While doing window shopping at Imperial Mall in Miri today, I came across these “internet-themed” flippers at one of the shops there. I saw Google flippers, Facebook flippers, Yahoo flippers, Twitter flippers and YouTube flippers.Obviously these are marketed without the permission of all these online iconic companies. But what the heck! Go get yourself a pair now!

Which one do you prefer? Youtube? Google? Facebook? Yahoo?

Or do you want Twitter?

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DAP has created another political tsunami  in the just-concluded Sarawak 2011 election, winning 12 of the 15 constituencies that it contested in.  It won almost all the seats in the major urban areas where Chinese make up the bulk of the population.

In Miri’s Piasau constituency, SUPP boss Dr George Chan lost by 1,590 votes to political greenhorn Ling Sie Kiong of DAP. Ling, a lawyer by profession, has now been dubbed the giant killer.

Ling Sie Kiong and Dr Chan shaking hands on nomination day

Giant killer Ling Sie Kiong

In contrast, PKR was only able to win in 3 constituencies out of the 49 constituencies that it contested in. An independent, George Lagong, won the Pelagus seat against PRS’ Stanley Nyitar and PKR’s Edward Sumbang.

Though Pakatan Rakyat failed to deny BN two-third majority, it has managed to double its haul compared to the 2006 elections.

This election has been the fiercest election ever in Sarawak, with West Malaysian leaders from both sides of the political divide campaigning aggressively for the past two weeks. And many also dubbed this the dirtiest Sarawak election ever, with widespread accusations of money politics. And  a number of pro-opposition websites like SarawakReport.org and Malaysiakini.com were victims of massive DOS attacks.

The massive crowds at DAP ceramahs really translated into votes this time round. And DAP’s hornbill mascot UBAH has become a hot item in Sarawak, selling out at all the ceramahs.

The Ubah mascot

Yes, UBAH has demonstrated loud and clear its power. Sarawak politics will never be the same again!

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The Times They Are a-Changin’ is one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs and happens to be one of my favourite songs. Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the moment. In 1985, he said: “”This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads …’Come All Ye Bold Highway Men’, ‘Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens’. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.”

The following powerful YouTube video is a performance of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Marco Magnani. Enjoy the video and be touched:

It is a song about change. And with the Sarawak elections this weekend, I have taken liberty with the lyrics of the song to come up with this poem for the Sarawak elections:

Come gather 'round people

Hear Pakatan Rakyat

And admit that Sarawak

Is in the doldrums

Virgin forests and land

They'll be soon be raped barren

If your life to you

Is worth livin'

Then you better start thinkin'

Or you'll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin'.

Come all Sarawakians

Exercise your right to vote

Do it for your kids

The chance is here again

Get rid of BN

And the widespread corruption

Make Sarawak great again

Let our Sarawak

Regains its glory

What a day that will be

For the times they are a-changin'.

Come all brothers and sisters

Please heed the call

Stand up and be counted

Hesitate no more

Vote for our future

People power will triumph

The battle is ragin’ now

United we stand

We'll soon change our future

And make it better

For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

Please do go and vote

Think what kind of future

Your sons and your daughters

Should deserve tomorrow

The BN is

Rapidly sinkin'

Please kick out the ole regime

Just lend your helping hand

For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn

Election is near

Give change a chance

Let’s all shout Ubah

Make BN tremble

By our calls for change

The onus is

Ours and ours alone

To ensure a bright

And better future

For our beloved

For the times they are a-changin'.

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Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, 74, has married a Lebanese woman whose age has been reported by some news media to be 28. But conflicting reports from other media put the bride’s age to be the early 30s.

The wedding ceremony, which took place last night, was a closely guarded affair.

The akad nikah started at about 8pm at the chief minister’s residence, Demak Jaya, in Petra Jaya, Kuching. Family members, relatives, close friends of the couple and several members of the state cabinet were present.

It was solemnised by Sarawak Mufti Kipli Yassin at about 9.30 pm, followed by a short bersanding session.

Among the 200 guests attending the ceremony were Adviser to the Chief Minister’s Office Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Second Planning and Resource Management State Minister Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Naroden Majais, Housing and Urban Development Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg and Pantai Damai state assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi.

The chief minister’s press secretary, Amin Sahmat, said last night that the wedding was a private affair, adding that an announcement would be made later. He also said a wedding reception would be held next month.

Not much is known about the bride but sources said she was a former flight attendant.

