT lands. It is indeed a cause for concern when the Sabah Law Association (SLA) appears to concur with the Director of Sabah Land & Survey Department on issues fronting the NT lands grab and the law through the Director’s 14 page press statement. What adds insult to injury here is at the time of writing, the SLA has yet to make a stand on the issue. This failure to issue a statement on the allegations of its member’s active role in drafting and attesting such agreements and on the contents of the press release from the Director of Sabah Land & Survey Department is nothing short of dumbfounding considering that the SLA has prided themselves for presumably being the protectors of justice for Sabahan without fear or favour, that they are always on their toes to bark against any such infringements especially against those involving Natives Rights.

In fact, the SLA’s silence on the issue is a clear defiance of the pillar’s of foundation it is founded on – they have to take all reasonable steps to educate the public on the reasons they have remained silent on the NT lands scam as reported in the Daily Express dated 18/10/2014. It is indeed cause for concern as the failure of the SLA shows how selective and biased they are in upholding justice and raises pertinent questions as to whether the association must now be reformed.

“Fraud” is defined as “criminal deception, devious ploy or trick” and therefore relates to any form of cheating. The main point before dealing with this issue is to emphasise that a problem which can generally be described as “assisting fraudulent activity” is not confined to being a party together with someone, abetting or advising someone on how to commit fraud but rather any illegal or improper activity. Professional accountability involves distinguishing how to balance the various duties owed by lawyers to the administration of justice, to the client, to the public and to the legal profession. Turning a blind eye to fraudulent activities often happens through ignorance or unsuccessful efforts to balance the various duties which a lawyer owes either because it is too difficult or it conflicts too much with “commercial realities”.

Sir L.W. Street, the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, in New South Wales v Harvey [1976] said of the *fiduciary nature of a solicitor’s duty to clients, “An appreciation of that duty depends not upon some technical construction but upon applying the ordinary concepts of fair dealing between honourable men.” Hence, the Director of Sabah Land & Survey Department and District Officers (as ACLR) should exercise their duties in ‘good faith’, and in the absence of ‘bad faith’. ‘Bad faith’ raises issues both of fact and of law and involves personal fault and improper motive. Acting in bad faith can include dishonesty, fraud or intentional bias, acting in the knowledge of a real or perceived conflict of interests, inappropriate discriminating or an abuse of power, knowingly acting beyond the scope or ambit of the power available to the department or official or other conduct with an improper motive or ulterior purpose.

‘Good faith’ requires and implies an actual belief that all is being regularly and properly done and may be present even where the official has acted in error or irrationally. However, significant errors, repeated lapses in logical processes or an absence of reasonable caution or diligence may show a lack of good faith depending on context. Acting in good faith means that a function is performed honesty, for the proper purpose, on relevant grounds and within power. Good faith requires ‘more than an absence of bad faith. It requires a careful approach to the exercise of power’. Public officials such as the Director of Sabah Land & Survey Department and DO are under an obligation to exercise their power and functions in the public interest and not for the benefit of particular persons or interests. If members of the public are not able to understand a decision-making process or its outcome, they may question both the decision and ultimately the decision-maker including the influence of inappropriate or extraneous considerations. Public officials should also perform all their duties to the best of their abilities otherwise it would be considered breach of duty. A breach of official or public duty is distinguishable from a breach of a duty of care under tort (negligence) law. It incorporates unlawful, unauthorised or partial conduct or an intentional failure to perform a mandatory duty.

