Sunday, November 4, 2007



SINCE he was elected as the Pensiangan Member of Parliament three years ago, Datuk Bernard Maraat continues to work towards resolving the problems of the people in his constituency. If the Parliament sitting is adjourned, Bernard can be found visiting the villages in his constituency to find out what they need in terms of basic infrastructure and facilities. Relating to The Borneo Post of his experience since winning the parliamentary seat in 2004, the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) Secretary General said he first drew up a development blueprint for the constituency.
“I visited all the villages in my area and to see that the villagers earn just enough to barely survive was a culture shock to me,” he said.
Bernard thus made poverty eradication, and improving the people’s socio-economy as well as education development his top priorities.
He told of villages which can only be accessed via river transportation while others which take about 10 hours walk from the landing point along the river, to reach. Some are a little easier to reach provided you have a four-wheel drive vehicle as there are roads for logging trucks leading there.
“I felt I had travelled back in time to the colonial era because of the lack of development and infrastructure in these remote villages,” he said, adding that things are now looking up for these people as he has managed to resolve about 50 percent of the problems which were brought to his attention.
Bernard is also very passionate about the development of education in his constituency and he wants to see the younger generation obtain an education so that they can improve their and their family’s standard of living.
According to him, “kebilangan” is the word used to describe a person who is knowledgable such as local warriors like Antonom, Mat Salleh, Korom Anduat who were “kebilangan” with knowledge, courage, determination and well versed with war strategies to fight for the people’s freedom.
“I want this ‘kebilangan’ concept to continue and in this modern era, it is about overcoming competition and challenges in order to succeed. So for the younger generation to be ‘kebilangan’, they must first obtain an education,” he stressed.
Bernard wants to see rural folks make full use of the infrastructure facilities provided by the Government, especially in the education sector so that they can soon catch up and be on par with their peers in the urban areas.
He agreed that many of the villages in his constituency are still backward in terms of development but pointed out that the Government is aware of the matter and doing its best to change the situation. Included in his blueprint for education development is the repairing, upgrading and construction of school buildings, including teachers’ quarters and hostels for students from remote villages.
Some of the students have to wake up as early as 4. 30 am everyday as the nearest school is miles away and they have to walk there, he said, adding that some of the parents are so poor that they are unable to send their children to school daily as they need the latter to help out around the house and fields.
According to him further, some of these children are only able to study up to Primary Five as they do not have any identification documents and are therefore unable to sit for the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination in Primary Six. He urged the Education Ministry to seriously consider constructing hostels in schools which cater for remote villages in Pensiangan and that quarters must also be built for the teachers so that they will accept postings to remote areas.
“If no drastic action is taken by the Government, the situation will remain unchanged and children in Pensiangan as well as other remote areas will be left out,” he said, adding that during a visit to Kampung Binanon recently, he was shocked to find out that many of the children there did not go to school or had dropped out at an early age.
“When I asked a Form Four student why he dropped out of school, the boy simply replied ‘no money’ but this is not the reason not to continue studying,” he said and urged parents in his constituency as well other remote areas not to use poverty as an excuse not to send their children to school.
Bernard said he came from a poor family but had never let that fact stop him from getting an education and getting himself to where he is now.
He said that children should look at poverty as a challenge and not a hindrance to success and with that in mind, work hard towards achieving their goal of a better future.
Bernard also reminded the school management and teachers to always monitor any building construction to ensure that everything is done according to specifications. They must report to the relevant authorities anything not done accordingly.




The theft of power from the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) transformer in Mile 3 Jalan Bomba by nearby squatters is disrupting the operations of the adjacent sewage treatment station.
“The pumps at the treatment station cannot function due to inadequate electricity and the culprits of the problem are the power thieves,” the head of the Public Works Department Sewage Unit here, Stanley Mohd Omar, disclosed on Saturday. Stanley said he and a team of SESB staff carried out checks on several locations after receiving complaints on clogged sewage system in the SEDCO Light Industrial Area, Sri Taman, Taman Lucky and Bandar Kim Fung.
“The sewage system in these areas has been blocked for three days. We later managed to trace the source of the problem to the power thefts at the SESB transformer in Mile 3 Jalan Bomba,” he said.


Water supply to the whole of Sandakan is likely to be affected in the following days due to a generator problem at the Bukit Garam Treatment Plant in Kinabatangan. “The daily production has been reduced byat least eight million litres because of insufficient power to keep the pumps functioning at the Bukit Garam Treatment Plant,” Water Department Divisional Engineer Jeffrey Chong told reporters after the official opening of the department’s Payment and Customer Service Centre in the town on Saturday. Chong said the Water Department was waiting for the report on the extent of the problem from water concessionaire Timatch Sdn Berhad. “We are studying the measures to be taken to address the matter but presently we are still waiting for the report from Timatch. The problem was detected at 3pm on Friday,” he said. Chong advised consumers in Sandakan to use water wisely during this period. Meanwhile earlier in his speech during the opening ceremony, Chief Operating Officer of Salcon Engineering Berhad, How See Hock, said his company is proud to be a partner of the Water Department in setting up and running the first ever customer service centre right in the town centre. “The centre will allow customers easy access to various services such as bill payment, bill enquiries, new account application, water reconnection, termination of accounts, report of water quality and pipe bursts,” he said. He said consumers could also contact the friendly customer service representative at the toll free number 1300888855 for information on water bills, water disruption or to lodge complaints on their water services. a According to How, Salcon being the turnkey contractor of the Non Revenue Water (NRW) reduction a project since 2003, has successfully reduced physical losses in the existing distribution system through strategic NRW reduction and asset replacement and improvement programmes. “In conjunction with our NRW programme, we are launching an awareness programme to conserve our environment by giving away mugs to the public, to create awareness among the society not to waste water and to protect our rivers,” he said. The opening ceremony of the Water Department Payment and Customer Service Centre was officiated by Assistant Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Haji Aklee Haji Abbas who represented Deputy Chief Minister cum Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan.