Taib has been single since the death of his wife, Puan Sri Laila, in April last year. They had been married since 1959 and have four children.

Puan Sri Laila Taib

Sarawak has been abuzz over the wedding of Malaysia’s longest-serving chief minister. Taib has been the Chief Minister of Sarawak since 1981. He assumed the post at the age of 45. He is widely known among the Chinese community by his nickname of Peh Mo (meaning white hair in Hokkien).

Apparently, on Friday, Taib visited the grave of his late Polish-born Australian wife Puan Sri Laila, who died of cancer in April last year. The couple was married for 50 years after they met while studying in Australia. They have four children and 15 grandchildren.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan gave credence to the marriage talk earlier yesterday when he told reporters in Miri: “There is a great possibility that the rumour is true.”

Dr Chan is also an in-law to Taib. Tan Sri Sulaiman, Taib’s son, is married to Dr Chan’s daughter Anisa.

Green, Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said: “It is time for him to remarry. It is not good to be alone, especially a busy person like him. If this rumour is true I am very happy for him.

“It is good to have a woman’s support,’’ he added.

Inevitably, Taib’s marriage to a woman so much younger than him has led to sniggers that another Sarawak minister has joined the ranks of “Old Cow Eats Tender Grass”….in this case, tender Lebanese grass.

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Eljo Restaurants Sdn Bhd, the franchise operator for the famed McDonald’s fast-food chain, has opened the first 24-hour drive-through outlet at Permyjaya in Miri City. It is more of a conventional outlet with drive-thru facilities rather than a pure drive-thru outlet.

The McDonald's drive-thru at Permyjaya

McDonald's during the day

McDonald's at night

The famous golden arches

Drive-Thru Sign

The drive-thru area

Cars queing up at the drive-thru

The other drive-through outlet at Bulan Sabit Road near Columbia Asia Medical Center is scheduled to be opened by June next year, said Peter Chiu Lik Sing, the Sibu and Miri franchisee.

He said 60 employees, including 10 management personnel, have been hired to manage the outlet at the Permaijaya.

Chiu also said plans are afoot to open the first McDonald’s outlet in Bintulu while the McDonald’s outlet at Sarawak House Shopping Complex here has been relocated to Causeway Road.

“The relocation is inevitable due to expiry of the tenancy agreement. However, the new site will offer us better flexibility in terms of operating hours.

“We can open at 7am to serve the popular McDonald s Breakfast to our customers for the first time in 18 years here. The operating hours will be from 7am to 2am,” he told BERNAMA in an exclusive interview.

Chiu said the McDonald’s outlets in Sibu and Miri have been registering double-digit growth for the past several years.

“Last year, we did about RM9 million sales. With our new drive-thru outlet, we expect over RM15 million turnover next year,” he said.

Big crowd at McDonald's Permyjaya

He said the new outlets would introduce value-added products periodically to cope with keen competition from other fast-food operators.

“For instance, McDonald’s value lunch product is a hot favourite among our customers. Nonetheless, we will insist on our QSC (quality, service and cleanliness), the three pillars of our success and strategy to stay competitive and relevant,” he added.

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Last weekend I was at Emart Miri and saw a store selling local Sarawak handicrafts. The store seems to have quite a lot of stock and is operated by the pretty lady in the photo.  If you are looking for nice handicrafts, head down to this store and tell the lady that you read about her store on this blog. Hmmm….I should ask her for a referral commission, haha!

Handicraft store at Emart Miri

Another view of the handicraft store at Emart

Beautiful beaded baskets

Colourful beaded handicrafts

Handbags and costume

Headgears

Native costumes

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Residents living in Taman Tunku and surrounding residential areas in Miri have reason to feel elated with the ground-breaking ceremony today for a RM15 million  5.5-kilometre dual carriageway project that will provide a new link from Taman Tunku and  Taman Jelita residential areas to Miri-Bintulu Road.

Construction of this new access road, fringing the runway of Miri Airport, will be carried out by Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd and is projected to be completed within 18 months. Once completed, this new road will ease the traffic congestion of the present route in Taman Tunku.

Taman Tunku, Taman Jelita and other surrounding housing estates have a burgeoning population of 35,000 which may increase to 50,000 within the next five years.

Kumpulan Parabena Sdn Bhd, which owns nearly 2,000 acres of land on the left side of the Miri airport runway, has developed 900 acres since it started 27 years ago with the development of Taman Tunku township.