As the Director of Sabah Land & Survey Department rightfully pointed out in s17.(1) – Except with the written permission of the Minister all dealings in land between non-natives on the one hand and natives on the other hand are hereby expressly forbidden and no such dealings shall be valid or shall be recognised in any court of law. He should have pointed out that in s 4 – The word “dealing” means any transaction of whatever nature by which land is affected under this Ordinance. The Director of Land and Survey had acknowledged that in the Sub-lease procedures involving NT lands, 3 elements must be strictly complied – (i) Memo of sub lease in Sch. XVI Form filed, (ii) the required fees payed and (iii) the sub-lease Agreements between the Native owner and the sublessor. One can only assume that the Land & Survey Department had read and verified these Sub-lease Agreements especially on the fees and the duration period of the sub-lease BEFORE registration. The fact that the Sub-lease Agreements contains clauses that contravene the law, ie an extension of a lease for another 60 years (2X automatic extension) AFTER the initial 30 year sub-lease without any further payments, had been duly registered. The Director of Land and Survey stated that his department had never received any formal reports from Native Title holders saying their lands had been taken illegally or without their consent. He later went on to say that “No one who had sold their land to a third party who then sub-leased it to a private company had ever gone to court and said they had been cheated or that the sub-lease was without their consent”.

These poor native NT land owners have absolutely no idea how extensive the acreage owned by them or its location as no admission or information on neither these titles, sublease fees payments nor their own tax returns has ever been disclosed to them. The suppression of documentation, creation of illegal documentation and consequent making of a false declaration is not the result of any innocent error but a vital element in the furtherance of a scam by these Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies. Moreover, NO sole bread winner for mouths to feed will ever snitch on their employees. Many Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies who buy into NT property in Sabah are using the “nominee system” for both plantations, housing development projects and in some cases land speculation investment. This is where the Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies buyer puts the NT title into the name of a Sabahan Native BUT clenches and hold on to these NT Titles.

The nominee system is actually very similar to offshore banking structure used in tax haven islands or even in Switzerland. If one dreams of ownership in NT land this is one way to retain it. Many Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies have bought and sold NT lands this way. The Director of Land and Survey had refuted that rich people would do it. The rich appreciates the philosophy that generally in all aspects of life, greater risk equals greater reward. Wealthy people have the least concern about the system. They are already accustomed to this type of arrangement. They even like the fact that they have an asset that is not in their name which no one could ever take from them or even know about. It should be noted that over the last 10 years, people who have been bold enough to do this in Sabah have made huge profits. Land Subleased to these Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies act conveniently as their insurance. It grants them a leasehold title for the next 30 years. If they have a problem with their Native nominee there is nothing these Natives would be able to do during that period and this is what that will secure the NT title properties. Even in the worst case scenario, if one has a problem with the Native nominee, the property is still theirs to enjoy as the sublease is locked in for a 30 year term and they could even sell these NT lands as a subleased property to others. (Remember the numerous blank escrow documents signed)

The Director of Land and Survey declared that sub-lease allows NT lands to be developed and the installation of infrastructures by the private company, such as roads, electricity and water, will add value to the land itself while at the same time still keeping the ownership of the land with the Orang Asal. “Once the sub-lease period is over, the land automatically reverts back to the NT title holder, along with all the added values”. The Director of Land and Survey did not clarify what happens if these lands were charged to maintain all these “development improvements” in these NT lands or what happens in the event these poor, uneducated employee Natives dies before the expiration of the 30 year sublease? How would the next of kin or family member know of the extensive ownership of these NT lands when the PPHT Offices itself refuses to reveal and even discourages these Natives queries and forbid them from obtaining photostat copies of the these NT land titles?.

The Director of Sabah Lands and Surveys Department further gave lessons on “Malaysian Contract Law” and claims it is “permissible” in the Contracts Act despite the Courts in Sabah having declared such form of arrangements as in the case of Borhill, Neway and in the groundbreaking Federal Court case of Balantai, as it is an abuse of s17 of the Sabah Land Ordinance on “dealings” as it is an Express Statutory Prohibition and is Forbidden. “Stop NT Land Deals via Nominees”, a statement by Clarence Bongkos had also substantiated that too many occurrences of non-natives and others from outside Sabah, especially from Sarawak, making use of local natives as nominees to acquire native lands in Sabah. The modus operandi is using employees to acquire the NT lands and hold it in trust through side agreements until such time the land is converted to Commercial Lease (CL) or dispose of after planting oil palm for a higher prize.  That’s why we can see Chinese from Peninsular Malaysia owning NT lands in Nabawan and thousands of NT lands in Pensiangan been transferred to non-natives. These revelations among many others cannot be all fictitious tales.

