Today is Hari Kebangsaan or Hari Merdeka (Independence Day). It is the national day of Malaysia commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule. In a wider context, it is to celebrate the formation of Malaysia.

Hari Merdekaan 2010

The effort for independence was spearheaded by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, who led a delegation of ministers and political leaders of Malaya in negotiations with the British in London for Merdeka, or independence along with the first president of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) Tun Dato Sir Tan Cheng Lock and fifth President of Malaysian Indian Congress Tun V.T. Sambanthan. Once it became increasingly clear that the Communist threat posed during the Malayan Emergency was petering out, agreement was reached on February 8, 1956, for Malaya to gain independence from the British Empire. However, for a number of logistical and administrative reasons, it was decided that the official proclamation of independence would only be made the next year, on August 31, 1957, at Stadium Merdeka (Independence Stadium), in Kuala Lumpur.

This YouTube video is the proclamation of independence by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first prime minister of Malaysia.

The Federation of Malaysia, comprising the States of Malaya, North Borneo (later renamed Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore was to be officially declared on the date August 31, 1963, on the 6th anniversary of Malayan independence. However, it was postponed to September 16, 1963, mainly due to Indonesian and the Philippines’ opposition to the formation of Malaysia. Nevertheless, North Borneo and Singapore declared sovereignty on August 31, 1963. Indonesian opposition later escalated to a military conflict. Indonesia considered Malaysia as a new form of colonization on the provinces of Sarawak and Sabah in the island of Borneo (bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia), which they laid claim on. To assure Indonesia that Malaysia was not a form of neo-colonialism, a referendum, organized by the United Nations, and the Cobbold Commission, led by Lord Cobbold, were formed to determine whether the people of Sabah and Sarawak wished to join Malaysia. Their eventual findings which indicated substantial support for Malaysia among the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak, cleared the way for the final proclamation of Malaysia.

The formation of the Federation of Malaysia was then announced on September 16, 1963 as Malaysia Day. The nationwide Independence Day celebration is still held on August 31, the original independence date of Malaya, while Malaysia Day is a public holiday only in East Malaysia. However, this has caused some minor discontent among East Malaysians in particular since it has been argued that celebrating the national day on August 31 is too Malaya-centric. It is decided that starting this year, Malaysia Day will be a nationwide public holiday in addition to Hari Merdeka on August 31.

The above is from Wikipedia.

To all Malaysians, I wish you a very happy Hari Kebangsaan. May  Malaysia be blessed with peace, racial harmony, religious tolerance, prosperity and unity! God bless Malaysia!

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The 2010 Borneo International Yachting Challenge (BIYC) began in Miri, Sarawak on the 24th of this month with 51 yachts  from 14 countries taking part. There are 20 entries from Australia, 6 from UK, 5 from Malaysia, 5 from New Zealand, 4 from USA, 2 from Germany, 2 from France and 1 each from Singapore, Grenadines, Vanuatu, British Virgin Island, Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

BIYC 2010 Logo

This annual event, now in its 7th year, takes a fleet of international yachts from Miri to Labuan – a distance of 105 miles, and then from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) which is another 65 miles. The regatta finishes in Kota Kinabalu with two races around the Tunku Abdul Rahman national Marine Park on Friday the 30th July, followed by a lavish prize giving dinner at Sutera Harbour Marina Club hosted by Sabah Tourism.

The regatta is a joint effort between the Ministry Of Tourism And Heritage Sarawak, Labuan Corporation, and the Sabah Tourism Board. Other sponsors include Sutera Harbour Resort, Samling Global, Pelita and Park City Everly Hotel in Miri.

Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan flagged off the contestants at Marina Bay in Miri. Sarawk’s Assistant Minister of Social Development & Urbanisation Datuk Lee Kin Shin, BYIC Miri Working Committee chairman Troy Yaw and Miri mayor Lawrence Lai were also present at the flag-off.

Marina Bay Miri

This year’s fleet has set a new record for the event. It will also make the regatta one of the largest of its kind in South East Asia. One of the reasons for this dramatic increase in numbers is due to collaboration between the BIYC and the Sail Malaysia Rally – Passage to the East.