Taman Tunku is designed for 3,500 houses and the second phase undertaken by Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd will involve the construction of 750 units under the RV Housing estate. Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd is owned by prominent businessmen Hii King Chiong,  Nicholas Ling Kie King and a few other business associates.

The ground-breaking ceremony was officiated by Sarawak’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud this morning. Despite the inclement weather, a huge crowd turned out for the ceremony.

On hand to welcome the Chief Minister were local dignitaries and prominent businessmen. Chinese lion dance troupes and representatives from various races dressed in their traditional costumes added a lot of flair and colour to the ceremony.

From left to right: Tan Sri Datuk Jimmy Lau Hieng Wui, Mr Hii King Chiong, Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, Tan Sri Datuk Ling Chiong Ho, Mr Law Kui Kiong and YB Larry Sng

Lion dance troupes were on hand to welcome the Chief Minister

Representatives from various races dressed in their traditional costumes

Young girl in traditional attire

Young lady and man in traditional costumes

Natives in traditional costumes

Native lady dressed in beautiful traditional attire

Young man in traditional attire

Arrival of the Chief Minister

In his welcoming speech, Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd’s managing director, Mr Hii King Chiong,  expressed his gratitude to the Chief Minister for officiating the ground-breaking ceremony. He said that smart partnerships and synergy between the private sector and the government is the key to transforming previously isolated places into bustling economic hubs. He also commended the state government for its politics of development which has enabled Sarawak to progress so rapidly.  Lambir asssemblyman Datuk Aidan Wing, in his speech, said that the new road will greatly benefit the 5,500 households in the area and would act as a catalyst for futher expansion of the township. Also present at the function were Dato’ Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui, Federal Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water and YB Larry Sng Wei Shien, Pelagus state assemblyman and Sarawak’s Assistant Minister for Youth Affairs and Training.

Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd's managing director Hii King Chiong making his welcome address

Sarawakians must reject politicians who perpetrate “anti-rich people” sentiments as this will only deter the state’s quest for greater progress, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said at the function.

Sarawak's Chief Minister addressing the function

He warned about certain politicians trying to inject such ideas and were vocal in criticising successful enterprises in Sarawak in their attempts to win the support of the people.

“There is no such thing as a very thriving economy without businessmen and entrepreneurs,” he said prior to performing the ground-breaking ceremony.

He said Sarawak would not have progressed so much without the support of responsible corporate leaders who were willing to invest in projects with slow returns.

Taib said these businessmen and entrepreneurs had successfully diversified Sarawak’s economy which was once dependent solely on natural resources such as timber, and oil and gas.

Taib said big business enterprises had ventured into new range of industries like wide-scale plantations and the service industry, thus spurring the growth of employment and the local economy.

Mr Hii King Chiong presented a memento to the Chief Minister before the minister performed the ground-breaking ceremony.

Mr Hii King Chiong presenting a memento to the Chief Minister

The Chief Minister performing the ground breaking

After the ground-breaking ceremony, Taib left the ground-breaking site. The crowds waited eagerly for the lucky draws to continue. With one Blackberry and nine Samsung handphones as prizes, the lucky draw created a lot of excitement.

Lucky draws for hand phones

To finish off the event, Rich Venture Construction Sdn Bhd gave away lots of food items and mineral water. The scene was chaotic, with the crowds jostling to get as many items as they could. I saw some walking happily away with about a dozen packets of food items. And there were also a lot of people who just carted away one whole box of mineral water each as the crowd was too big for the handlers taking care of the food distribution.

Chaotic scene as the crowds jostled for free food items

Huge crowds jostling for their share of food

But it was a very successful event and the crowd went home with very wide smiles on their faces!

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Today marks the opening of Ta Kiong Supermarket at Merdeka Mall in Miri. With a retail floor area of 17,000 square feet, Ta Kiong offers a wide selection of local and imported goods. I particularly like the good choice of imported food items that the supermarket carries.

Big crowds at Ta Kiong on its opening today

In connection with the opening, the supermarket is holding a special two-day opening sale starting today. And customers can apply for the Ta Kiong RM10 annual membership card which will entitle them to certain privileges, such as getting one reward point for every RM1 spent and special discounts on Members’ Day. After comparing the member prices for some items to the non-member prices, I must say that the membership is a worthwhile deal.

While browsing around in the fruits section, I was attracted by the Kiwi fruits offer and bought a pack of the fruits to try out.

Kiwi fruits offer

Being a chocolate aficionado, I can’t help myself from being drawn to the chocolate section where there is a wide range of imported chocolates. The prices are a bit steep when compared to prices in neighbouring Brunei.

