Lest We Forget

DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH BORNEO BULLETIN ARCHIVES

Compiled by Faruq Bostaman

New gateway to Green Jewel opens

Aziz Idris & Siti Hajar

JANUARY 8, 2010 – The Ministry of Communications marked yet another milestone yesterday, just seven months after launching the new Muara Internal Container Depot, with the presentation of the mock key for the completed jetty in Temburong from the Public Works Department, Ministry of Development to the Ports Department under the Ministry of Communications.

The newly completed passenger jetty in Bangar, Temburong was officiated by guest of honour Minister of Communications Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abu Bakar bin Haji Apong.

The opening ceremony also saw a speech given by the Director of Ports Ang Kian Guan, who stated, “Funding received by the Ports Department through cargo tonnage where BND269,032.50 was collected in 2008 and BND259,807.50 in 2009 went to building the BND1.4 million jetty while the other 3.4 per cent was derived from the department’s own efforts.”

Complementing the Ports Department with regard to this endeavour, a number of projects were still in the pipeline to ensure an even better experience when visiting the district. Ang Kian Guan said that the department will continue to enhance its services, including the hiring of new boats in the future that will focus more on safety.

In light of tourism Ang Kian Guan said, “We are providing better facilities for tourists to rest and will set up an office for the travel agents should they (the tourist) have any enquiries.”

New passenger jetty at Bangar, Temburong District

He added that an official launching will take place for another project under the Ministry of Communications “maybe next month”, further testimony to the department’s vision for improvement.

For Bandar Seri Begawan, Ang Kian Guan said that the project for jetty improvement falls under the master plan, which will include widening the roads followed by enhancing the jetty.

The event witnessed the presentation of a mock key from the Public Works Department, Ministry of Development to the Ports Department, Ministry of Communications, signifying the official handover of the completed passenger jetty in Bangar. The guest of honour signed a plaque to officially mark the ceremony, which was followed by a tour of the building.

Among the facilities available are the arrival and departure lanes, the Seri Kerna Meeting Room, offices for the Ports and Marine Departments, prayer rooms, air-conditioned lounges, public toilets and ticketing counters.

The main entrance of the new passenger jetty has retained the original location of the Memorial Monument for National Heroes since 1962. The vicinity of the Memorial Monument has been enhanced and is expected to become a tourist attraction for the Temburong District.

The foundation stone laying ceremony for the jetty was held on April 18, 2009 and was one of the projects under the National Development Plan costing BND1.4 million. The construction of the building started on June 19, 2008 and was completed on December 19, 2009.

Dramatic reunion of Seria family with daughter they gave away over 20 years ago

JANUARY 16, 1960 – “This is better than winning the first prize in the big cash sweep,” said Luke Thai Chung, a broad smile on his sun browned features as he watched his wife, seated nearby, begin to nod her head vigorously in joyful agreement.

Only a few hours earlier – at the airport in Brunei Town – the Lukes had greeted their daughter as she set foot on Brunei soil for the first time in her life – a young woman they had given away for adoption as a small baby in 1937 and of whom they had lost all trace as the years flowed on.

Luke told the amazing story of the loss of their baby girl in 1937 and of her dramatic entrance this week into the lives of his wife and himself as he sat in his bungalow close to the Anthony Abell College.

In 1937, Luke, then an oilfield employee, found himself transferred from Seria to North Borneo as a member of a seismic party working in the Sandakan area. With him were his wife and two small children – Alice (now 23) and Michael (22) – who had been born in Miri.

It was during this working sojourn in North Borneo that his wife gave birth to a baby girl in Lahad Datu – a time of great sickness throughout the entire Luke household. And it was this sickness and ancient superstition, according to Luke, that separated mother from daughter a few months later in the busy east coast port of Sandakan.

As yet unnamed, the little girl was a sturdy infant. Luke’s mother, served in Chinese traditionalism, had decided that she would have to be given away for adoption – or otherwise the sickness in the family would continue.

“Thus it was that the little girl was handed over to Dr V A Stookes, a well-known Sandakan medical practitioner, and remained with that British family until she was six when Dr Stookes handed her over to his brother-in-law, W Sherman, in whose household she earned her keep by looking after the Sherman children, washing and doing other menial jobs until her marriage in 1952. The young Chinese baby from Lahad Datu became Monica Sherman, spoke only English and Malay – but never forgot that she was a baby whose parents had given her away and she constantly pined for a real mother’s care and affection.

Then came the war in 1941 and the Japanese occupation of North Borneo which broke up the Sherman family in Sandakan.

In 1950, Luke reached Sandakan but found no trace of the girl. Again in 1954, he visited Sandakan in an effort to trace his daughter but did not succeed.

But the girl was not so far away. In 1952, Monica Sherman became wife of Joseph Chang of Sandakan, a clerk in the service of the North Borneo Government.

From Sandakan, Chang was transferred to the District Office at Kudat and it was in this small port that the chain of events that led to the dramatic family reunion in Seria this week were first put in motion.

Walking in Kudat one day recently, Chang was stopped by an old resident there Lo Thau Ching, who casually asked her who her parents were. When she told him that she had been adopted by Dr Stookes as a baby and that she did not know the name of her real father, she was greatly surprised to see intense excitement appear on the face of Lo. He told her that he believed he knew her real father – a man who had once told him that he had given a daughter away to Dr Stookes over in Sandakan.

This astounding information led to a letter being sent from Kudat to Seria with a picture of Chang attached. “And now,” says Luke, “nothing will part us again. My wife and I felt that we would never meet our daughter again. But here she is. We are both so happy.”