The Director had issued on Nov 7, 2014, another statement that that Native lands have title over it unlike the Malay Reserve Land (MRL) so Sabah Natives luckier than P”sula Malays. He should have checked the facts on Malay Reserve Land in the Peninsula Malaysia as it have many provisions and additional statutes protection that have to be referred and strictly complied when forming even just the sub-leases. The relevant statutes are: (i) National Land Code (Act 56 of 1965): Section 221 – 228A, (ii) Land Enactments 1897, (iii) MAS Land Rules 1950 (Amended 1954), (iv) Malay Reserve Enactment 1913: Section 17. A further safeguard provision in law for (MRL) is found in Federal Constitution Article 89(3) that envisages if any Malay Reserve Land is acquired or revoked, the state authority shall replace it with another piece of state land. There are 3 conditions which need to be adhered to for Malay Reserve Land’s replacement: (i). It has to be similar in character; (ii) An area not exceeding the area revoked and (iii) The replacement should be exercised immediately. Do the NT lands have such protections and safeguards as the Malay Reserve Land?

In law, the Freedom of Contract doctrine is not absolute and that all contracts and agreements should be consistent with the provision of Malaysian Contract Act 1950 and other laws. Factors which revoke such consent are coercion (s15), undue influence (s16), fraud (s17), misrepresentation (s18), and certain categories of mistake (s21,22 & 23) are simply examples of defective consent or restriction and will which render the resulting agreements invalid despite the rule on Freedom of Contract. All agreements are contracts if they are made by the free consent of parties competent to contract for a lawful consideration and with a lawful object. But it is possible for valid agreements to be found unenforceable in the eyes of the law in this various conditions:

(i) Lack of Capacity – both (or all) parties to a contract have NO ability to understand exactly what it is they are agreeing to. If it appears that one side did not have this reasoning capacity, the contract may be held unenforceable against that person.

(ii) Duress or coercion – will invalidate a contract when someone was defenseless into making the agreement.

(iii) Undue Influence – If Person B (employer) imposed Person A (employee) to enter into an agreement by taking advantage of a special or particularly persuasive relationship, the resulting contract might be found unenforceable on grounds of undue influence.

(iv) Nondisclosure – is essentially misrepresentation through silence – when one party neglects to disclose an important fact about the deal. Courts look at various issues to decide whether a party had a duty to disclose the information.

(v) Unconscionably – means that a term in the contract or something essential in or about the agreement was so shockingly unfair that the contract simply cannot be allowed to stand as is. The indication here again is to ensure fairness, so a court will consider (i) whether one side has grossly unequal bargaining power, (ii) whether one side had difficulty understanding the terms of the agreement or (iii) whether the terms themselves were unfair.

(vi) Mistake – a contract is unenforceable not because of bad faith by one party but due to a mistake on the part of one party (called a “unilateral mistake”) or both parties (called a “mutual mistake”). In either case, the mistake must have been about something important related to the contract, and it must have had a substantial effect on the exchange or bargaining process. And yet, the Director of Land and Survey reiterates, it is allowed under the Malaysian Contracts Act 1950

The Director of Sabah Lands and Surveys Department mentioned that he has no control over “Nominees Being Appointed” as it is not defined by the Sabah Land Ordinance and have no power to regulate such Trust Deeds and yet on the same breath he declares that all agreements including the Charge Agreements, Appointment of Nominees, Trust Deed Agreements, signing of any Agreement in escrow and others (even the signing of an undated white piece of paper) which had been ruled in the landmark Federal Court’s case of Datuk Ong Kee Hui v Sinyium Anak Mutit [1983], that the arrangement of submitting an undated resignation letter to the Speaker was contrary to public policy and are illegal, unlawful and of no effect therefore void. It is more puzzling that undated agreements with unnamed purchasers given to non-natives, listed companies or foreigners (which are illegal, unlawful and of no effect therefore void) are deemed valid by his explanations.

