Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Borneo Tea Party

I was curious about Dr. Jeffrey because I’ve heard and read so much about him. So when he was scheduled to talk at a 'tea party' I thought it would be a good idea to go listen and quench my curiosity.

I didn’t know what to expect because my ‘experience’ with political ceramahs had been limited to the normal fare we’re fed on TV… you know, fiery speeches by loud, arm-waving orators who’d bully you into accepting all what they had to impart.

So I was taken completely by surprise when Dr. Jeffrey opened his mouth to speak.

“Come forward,” he insisted as he stretched his arms towards his seated audience and motioned for us to move closer. “We’ve no mike and you might not hear me.”

We inched our plastic chairs toward the front. I had the feeling that the lack of a mike and speakers was not an oversight because they had brought an LCD projector, a notebook and a banner with the brand new UBF logo.

Anyway, Dr. Jeffrey spoke like he was a guest at your dinner table: softly, wearing a smile and none of the harangues and table-banging so familiar with other speakers. Hey, I thought, this is a pleasant change.

After we had sung the State Anthem, Dr. Jeffrey explained that the outline of the UBF logo is based on the Sarawak native shield and Mt. Kinabalu. Then he went on to tell us why he formed UBF, which is an NGO, and the reason why he quitted political parties he had helped to form.

I had come with a question but it was answered without me asking it: It is common knowledge that you like to jump from one party to another. You must have your own reasons but to ordinary people like us, it looks like you cannot make up your mind or you can’t get along with the members of your party.

‘A party is like a boat,’ he said. ‘When it stops somewhere before my destination, or if it can’t take me to my destination, I have to take another boat.’ It was quite clear that he had been speaking to many people who use boats to move around.

Dr. Jeffrey’s main concern is to fight for the rights of the two Borneo states which lag behind the peninsula in every way. He wants development to be shifted to the east Malaysian states instead of being concentrated in the peninsula.

‘It’s not like Sabah and Sarawak are poor,’ he said. ‘Both states are oil producers. However, 95% of our income from petroleum goes to the federal government to develop the country while Sabah gets a mere 5%.’

It is ironical that while Sabah contributes so much to the federal coffers, Sabah (according to World Bank) has the highest number of poor families in the country making Sabah the poorest state in Malaysia.

 (Malaysia’s Poverty Report issued by the PM’s Department in 2007 stated that Sabah had the most hardcore poor families with 32,400 households. The next ‘poorer’ was Terengganu with a mere 8,300 households!)

Dr. Jeffrey said that the Borneo states can’t expect Malaya to look after their needs and interests. Sabah and Sarawak have to fight their own battles. One of these is to make Malaya, aka the Federal government, re-instate the much eroded 20-Points (18-Points for Sarawak).

After a short question and answer session, we went home to mull over what had been discussed. I was surprised that many people, both young and not-so-young, were ignorant about the 20-Points. But judging by the interest shown at the tea party, I guess not many people will stay ignorant about our history and the formation of Malaysia.

All pictures are taken from Google Images


  1. Very interesting account of UBF's Tea Party and I like the way you describe Dr. Jeffery "Anyway, Dr. Jeffrey spoke like he was a guest at your dinner table: softly, wearing a smile and none of the harangues and table-banging so familiar with other speakers"

    As you said there were many people, both young and not not-so-young were ignorant about the 20 points. It would be very interesting to know more about the 20 points in your Blog as your next article.

    Syabas Tina.

  2. Write about the 20 Points, Andrew? That depends on whether anyone wants to read it. I sometimes feel I'm writing just for myself.

    Thanks for commenting. We shouldn't judge Dr. Jeffrey too harshly.