Vol 17 – The Sabah Society Journal – (2000)

The year 2000 marked the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of The Sabah Society. By some standards this is not a very long time, but for the State of Sabah forty years constitutes a considerable proportion of its history. The State’s independence, and entry into Malaysia, came three years later than the formation of the Society. Many non-governmental organizations and voluntary associations were formed before independence, but few can claim the track record and success that The Sabah Society has had in promoting an interest in, knowledge about and love of Sabah and its heritage.

The Sabah Society has every reason to be proud of its many worthy achievements. The Society was one of the principal organizations involved in establishing the Sabah Museum, which is the State’s showcase of its historical, natural and cultural heritage. Through its journal, The Society has made substantial contributions to the recording of various aspects of Sabah’s heritage, which might otherwise have been lost. The journal has provided anavenue for local enthusiasts to write about aspects of their own culture, Sabah’s history, its geography, languages, fauna and flora.

Members of The Sabah Society, in their various official and private capacities, have been responsible for the creation of another important institution, Sabah Parks. We have today become the fortunate beneficiaries of that early foresight to initiate a system of parks, and preserve what has become a world renowned landmark and national tourism icon, Mount Kinabalu. Of course, since then five more parks have been added to the system, at the Crocker Range, Tawau Hills, Pulau Tiga, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and Turtle Islands.

The Sabah Society has the potential to be a powerful organization with a great deal of influence to assist in the formulation of government policies and their implementation, with respect to the environment, diverse aspects of Sabah’s heritage, and their preservation. It can do this in various ways through representation, and through its membership network. As in the above example of the creation of Sabah Parks, the role of The Society can be acted out through its members, not necessarily as a body independent in its own right but also through networking, coordination and provision of a forum for the exchange of views and ideas. The Society has proven to be an effective and powerful instrument to facilitate the recording, documenting and disseminating of knowledge about Sabah. The State of Sabah has, indeed, greatly benefited from The Society through its various activities ranging from publishing, slide-talks, field trips and outings acquainting members and guests with the diverse aspects of our heritage. The Sabah Society has become an institution that cannot be taken for granted.

In its fortieth anniversary year, on 4 November 2000, The Society held a celebratory dinner at which many of its members were present. The dinner was graced by the presence of the Minister of Tourism Development, Environment, Science and Technology, Datuk Chong Kah Kiat. In his speech, Datuk Chong touched on some of The Society’s solid achievements.

“Without a doubt”, said Datuk Chong, “The Sabah Society and the activities it has promoted and carried out over the past 40 years have enriched our society in intellect and literature. The Sabah Society has been notable in its contribution towards the development and enhancement of the tourism industry through its various publications and field trips. I am indeed pleased to have been witness to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents’ recognition award to The Sabah Society to acknowledge this contribution, in July this year. I have been informed that the widely distributed Pocke Guide to the Birds of Borneo has become synonymous with The Society, providing a distinctive flagship publication for the State of Sabah as well. The Field Guide to the Mammals of Borneo provides another window to the rest of the world on the natural wonders and endowments of Sabah, and of Malaysia as a whole. Likewise, its landmark publication Kinabalu: Summit of Borneo will remain a classic, epitomizing the superlatives of Sabah’s natural history manifest in Mount Kinabalu. As you may be aware, this remarkable mountain and its park environs have been nominated for listing as Malaysia’s first World Heritage site. This is a grand acknowledgement of Sabah’s outstanding and splendid heritage.”

“Apart from these publications on the flora and fauna of Sabah, I am also pleased to see that The Society has ventured into publishing aspects of Sabah’s cultural heritage. Sabah’s demographic landscape boasts of more than 30 indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, with a diversity of cultures and traditions. While several books about this variety have been published, there is till a need for more. Books that not only educate and inform, but re sensitive illustrated have wide public appeal, for both local people and for visitors from abroad who wish to bring back a tangible reminder of their visit to Sabah.”

The Minister went on to point out the rich natural endowments of Sabah. Few cities in the world can claim to be in such close proximity to both remarkable and outstanding terrestrial and marine landscapes. The City of Kota Kinabalu is located only ten minutes’ boat ride from Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Mount Kinabalu, with its lush flora and fauna, is less than two hours away by road. Within a 40 kilometer radius in the districts of Penampang and Tuaran the visitor can also view or even take part in age-old and enduring cultural traditions of local indigenous peoples.

The forests of Sabah provide a shelter and refuge for a diversity of animals and plants, and habitats that in many parts of the world have disappeared. Danum Valley is home to most of the lowland fauna, such as the spectacular hornbills and pheasants. Big mammals such as banteng, elephant, orang utan and rhinoceros still occur in many areas. Many of us are familiar with the image of the dense, forbidding jungle of North Borneo, stretching from the coast to the interior highlands. There are few places left with such a landscape. In Sabah, we are still fortunate to have tracts of such uninterrupted forest, stretching from Darvel Bay on the east coast to the deep reaches of Danum Valley and on to the heights of Maliau Basin. Here are the basic ingredients of the legend, of the classical jungle experience. These continuous tracts of forest provide the basis for a secure future for plants and animals, for water supply, and for the development of the tourism industry as a mainstay of the State’s economy. It is therefore important to maintain the integrity of this contiguous corridor of forest.

“As I stand in front of you all this evening,” said the Minister at the 40th Anniversary Dinner, “I am encouraged and comforted by the knowledge that this Society has been instrumental in informing many people in Sabah and beyond about how wonderful and beautiful the State is. The Society has, indeed, excelled in promoting Sabah. The Society’s motto, TO KNOW SABAH, is so appropriate. In this respect I would also like to thank The Sabah Society for making a special effort to promote the Visit Sabah Year 2000 which was part of the State’s tourism promotional campaign to position Sabah as an exciting destination in the new millennium. I note with great pleasure and appreciation the slogan and campaign banner published in your newsletter. Through your extensive network of members dispersed around the world, you have effectively promoted Sabah.”

This occasion set the direction for various developments in the future of The Sabah Society. In the fortieth anniversary year, The Society became increasingly active in linking the natural and cultural heritage to the State’s economic development. The Society’s newsletter was revitalized. A website was set up, so that information about The Society could be made more accessible to a wider public. In a healthy financial position, and with a slowly but steadily expanding membership, The Society is well placed to strengthen its role in offering policy advice and recommendations; to expand its range of publications; to ensure that its activities promote responsible development, conservation, preservation, investigation and recording of cultural, historical and natural features; to offer outdoors experience to as many people as possible through field visits and outings; and to strive for ever increasing relevance in a rapidly changing world.

1 comment to Vol 17 – The Sabah Society Journal – (2000)

  • HO COY CHOKE

    TAN SRI CHONG KAH KAT HAS DONE A LOT IN SUPPORTING THE STUDY OF THE UNIQUE NATURAL RESOURCES OF SABAH . SYBAS, TAN SRI

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