However, there was never any mentioned of TRANSFER to non-natives, listed companies or foreigners but rather the existence of legal documents that include S&P, MOT in escrow and signing of undated white piece of papers. The wordings and Clauses in the Sublease agreements and Trust Deeds goes further to prove the existence of dealings in NT lands by these non-natives, listed companies and foreigners. This blog merely reiterated that Non-natives, listed companies and foreigners had indirectly gained “ownership” of Sabah’s NT Lands through seemingly legal but downright dishonest means and mentioned IJM Plantations Bhd specifically.

The Sabah Lands and Surveys Department supports the notion that the sublease of RM 1 to non-natives is valid sublease fee as the rule on Freedom of Contact. (He would have made more sense if it he had based it on the principle of laissez faire – (an economic system which rejects any form of barrier and restriction to the economic process) BUT that principle is not binding and it must strictly comply with all regulations when it comes to protecting property rights. By the same token, I suppose, Sabah Lands and Surveys Department would consider SELLING of NT lands for RM 1 as adequate price based on the freedom of contract doctrine. After all Sabah Lands and Surveys Department had concurred that RM 1 for sublease as adequate FEE, fair consideration and valid. Surely by that notion, BUYING AND SELLING of NT lands for RM 1 between Natives is also an acceptable price going by the rule on freedom of contract. Are we sending the right message on the real value of NT lands?

This RM 1 sublease fee should never be permitted as it is bad business not only for these Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies similarly it jeopardises the sub lessee (the person who holds the sublease) to many potential risks as the Registered Native Owner may cancel or surrender the subleasing agreement by repaying or paying off the sub lessee the mere RM 1 sublease fee payment and reclaim their NT lands. After all if you live by sword, you die by sword would seem to be the order of the day. The Director of Sabah Lands and Surveys Department had stated that 4,621 NT titles are subleased for 30 years and that another 1,339 NT titles are subleased for 99 years. He further disclosed that about 89,400 acres of NT lands are sub-leased to 4 listed companies among others. He should have revealed how extensively are these NT lands subleased to these 4 listed companies for RM 1 and who these NT lands owners are? My question is WHY would poor and underprivileged Natives buy these lands at market price or below in some case and then sublease it for a mere RM 1 to these wealthy Non Natives, foreigners and listed Companies?

The proposal was along the line of land reforms that an additional section to be added to the present Sabah Land Ordinance was blasted by the Director of Lands and Survey and was rejected outright as it had (in his words) element of self-interest. He did not elaborate if the element of self-interest contravenes any laws especially the Sabah Land Ordinance and/or the Malaysian Contracts Act. Why it is not legally and morally right for these Natives as the registered NT land owners to look out for their own interest is beyond logic.

Rahim Ismail the Pantai Manis Assemblymen, during the Sabah State Budget 2015 debate at the State Assembly, proposed that drastic action that includes revoking the land titles of locals who are profiteering from the rental of their lands to foreigners. Wasn’t this 4 term assemblymen recommending somehow a similar prescription. After all we just cannot have a government with land policies to just rob Peter to pay Paul or an economic warfare strategy of taking land from the poor in order to buy allegiance from the wealthy as they would do much to create growth in Sabah’s economy.