BIYC committee member Simon Farmer, who was instrumental in forging this partnership with the organizers of Sail Malaysia, said that given the current state of the global economy and the ever shrinking sponsorship dollar it made sense to combine the two events. He said the number of entries this year proved that this had been a popular strategy.

The Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board and co-chairman of the regatta, Dato Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin expressed his delight with the number of yachts taking part this year and said that Sabah is on target to achieving its goal in becoming the Caribbean of the East.

He said that ‘events such as this are putting Borneo and Kota Kinabalu on the map, and are the perfect vehicle for showcasing the state and its bio-diversity’.

Adlin commented further that over the past 12 months Sutera Harbour Marina and Kota Kinabalu had hosted at least 10 mega yachts of over thirty meters with a combined value of over US$350 million dollars. Among these visitors was the world’s largest privately owned sailing yacht, the 92 meter ‘Eos’ valued in excess of US$150 million.

Sutera Harbour Marina in Kota Kinabalu

“The fact that more and more of these types of yachts are visiting our shores means that the message is getting through to yacht owners and captains that Sabah and Borneo have as much to offer, if not more than the other major destinations around the world. These types of visitors provide a tremendous boost to the local economy and to the global perception of Sabah”, remarked Adlin

Tengku Adlin will take part in the regatta once again this year sailing aboard Farmers yacht in the final two races off Kota Kinabalu. This will be a little different from last year when he crewed on the 120’ luxury sailing yacht ‘Naos’ and was treated to a gourmet lunch. Farmer warned Adlin not to expect the same this year as the boat he is sailing on is a stripped out racing yacht with only the bare essentials. Adlin replied that he was ready for the challenge.

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Buah dabai is native to Sarawak and Brunei. The skin of the oblong-shape fruits are white in colour when immature, turning blue-black when ripe. The flesh inside is white or yellow and covers a single large three angled seed. The skin is edible but some people don’t like to eat the skin so they just suck out the flesh and throw away the skin. It is good to eat the skin as it contains fibres. But don’t be alarmed if you happen to see black traces in your faeces……they are the skin of the dabai, haha!


The fruits cannot be eaten straight from the trees. They have to be  soaked in hot water (about 55 degree Celcius) until they soften (Never use boiling hot water as that would make the fruits taste weird). Then either sprinkled with a little salt or soy sauce plus sugar and shake lightly.

Softened dabai shaken with soy sauce and sugar....yummilicious! The inside of a dabai Dabai seeds


The kernel or nut inside the seed is also edible. You need a chopper to hack the seed into half and then just use a toothpick to pry out the kernel. Be careful when you are hacking the seeds…they may fly off like missiles! If these “missiles” hit someone’s eye or a glass window, it can cause damages, so be warned!

Two dabai seeds chopped into halves The kernel inside the seed
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Zee Avi….her story sounds like a modern day fairy tale. Born in Miri in Sarawak (one of the 13 states that make up Malaysia) on the island of Borneo, she grew up in a liberal, encouraging household with a daddy who is very much into music.

Zee Avi

Zee Avi

At 17, she used to lock herself in her room for hours on end to learn guitar playing. But guitar had to take a back seat for 4 years when she was studying fashion design in London. Upon returning to Malaysia, she picked up the guitar again and began writing songs and performing with a band.

Zee began recording her songs on a webcam and posting them on YouTube. How she came to record her debut album in Los Angeles is a 21st Century tale of the immense potential of the Internet.

The day before her 22nd birthday, she posted on YouTube what she intended to be her last video, a holiday song “No Christmas For Me”.  When she had time to check her emails, she had almost 3000 messages including a slew of record label offers. One of the offers came from Ian Montone of Montone Label after he had been shown her YouTube clip. And the rest is history.

Take a look at some of the rave reviews that have been heaped upon Zee’s debut album:

Then.S.Chong, Portland, OR USA5.0 out of 5 starsA lesson on originality and complexity, August 26, 2009

I am blown away by how someone can turn simple music into such pleasure. Zee Avi does not rock, she is a reminder that the joy and therapeutic value of music is from the heart just as Jimi showed that the mastery of the electric guitar is from the soul not by the skills we hold acrobatic chords or scales.