Ta Kiong - Chocolate section

Though I am not into wine, I still love to browse in the wine section. I am a bit allergic to liquor and my whole body would turn a bit reddish whenever I imbibe some wine. Call it a curse or blessing, depending on which side you are judging from.

Ta Kiong - Wine section

More wine

The coffee products also tempt me as I love coffee. Despite advice from a doctor to limit my coffee intake to not more than 2 cups a day (preferably 1), I often end up drinking 4-5 cups daily. So my dear liver, accept my apology for putting too much work on you.

Ta Kiong Imported Canned Coffee

I have heard that the food at the Chicago 7 outlet in  Merdeka Mall is not bad so I decided to give it a try. Chicago 7  is a local franchise and only the “broasters”are franchised from the U.S.  If you expect to see restaurant decorated with photos of The Chicago Seven, then you are in for a disappointment. The Chicago Seven were seven defendants—Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner—charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges related to protests that took place in Chicago, Illinois on the occasion of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

I ordered a beef burger and a hot dog plus a cold green tea with honey while my wife opted for two pieces of their broasted chicken set and a hot Ceylon tea.  I must say that their food is not bad, better than quite a lot of the fastfood outlets in town. The beefburger is tastier than McDonald’s but I think the jumbo beefburger sold by the burger stall near the Curtin Village in Senadin tastes better.

There is a Hummer road show at Merdeka mall that seems to attract a lot of curiousity. On display are 3 units of Hummer trucks of different colours – one black, one silver and one white.

The black Hummer

Mr Silver Hummer

The white Hummer

The Hummers are left-hand drives

I wonder whether the Hummer trucks can be considered an obsolete product since production of the Hummer vehicles has ceased in the US. I read online that the long strange trip that has been the Hummer brand is just about over for General Motors. The final ever production H3 rolled out of GM’s Shreveport, Louisiana factory on May 24, 2010 on its way to an Avis rental car outlet. GM had actually stopped assembling H3s in mid-2009 as it went through bankruptcy, but it resumed production recently in order to fill an 849 unit special order.

GM tried to sell the Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co., Ltd but the deal ultimately fell apart last February. A subsequent offer from Raser Technologies also went nowhere. Production has ceased.

Safety and ecological perceptions from other road users has attracted a lot of criticism for the Hummers. They are significantly bigger than other SUVs; this can cause problems parking, driving and fitting in a garage. Their large size also potentially poses a serious threat to smaller vehicles. The Hummer has been singled out and attacked as a symbol of ecological irresponsibility. Even compared to other heavy passenger vehicles, Hummers generally have very poor fuel economy. Because of its weight, it takes longer and further to stop in emergency braking situations. Large blind spots make parking difficult and possibly dangerous.

Ignoring the criticisms above, the Hummer trucks actually look very imposing. I have seen a few units on Miri roads and have been awed by their rugged sophistication. One of the Hummers that I have seen on Miri roads reminds me of an armour car.

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Many of us here in Sarawak may have read about the huge amount of debris that is threatening the Three Gorges Dam in China.  And we have been appalled by the photos showing a huge swathe of the waters by the dam crammed full of debris, with cranes brought in to fish out a tangled mess, including shoes, bottles, branches and Styrofoam. It appears to be “a disaster in the making.”  But because the Three Gorges Dam is so far way in China, we shrug it off and feel consoled by the “safety” that our distance from China offers.

Rubbish at The Three Gorges Dam

Rubbish at Three Gorges Dam

Our complacence has now been rudely shaken by the recent Rejang River logjam which stretched for 50 kilometers. I shudder to think what might have been the consequences had a logjam of this magnitude occur upstream after the impoundment of the Bakun Dam.  Are the authorities ready to cope with such a calamity?

The Rajang River ( aka Rejang River)  or known as Sungai Rajang in Malay is located in northwest of Borneo island and it originates in the Iran Mountains. The river flows approximately 563 km to the South China Sea, making it the longest river in Malaysia. It is within the territories of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia by land mass.

On 6 October 2010, heavy rain in Putai and Nungun in upper Baleh is said to have caused a massive landslides that brought logs and debris down into the Baleh river, tributaries above Kapit, and then into the Rajang river.

The high water level and swift current in Baleh River and its tributaries also washed the logs and debris along their banks.

