- To start with, the manager of a plantation needs to have a sound knowledge of current trends in tropical agriculture and he must be fully experienced in the husbandry of his particular crop. He must be familiar with the different leaf, trunk and root diseases, and with the insect and animal pests which affect his crop, and he must know what action to take in the event of an attack.
- He must be able to recognise all the major nutritional deficiency symptoms of the rubber tree, and he must have sufficient knowledge of soil-science and fertilising to take action to remedy these. He must be able to plan and construct drainage and road systems. He must have a knowledge of building techniques since he will have to design and construct a wide range of buildings. He must have a reasonable knowledge of town-planning since he will have to supervise the layout of his workers villages, including the sanitation and electrical system.
- The rubber estate manager is usually directly in charge of the factory. He requires therefore a sound knowledge of process-control, practical engineering, vehicle repair and maintenance, and materials handling.
- All of the above refers only to one aspect of the planter's job. A very large part of his duties is related to the recruiting, training, and management of his labour force and staff. An average sized rubber estate would have a total labour-force of perhaps five hundred workers.
- These workers live, along with their wives and families, on the estate. They do not leave their work in the evening and return the following morning like workers in a manufacturing business. Their well-being and welfare is therefore the responsibility of the estate manager for twenty-four hours a day. He must have an extensive knowledge of their language and customs, as well as a large measure of compassion and common-sense.
- A manager in a manufacturing company, in charge of a labour force of five hundred would undoubtedly have the services of a range of specialists such as personnel officers, work-study experts, builders, architects, company-lawyers, and so on, ready to call on.
- The planter, because of his isolation, deals with all of such matters on his own. To manage an estate proficiently takes years of training and experience.
- The average estate manager will usually have served an apprenticeship of ten years or more as an assistant or a divisional manager, directly responsible to his estate manager for perhaps a thousand acres of rubber trees, and for a labour force of two or three hundred workers.
- All of this applies equally of course to the new breed of planter, namely the Malaysians who took over when the expatriates moved on. The planters' professional body in South East Asia is the ISP, (The Incorporated Society of Planters.) To become an Associate, requires the passing of examinations in one or more of the local languages, Malay, Tamil or Chinese. It requires passes in examinations in Soil Science, Botany, Surveying, Estate Book-keeping, and Estate Practice.
- When in the fullness of time, I became the chairman of Unilever Platations International, I interviewed and recruited many planters of many races, in different parts of the world. I can say with some confidence that Somerset Maugham, from what I have heard of him, would never, if he were still alive, have had the ghost of a chance of getting employment with us. I do not think he would have lasted a week as a planter.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
- Ken Anderson was the chairman of The North Borneo Plantations Association for the year 1961. He banged on the card table with the gavel, which was his sole seal of office. "Before we start the meeting there is an important administrative announcement. Will you please place your last orders for drinks, with Ah How."
- Ken was the senior manager of one of the largest rubber estates on the West Coast. To my rather youthful eyes, he looked quite elderly, as indeed did many of the other planters at the meeting. (Looking back, I suppose they were probably all aged between forty and fifty-five.) They were dressed informally, in open sports shirts, shorts and knee length stockings. The meeting was being held in the Jesselton Recreation Club. The room was already sweltering hot, and as the sun climbed directly over-head at mid-day, it would get even hotter. The ceiling fans whirred above our heads and through the open French windows, I could see the green of the Jesselton padang and the new Chinese shop houses beyond.
- The Club Steward, the venerable Ah How padded silently around the room taking orders. Within minutes he returned with the assorted gin-and-tonics, brandy-gingers, whisky-stengahs, and Tiger Beers. The gavel banged on the table once again.
- "The time being ten-thirty. I will call the meeting to order. Before we start on the agenda there are two items concerning membership to be dealt with. Today, we have a good-news, bad-news situation gentlemen. First the bad news. We have received resignations from yet two more member companies, whose plantations have been fragmented and sold off to Chinese smallholders. Later in the meeting I will be paying tribute to the two outgoing estate managers. Between them they have no less than forty-three years service in North Borneo. As some of you may know," he continued, " they are leaving on the MV Kimanis, which departs from the pier at 2.30 pm tomorrow. The Committee has decided to arrange their farewell party on board the ship, starting at eleven-thirty. You are all invited to attend, and I hope we will have a good turn-out."
- "And now to the good news. We have received an application from a prospective new member, Pamol North Borneo Ltd. This company, which is a subsidiary of Unilever, is developing Tungud Oil Palm Estate in the jungle between Mount Kinabalu and Sandakan. Pamol's application is interesting for two reasons. First, although CDC have replanted some of their abaca plantations with palms in the last year or two, Tungud will be the first oil palm estate ever, to be a member of this association. Secondly, this will be the Sabah Planter Association's first member from the Labuk region since the last tobacco estate closed down, in 1918."
