It may be Malaysia’s strangest court case in which the living fight tooth and nail over a dead man’s honour. Only that victory is likely to be pyrrhic; whichever way it goes. Syed Kechik Syed Mohamed died a broken man at 81 in 2009, leaving an estate of 400m ringgit ($99m) and without exonerating himself of the wrongs Sabah accused him of. In a civil suit brought against him by the trustees of Sabah Foundation, a philanthropic trust, the Sabah high court in 1999 found him guilty of fraud and to have breached his fiduciary duty as the Foundation director. A book, “Vendetta and Abuse of Power”, which tries to clear his name, albeit posthumously, is now the subject of a libel suit brought by former chief minister Harris Salleh. But the three days of open court hearing which began on August 23 turned out to be a sparring match between Mr Harris and those he is suing for defamation.
For Bernard Dompok, things don’t always turn out as he wishes. But the 66-year-old indigenous Kadazandusun politician can often count on his lucky stars. Born in the largely rice-growing suburb of Penampang, the heartland of Kadazan nationalism, Mr Dompok was the only Sabah chief minister to have been voted out by his people with a vengence. It wasn’t his first defeat in 1999, though. Voters kicked him out from the Penampang parliamentary seat twice – in 1995 and then in 2013. Yet defeat is sweet for Mr Dompok who has become Malaysia’s first ambassador to the Vatican. He is a Roman Catholic.
Seven years after his death, Sabah’s most hated man has come to haunt
Syed Kechik Syed Mohamed (picture) was Sabah’s most hated man. So much so that the now defunct Parti Berjaya made his expulsion from Sabah as one of its election promises. It swept to power in 1976, ending Mustapha Harun’s nine years of iron-clad rule which was mostly blamed on Syed Kechik. He died in 2009 at the age of 81. He was Mustapha’s right hand man; but many saw him as Sabah’s de facto chief minister. The courts then forestalled his expulsion. But for three days starting tomorrow (Aug 22) the high court in Kota Kinabalu will hear a libel suit brought by former chief minister Harris Salleh over allegations in a book, “Vendetta and Abuse of Power”, that he had abused his power and was vindictive in seizing Syed Kechik’s properties.
Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we could do
– from Those were the days
The tavern sounds out of place if not obsolete; particularly in a booming city like Kota Kinabalu, capital of the Malaysian Borneo island state of Sabah. Tucked away in a corner on the ground floor of the rather new Imago shopping complex, it nevertheless lives up to its name of a pub that serves booze and a meal. Yet the food isn’t mediocre as most pub lunches and dinners are. Tavern Kitchen and Bar does offer some of the best fares that combine native Kadazandusun, Malay and Chinese cuisine with western food.
Malaysian politicians never learn. The last thing that guests want to hear at a dinner is their speeches; particularly when they have nothing to say. So in the 10 minutes when Dr Pamela Yong spoke, the 300 aged dinner guests chattered away disdainfully – oblivious to her presence at their party. They were there in Kota Kinabalu on December 5 to celebrate the 28th year of their Sabah Association of Senior Citizens.
Dr Yong, a dentist, was their guest of honour. She heads the women’s wing of the Kota Kinabalu division of the Malaysian Chinese Association. So it was incumbent on her to speak to them. Wrong. What they wanted on this feverish Saturday evening was to eat, drink and dance to their heart’s content.
Illegal immigrants in Sabah: A slow boat to nowhere
Talk, of course, is cheap. And in Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s words, “easy”. But Sabahans don’t need their deputy chief minister to tell them so. What they want to know from him is what has he been doing for the past one year since he chaired a “technical committee” to look into the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into illegal immigrants in their state.
Understandbly Mr Kitingan was upset when his federal minister Joseph Kurup criticised him for his “inaction” to which he retorted that he wasn’t sleeping on his job. Mr Kitingan took offence to Mr Kurup’s attack because he thought that comrades (both are in the nationally ruling Barisan Nasional coalition) should support each other. Mr Kurup was his junior in his Parti Bersatu Sabah which ruled the resource-rich north Borneo island state from 1985 to 1994. But he now leads a splinter group in the tiny Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah that was formed in the aftermath of defections from the PBS which felled Mr Kitingan’s government.
Despite skyrocketing food prices and grumbles over the 6% GST, most Sabahans can’t break their habit: a hearty breakfast of noodles in a coffeeshop. I must admit I’m one. And we are spoilt for choice. Most of the time we ask ourselves in frustration: “what to eat?” (in Manglish). Continue reading