The highly acclaimed Italian travel reality TV series, “Donnavventura”, will feature Mataking Island and a fishing village in the district. Donnavventura, which means ‘the woman in adventure’, is in its 19th year of production. It features six young and charismatic Italian ladies who were chosen from some 40,000 applicants to act as aspiring journalists and share their travel experiences with viewers. Five of the Italian ladies - Chiara Babilani, Michela Guizzon, Chiara Baselice, Stefania Donati and Elisa Grazzini - were on a three-month expedition to eight South-East Asia countries, shooting 12 episodes of exciting and exhilarating adventures. The TV series will show a stroll across the Mataking Island and some of the neighboring islands, a visit to the Kalapuan fishing village to show how the other side of the world lives and a night jungle trek. The Italian ladies also tried out the Mangunatip bamboo dance during their stay at Mataking from October 6 to 9. The producer of the television series, Maurizio Rossi, 54, said their visit to Mataking was one of the highlights of their trip to Sabah. “The resort island is truly ‘El Paradiso’. Mataking Island will be aired in Italy towards the end of this year or early next year,” he added. The crew had so far travelled to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. This was their second stop in Malaysia as they started out in Kuala Lumpur on July 19 this year. Rossi disclosed that they looked forward to completing the Asian leg by mid October before returning to Kuala Lumpur.


THE ‘Rolok”, a local flowering plant which is planted in most house compounds or backyards because of its natural and aesthetical beauty, actually has an evil past. Apparently, the plant was used by elders in the olden days to cast spells on people though some have talked about its medicinal attributes too. The Rolok plant can be found in two forms, one that grows as shrub and the other which can grow up to 10 feet tall. According to Hasnah Bousun, in her 40s, the Rolok plant was believed to possess a mystical power which could uproot a big tree or trigger a massive landslide in a single voodoo-induced natural disaster. “According to my grandfather, Pagans in the olden days would use the Rolok branch to cast an evil spell on somebody’s property. “What they would do is to dig a hole, put an egg in it and plant the Rolok branch on top. Thus the spell is cast and the area will be affected by natural disaster such as flooding or landslide,” she said. “This evil ancient rite is not practised anymore as most people have now converted to either Islam or Christianity. Furthermore it is not good to cast spells as it is against the teaching of God and also morally wrong,” explained Hasnah. Meanwhile, the leaves of the Rolok plant were said to have medicinal value and used to treat fevers. The preparation is simple. Boil a handful of Rolok leaves and leave them to cool. Bath in the leaf solution and it will lower your body’s temperature.


The Consumer Association of Sabah and Labuan (Cash) has urged the Government to introduce a debt collection legislation to protect consumers from being abused by debt collectors in order to unfairly pressure them into paying their debts. Its deputy president, Nordin Thani, said these abuse tactics are often intended to scare or intimidate consumers, sometimes with threats of violence or will try to pile on illegal interest or fees to make the debt seem larger than it actually is. “Harassment by moneylender debt collectors is nothing new to us but the existing law to protect consumers are insufficient. With the introduction of the law all debt collectors would follow certain guidelines, rules and procedures. Most importantly the consumers would be protected and be able to know what are their rights as borrowers are,” he pointed out in a statement yesterday. Nordin said the legislation should also cover vehicle repossessors. Some of them are acting like gangsters when trying to repossess vehicles that are overdue for payment. They even charge vehicle owners certain fees which they are not supposed to. At the moment, there is no such act or legislation to protect consumers which bars all forms of unfair, abusive and deceptive collection practices by debt collectors in this country. According to him, in certain
developing countries, a law of this kind has already been introduced and enforced which provides a general prohibition on any form of deception, abuse or unfair treatment to consumers when come to debt collection. With this kind of law enforced, at least all debt collection businesses or collectors would behave and are more disciplined when collecting their debts and would prevent unwanted incidents that we normally read, heard or see on television. Nordin also called for frequent check on health products that are sold openly on the streets and at open market in the City vicinity and towns throughout the state. “These products are not even approved by the Ministry of Health. There is no ministry logo or any other approval agency registration number on its label. Some are imported products and others produced locally. Amongst the products sold are weight-loss tablets which promise customers to look slim and Tongkat Ali special capsules which promises sex drive for men,” he said. “We believe a majority of the salespersons are foreigners knowing from their accent when trying to convince customers to buy. These products have not been tested and proven to be working by the authorities. It could be a fraud that could cheat consumers of their time listening, money and most importantly their health.

“They even assured customers that if the product doesn’t work, their money would be returned but didn’t inform the customers where and how to reach them except for a mobile number that’s even not active given on a pamphlet,” he pointed out. Nordin stressed that a special surveillance and enforcement team is needed from the relevant agency to combat all these misleading and deceptive advertising and to confiscate the products for testing of their true and actual contents. Perhaps a seminar or campaign could be organized to prevent innocent consumers from becoming victims of fraud by educating them on how to recognize authorized health products that are approved by the Health Ministry, he said.