- The Chairman took a long sip of his beer, wiped the film of sweat from his forehead with his handkerchief and continued. "As you know gentlemen, the rubber industry on the West Coast has been in a state of steady decline since the rubber price plummeted after the end of the Korean War. In view of the pace at which our plantations are being sold off or fragmented, I wonder how many of us in this room will still be operating in Borneo ten years from now? It is therefore very encouraging to all of us that Unilever should have sufficient faith in the future of the Colony to start on a long- term project of this nature. You all know the problems we are currently facing in the rubber industry. It is not impossible to think that, if the CDC and the Unilever projects are a success, palm oil could eventually come to replace rubber as the colony's major agricultural export. I have pleasure in proposing therefore that Pamol's application for membership should be accepted. Can I have a seconder please?"
- Our application for membership was duly approved, and Ken then continued. "Tungud's representative on the association will be their general manager, Leslie Davidson, who is present at this meeting." Sixteen pairs of eyes were turned in my direction. I was suddenly conscious of the fact that I was the youngest person in the room, and probably younger than some of the assistants whom the managers had left back on their estates. The Chairman, perhaps thinking the same thought, kindly added "Mr Davidson has worked on oil palms for ten years in Africa and Malaya, and he was a planter in Central Johore during the Communist Emergency. I would like to welcome him to the North Borneo Planters' Association, and to wish him success in the new venture."
- The membership matters dealt with, the Chairman and the Hon.Secretary proceeded to deal swiftly and efficiently with the rest of the agenda. I was impressed by the business-like way in which the meeting was conducted in spite of the heat and in spite of the amount of alcohol which was consumed. The meeting broke up around lunch time and was followed by an enormous curry tiffin.
- In the 1960's, with the nationalisation of the Ceylon tea plantations, the expulsion of the Dutch from Indonesia, and of the Belgians from Congo, and with the "Isation" of the tea and rubber estates in India and Malaya, the expatriate planters were in imminent danger of extinction. The North Borneo rubber planters were probably amongst the last of the old-style expatriate eastern planters. In my years in Sabah, I developed a great respect for them.
- They lived on remote rubber estates, some of them connected to Jesselton only by the narrow-gauge railway line. Whilst on their estates, the planters worked hard. Rubber estates start tapping operations shortly after dawn, so that the tapping can be completed before the equatorial sun is hot enough to affect the flow of latex. After a morning in the field, supervising the tapping and the other agricultural tasks, the planter would be in the factory by noon to check on the latex deliveries and the subsequent rubber factory operations. The afternoon would be spent in the office.
- With the increasing amount of government controls and agency house returns, there was a heavy load of administrative work, and few estate managers would be out of their offices before five or six pm.
- There were hardly any European wives in those days, on the West Coast estates. Mrs Anderson, a strikingly beautiful woman, was, I remember, one of the few. A year or two later, after Ken retired, they ran a hotel in the Orkney Islands. Except on the few rubber estates, which were large enough to have assistants, the planter would be the only European on the property. Sometimes he had a local house-keeper to look after him. It was a lonely life and it is small wonder that when the planters got together in Jesselton to collect the monthly wages for the workers or to attend a Plantation Association meeting, they tended to let their hair down.
- Over the years the planter has had a poor press. Some of the blame for this must surely lie with novelists like Somerset Maugham. Apparently, when he visited Borneo and Malaya in 1920 and in 1922, Maugham would get his young friend and companion, Gerald Haxton, to befriend expatriate drunks, mis-fits, and local down-and-outs in the bars of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Jesselton. Haxton would dredge up the more juicy bits of local gossip, and would bring these tit-bits back to Somerset Maugham for regurgitation in one of his short stories.
- Many years later Maugham was to write, in one of his notebooks as, I suppose, some sort of apology, "The reader must not suppose that the incidents I have narrated were of common occurrence. The vast majority of these people, government servants, planters and traders were ordinary people, ordinarily satisfied with their station in life. They did the jobs they were paid to do more or less competently. They were good, decent, normal people. I respect and even admire such people, but they are not the sort of people I can write stories about." The last sentence reads suspiciously like the philosophy of a paparazzi, "Never mind the truth. Let's find a bit of dirt to write about."
- I found it amusing when Somerset Maughan in another of his published notebooks said that planting was one of the jobs, which seemed to require no education or experience. Based on my knowledge of the rubber planters on the West Coast, characters like Bob Balantine, Reg Lawes, Hornet Williams, Ken Anderson, Graham Steele, Archie Findlay, Neville Williamson and others, nothing could be further from the truth. To start with, the manager of a plantation needs to have a sound knowledge of current trends in tropical agriculture and he must be fully experienced in the husbandry of his particular crop. He must be familiar with the different leaf, trunk and root diseases, and with the insect and animal pests which affect his crop, and he must know what action to take in the event of an attack.
