The Sabah Society Golden Jubilee Dinner held on Saturday, 19 March 2011 at the Grand Ballroom, Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort was a spectacular success. The dinner was graced by the presence of our Guest-of-Honour, YAB Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman, Chief Minister of Sabah, and State Ministers YB Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai (Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Resource Development and Information Technology, YB Pang Yuk Ming (Assistant Minister of Rural Development) as well as some 420 guests. Prof. Dr Danny Wong Tze Ken, History Professor at the University of Malaya was the keynote speaker.
There was an impressive exhibition of photographs of the Society’s various activities for the past 50 years as well as books published by the Society on display at the foyer. A local band, D’Footprint, provided music while the guests enjoyed an eight-course Chinese dinner, and for dancing later in the evening. Dr Heng Aik Cheng was the master of ceremonies.
The President of the Society, Datuk C.L. Chan, said that the Society and its members have contributed much to the benefit of Sabah and Sabahans throughout the past 50 years, including the establishment of the Sabah Museum and Sabah Parks. He mentioned that in 2005, in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary of the infamous Sandakan–Ranau Death Marches, the Society became the first to retrace the route. He went on to list the various achievements the Society has attained thus far.
In his address, the Chief Minister congratulated the Society on its 50th Anniversary and commended the Society for conducting numerous programmes to create awareness on Sabah’s history, natural wonders and cultural heritage. He urged the Society to produce a registry of Sabah’s historical landmarks, both cultural and natural. He also encouraged the Society to reach out to younger people, specifically school and university students, in order to share the knowledge that the Society has collected for the past 50 years. At the end of his address, the Chief Minister announced that the State Government would give an initial grant of RM10,000.00 for the Society to continue with its documentation programmes; this was received with a round of applause by all in the packed Ballroom.
The Chief Minister then launched the Society’s Golden Jubilee Book entitled The Sabah Society: 1960–2010 witnessed by the President Datuk C.L. Chan. The Chief Minister congratulated and thanked Dr Ravi Mandalam and Ms Kay Lyons, the co-editors, for a job well done and commented it is a benchmark publication that other NGOs should emulate. The co-editors were each presented with a copy of the book by the Chief Minister.
All the past presidents of the Society who were present at the dinner—Datuk Chin Phui Kong, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Richard A. Lind, Dr Tay Eong Beok, Datuk Mohd. Yaman Mus, Dato’ Seri Tengku (Dr) Zainal Adlin, Dr Heng Aik Cheng, Puan Zahra Yaacob and Datuk C.L. Chan (who is also the current President)—went on stage and were presented with a Recognition Award and a copy of the Golden Jubilee book.
Mr Tan Jiew Hoe of Singapore, a philanthropist and benefactor, and one of the two Honorary Life Members of the Society, was then invited on stage. Mr Tan has contributed much to the Sabah Society over the years, in particular for our publications Orchids of Borneo series and Kinabalu: Summit of Borneo. The Chief Minister thanked and congratulated Mr Tan for his noteworthy contribution and presented a Recognition Award together with a copy of the Golden Jubilee book.
Following group photographs of all the past presidents and Mr Tan Jiew Hoe with the Chief Minister, Professor Dr Danny Wong Tze Ken, a leading expert on Sabah’s history, delivered his keynote address on Recent Developments in the Study of Sabah’s History.
He began his talk by emphasizing the importance of knowing your own history. He then presented an overview of Sabah’s history from the days of Chinese and Arab rs through the British North Borneo Company, the Japanese occupation, the post-war colonial period and finally to the state’s present status within the independent country of Malaysia. His talk was illustrated with photos from the last 150 years, including well-known leaders of Sabah.
Professor Wong is concerned with the present trend of using history selectively as a propaganda tool by using certain events to justify nationalistic views. He said that all aspects of history should be studied so that people can enrich their knowledge of the past. In his address, Prof. Wong said that he believed that there are enough level-headed Sabahans to avert the trend of selective studies.
He commended the Chief Minister for pointing out the importance of recognizing the contributions of past British governors to the infrastructure of the State of Sabah. He also called for more training of Sabahans in the study of history and the need for more historians to research all aspects of Sabah’s history.
Datuk C.L. Chan thanked Prof. Wong for his enlightening talk and presented him with a copy of the Golden Jubilee Book.
The last major event of the evening was the lucky prize draw, which included a 2-night stay with breakfast at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa Sea-view Room, a 3-day 2-night package for a couple sponsored by Borneo Rainforest Lodge, a specially autographed copy of the Golden Jubilee Book, signed the Chief Minister and all past presidents of the Society, and last—but not least—two business-class return tickets from Kota Kinabalu to Perth, courtesy of Malaysian Airlines.
The evening concluded with music and dancing.