The laws once in place would allow the State to take away in a heartbeat these lands, houses, factories, plantations, mills, businesses or whatever that is “Non-native” owned as it was obtained illegally in the first place through such mechanism. This mechanism would provide some successes in exposing large-scale NT lands deals even before these lead to resource grabbing, pushing for policy measures that would lead to official investigation of questionable NT land deals and getting back lands that were grabbed by unscrupulous non-natives, listed companies and foreigners. Any responsible and accountable authority would agree that by drafting this new section into the Land Ordinance would effectively and eventually curb “dealings” and illegal ownership of these NT lands by non-natives, listed companies and foreigners. After all, I truly believe that NT lands restitution is a major step towards restoration of the Sabah Natives dignity.

Director of Land and Survey further mentioned that agreements prepared by lawyers, agents or brokers are deemed valid and are not an offence of any law if these NT land owners had consented and had signed on it. This would be tantamount to the Director of Land & Survey encouraging or even sanctioning such process even though it clearly contravenes the law of Contract Acts in s 24 – The consideration or object of an agreement is lawful, unless – (a) it is forbidden by a law; (b) it is of such a nature that, if permitted, it would defeat any law;(c) it involves or implies injury to the person or property of another; (d) the court regards it as immoral, or opposed to public policy. He had also stated that “If there is indeed illegal transfer of rights, be it through sub-lease, the court may order the Lands and Surveys to cancel it and return the land to the NT title holder and he further opined that these poor natives should go to the Courts for remedy and should refrain from further making “confusing” statement in newspapers.

One has to fully understand the role of the press and the internet as the ‘fourth domain’ of a concept that act as a check and balance on the three pillars of government: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The newspapers just like blog sites have responsibilities to its readers. However, just like the operation of a newspaper, the responsible blog sites are of public trust and its overriding responsibility is to the society it serves. Like the newspapers, blog sites also have many roles: a watchdog against evil and wrongdoing, an advocate for good works and noble deeds and an opinion leader for its community.

In conclusion, the director warned that action can be taken against those who abuse the due process of law and cautioned about frivolous and vexatious suits. Surely, the Courts are in a better position than the Director of Land and Survey to evaluate and pronounce on such suits. Sometimes, public bodies consider themselves to be above the law. Judicial review not only reminds them that they are not but provides the tools by which ordinary citizens can force them to adhere to the laws to which everyone else is subject.

To avoid acting illegally, an administrative body or public authority must correctly understand the law regulating its power to act, make decisions and give effect to it. Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. A court with judicial review power may invalidate government laws and decisions that are incompatible with a higher authority, such as the terms of a written statute. Judicial review is one of the checks and balances in the separation of powers, the power of the judiciary to supervise the legislative and executive branches. It is hard to escape the conclusion that, Director of Land and Survey is trying to put himself above the law. Because whatever the Director of Land and Survey claims, judicial reviews are not politically partisan. They are about no more and no less than acting within the law.

The Honourable Chief Justice of Sabah & Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum in his keynote address at a symposium on Sabah Native Rights: Issues, Challenges and the Way Forward on the 30th of Jan 2012 had highlighted that the authority is guided by the principle that “the government is in a * fiduciary position to protect the interest of the natives.” Sabah Land and Survey Department as the custodian of NT lands should fully comprehend its role and duties and must upheld and not act ultra vires (beyond powers) on the right to property as guaranteed by the constitution under Article 13(1) of the supreme law of the nation. Failing which NT lands grab would now be deemed legal through such mechanism and the Sabah Natives would have lost FOREVER in their quest on NT land reforms protections.

* Fiduciary position – imposing a duty to act mainly for the benefit of the powers conferred within the scope of law. (e.g. the safeguarding and protection accorded to NT lands by the Sabah Land Ordinance).

Meanwhile, upon speaking to Musa Aman about this matter in detail, he said, “I want to emphasize something else to you. Democracy wins out in the long run because it offers a chance to fix its own mistakes. It is the only system built on the premise that if something is not working, people can actually correct it, from the bottom up as what you are doing. Democracy works best when people are given the opportunity to constantly monitor and repair the kinks in the machinery. Self-correction is not destabilizing. It is stabilizing.”