It was estimated that the volume of the logs and debris had exceeded 300, 000 cubic metres. This logjam had also affected the Igan river. The log debris, stretching 50 km long, reached Sibu on 8 October. It caused transportation difficulties for the people living along side the river as well as major ecological damage. Lots of dead fish were seen floating in the river.

Rejang River logjam - what a disaster!

The massive logjam in Kapit, Sarawak, rendering the river impassable to boats

An express boat caught in the logjam

What was the cause of the logjam? Was it an act of God? Or an act of nature? I would think human greed plays a big role. It doesn’t require a genius to figure out the cause of this disaster: indiscriminate land clearing and logging. These blatant activities have exposed our soil to erosion and left behind massive timber debris. I believe that heavy rain hitting the Balleh and Balui river basins caused massive flooding, erosion of river banks and landslides, flushing out the massive amount of timber debris into the Rejang River.

The map explains the events leading up to the logjam.

Events leading to the disaster

Sarawak’s Land Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Jemut Masing blamed unscrupulous timber companies for the disaster.

“There is still a lot of debris, making travel unsafe. There are also dead fish in the river. It’s an ecological disaster.”

Datuk Seri Dr James Masing, Sarawak's Minister for Land Development

Masing also disclosed that tons of fish had surfaced along the long stretch from Balleh to Sibu, which riverine folks scooped out easily.

He said that this was the third time in three years – the first was in 2008 at Sungai Gat and the second in Sungai Tunoh last year – that such an incident had happened and he feared that it would have far-reaching implications on the state, particularly on the timber industry.

He said the state government had laid down rules for logging but what was happening clearly showed that the rules were not being followed.

“I have gone around the world telling people that we are doing logging correctly. Now this happens. What will people think of us? We must take action against these unscrupulous timber companies.”

He said the authorities concerned must take their job more seriously and enforce the laws stringently.

It was a sad day indeed for Sarawak to catch worldwide attention for all the wrong reasons.  The disaster showcased the blatant disregard for the ecosystem of Sarawak. There will be a lot of finger-pointing but we Sarawakians all know who the real culprits are.  Hopefully our government can learn a lesson from this disaster before it is too late.

The China Three Gorges Corporation spends about 10 million yuan (about RM5 million) each year to clear the floating waste. And the cost for disposing the waste is expected to hit 3 million yuan this year. Nearly 3,000 tons of garbage are collected daily. In the Chongqing section of the Three Gorges, about a dozen mechanized boats are hauling the waste.

Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) chief Francis Paul Siah said that the state government must not adopt the ostrich approach (observer only) by burying its head in the sand. According to him, the plunder and rape of Sarawak’s forests have gone on for far too long.

The ostrich approach

What plans does our government have in place to cope with the debris at Bakun Dam once it is fully operational?  Or are we just waiting for a major disaster to happen before we get off our butts?

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Today is Hari Raya Aidilfitri. To all my Muslim friends and readers, I wish you Selamat Hari Raya. As for the kids, I hope you will receive lots of  “duit raya.”

Last night I was at Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club’s Lakeview Terrace Coffeehouse with my family and some of my sister-in-laws and their families to try out the Ramadhan buffet promotion. We heard that the food was not bad and that at RM35 per adult, it was good value for your money.

Selamat Hari Raya greetings at the front counter of the hotel

The hotel lobby

As last night was the last day of fasting for the Muslims, there were not many patrons at the coffeehouse. We were given table number 18…what an auspicious number, haha! Apart from us, there were only 3 or 4 occupied tables. I took my time wandering around to take photos.

Table number 18....an auspicious number!

My hyper-active nephew Ah Nong

Lightings outside the coffehouse

A view of the hotel's compound

There was quite a wide range of food…..butter prawns, ginger chicken, black pepper beef, assam fish, barbecue prawns, barbecue chicken wings, barbecue sotong, satay, sambal eggs, ketupah, salad, coleslaw, barbecue lamb, and many more. I must say that the food was really not bad….better than the food that I had tasted at other hotel buffets.

Butter prawns

Sambal eggs

And for desserts, we were spoilt for choice. There were lots of traditional Malay kuih, cakes, ice creams, puddings, ice kacang, bubur caca and fruits. It was a great relaxing evening for us. By the time we left the hotel, we really felt full up.

Traditional kuih

Cakes...cakes...and more cakes

A choice of different puddings

Bubur caca

Once again, Selamat Hari Raya! Enjoy the Hari Raya food and delicacies and use this occasion to foster closer racial harmony. God bless you all!

May the flame of racial harmony burn brightly!


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