David Hutchins, Charlotte, NC USA5.0 out of 5 starsTerrific singer and songs, July 10, 2009

The title track ‘Bitter Heart’ grabbed my attention (probably heard it hundreds of times by now) but every song on the CD is very good, appealing melodies with catchy rhythms. Zee Avi has a beautiful voice and her style of singing is arresting. Highly recommend the CD. To view live performances of some of these songs search for her on youtube.

R.Willis, Bellingham, WA USA5.0 out of 5 starsGreat dinner music, June 27, 2009

This CD has everything you need for an evening of relaxation. Zee’s voice is so smooth and beautiful and the songs are catchy. You will be singing them later in your head. I am a massage therapist, and have even played this CD during a massage. She has the Amy Winehouse feel…. only better.

The Sideman, Boston. MA USA5.0 out of 5 starsFantastic!!!, May 30, 2009

As a huge fan of the whole Brushfire label I generally like most of the artists that they put out. In this case I can easily say that I LOVE Zee Avi!! Fantastic voice, simple but wonderful lyrics and just the right amount of accompaniment (a lot of singer songwriters tend to over produce) this album hits all the right spots for me. I am thoroughly enjoying this while I wait and hope she comes on tour near me.

Juan Pablo Rodriguez, Miami, FL USA5.0 out of 5 starsGreat Discovery, May 19, 2009

I discovered this wonderfully talented singer today while checking some of the featured videos for some people I follow on YouTube when I discovered a video of some live performances by Zee. I was instantly blown away by her great voice, fun lyrics, and generally mellow mood of her music. It’s not often that you see somebody like this with natural talent and is not produced from some manufactured formula. If your a fan of anybody along the lines of Norah Jones, you’ll definitely enjoy Zee.

All the above reviews were by Americans. It is so rare for an Asian singer (and a Malaysian!) to receive such glowing reviews from the Americans. Zee Avi has definitely struck a chord with them.

Whoever is reading this, please just sit back, relax and enjoy this YouTube video in which Zee performs 4 of her songs.  And if you enjoy the songs, go grab her CD but if you are from Miri, you may have to wait for a while as the local stores have sold out her CD. I know because I have been trying without success to buy her CD for almost a fortnight already. The Speedy Stores inform me that they may receive fresh stock this week……I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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The haze in Borneo is really getting worse. Despite efforts by the local authorities, the haze in Miri has reached an unhealthy level.  I know a lot of the haze is due to forest fires in Kalimantan, most of which have been deliberately lit to clear land for oil palm and paper plantations. But here in Miri, there are also a lot of local part-time roadside farmers  in Tukau, Kuala Baram area and other areas who indiscriminately start fires to clear land for growing crops.  These  people would disappear once the authorities are present but when the authorities are not around, they will start again.  They seem to be playing a game of hide-and-seek with the authorities. These people are in my honest opinion very selfish people. They encroach on state or private land to grow crops and in the process do a lot of damage to our air quality through their open burning.  Once the fires have cleared the land, you will see these people stacking their “claims”  to the land by using nylon strings to mark their “territories”.

This morning when I was sending my wife to work, I noticed that the haze was really bad. In some areas visibility was badly affected. I really feel sorry for those who have respiratory problems. It must be tough for them with the unhealthy haze enveloping the whole town.  The air quality is bad and the heat is often suffocating. And then there is the also the much-dreaded Influenza A or H1N1 that is spreading across the world including Malaysia. The total fatalities in Malaysia due to H1N1 has risen to 32 according to the latest report and that is starting to scare a lot of people.

This photo was taken at the Lutong traffic lights.

This photo was taken at the Lutong traffic lights this morning.

Taken on the flyover near the Boulevard Shopping Complex this morning.

Taken on the flyover near the Boulevard Shopping Complex this morning.

Another photo taken on the flyover near Boulevard Shopping Complex...visibility was badly affected.

Another photo taken on the flyover near Boulevard Shopping Complex...visibility was badly affected.

According to newspaper reports, the haze will be  be around for a few more weeks and that is bad news. A heavy downpour will bring much relief……so let’s all pray for it.  May it rain cats and dogs soon!

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