- He must be able to recognise all the major nutritional deficiency symptoms of the rubber tree, and he must have sufficient knowledge of soil-science and fertilising to take action to remedy these. He must be able to plan and construct drainage and road systems. He must have a knowledge of building techniques since he will have to design and construct a wide range of buildings. He must have a reasonable knowledge of town-planning since he will have to supervise the layout of his workers villages, including the sanitation and electrical system. The rubber estate manager is usually directly in charge of the factory. He requires therefore a sound knowledge of process-control, practical engineering, vehicle repair and maintenance, and materials handling.
- All of the above refers only to one aspect of the planter's job. A very large part of his duties is related to the recruiting, training, and management of his labour force and staff. An average sized rubber estate would have a total labour-force of perhaps five hundred workers. These workers live, along with their wives and families, on the estate. They do not leave their work in the evening and return the following morning like workers in a manufacturing business. Their well-being and welfare is therefore the responsibility of the estate manager for twenty-four hours a day. He must have an extensive knowledge of their language and customs, as well as a large measure of compassion and common-sense.
A manager in a manufacturing company, in charge of a labour force of five hundred would undoubtedly have the services of a range of specialists such as personnel officers, work-study experts, builders, architects, company-lawyers, and so on, ready to call on. The planter, because of his isolation, deals with all of such matters on his own. To manage an estate proficiently takes years of training and experience. The average estate manager will usually have served an apprenticeship of ten years or more as an assistant or a divisional manager, directly responsible to his estate manager for perhaps a thousand acres of rubber trees, and for a labour force of two or three hundred workers.
- All of this applies equally of course to the new breed of planter, namely the Malaysians who took over when the expatriates moved on. The planters' professional body in South East Asia is the ISP, (The Incorporated Society of Planters.) To become an Associate, requires the passing of examinations in one or more of the local languages, Malay, Tamil or Chinese. It requires passes in examinations in Soil Science, Botany, Surveying, Estate Book-keeping, and Estate Practice.
- When in the fullness of time, I became the chairman of Unilever Platations International, I interviewed and recruited many planters of many races, in different parts of the world. I can say with some confidence that Somerset Maugham, from what I have heard of him, would never, if he were still alive, have had the ghost of a chance of getting employment with us. I do not think he would have lasted a week as a planter.
- On the Monday morning, I was due to have a meeting with the Chief Secretary who was standing in for the Governor during his absence on leave. I therefore stayed in Jesselton for the weekend and was able to attend the farewell party for the two retiring planters on the Sunday. The Kennedys were on leave and I was invited to stay with the Harrisons & Crosfields' manager Sandy Guy and his Australian wife Peggy. We all went down together to the M.V.Kimanis at noon. It turned out to be a memorable occasion. Due to the happy coincidence of the Planters' Association meeting being held the previous day, virtually every planter in the colony had turned up. One or two were looking a bit frayed around the edges even before the start of the party.
- A few colonial officers were also leaving on retirement on the same ship. Consequently groups of well-wishers from their various departments had come to see them off. The officials and the planters were gathered, glasses in hand, around the departing officers, with much back-slapping and good fellowship. The babble of voices was punctuated from time to time by the popping of champagne corks and the equatorial sun sparkled on the vivid blue waters of Gaya Bay. The police band had been brought out for the occasion. They played selections from Gilbert and Sullivan under an awning on the deck. It was an idyllic, rather Edwardian, scene. Noel Coward would have felt completely at home.
- It was not very often that the planters and the colonial officers got together at an unofficial gathering of this kind. Both groups had seen their numbers dwindling over the past months. There was a feeling in the air that an era was drawing to a close. The ship was scheduled to sail at 2.30pm. However, for some technical reason, its departure was delayed until 4.30 pm. The party continued therefore for much longer than planned and, in the intense heat, the drinks flowed freely. No one seemed inclined to leave. After an hour or two, the various groups had all merged into one large party. More toasts were proposed to each of the departing passengers and even to some of the startled tourists who had joined the ship in Singapore for the round trip.
- It was oppressively hot in the crowded saloon. I went up on deck to cool off in the slight breeze coming off the sea. I was leaning over the ship's rail, when I was joined by Donald Stevens. After our first meeting at lunch with the Governor, I had taken up Donald's invitation to visit him at his newspaper office, and I had met him and his brother Ben, on a few other occasions. Donald, as the leader of the Kadazan Party, was up till then, the only local citizen I had met who seemed to have the remotest trace of political consciousness. The general lack of interest in independence in North Borneo had come as a surprise to me. Having been in Malaya in 1957 during the Merdeka celebrations and having only very recently been working in Nigeria during the run-up to Independence, it was very much to the forefront of my mind.
- "Look Donald," I said, "In Scotland, every schoolchild learns stories about William Wallace and his struggles against the English for independence. I wonder what folk-tales are going to be told about your struggle for independence?"
"But we have no intention of struggling for independence" said Donald. " Tell me," he continued, "how many Kadazan doctors, or engineers do you know? Until we can raise the educational level amongst the Kadazans we are in no rush. We are happy for the colonial government to continue to hold an umbrella over us until we are ready for independence. Maybe in another ten years or so."
- After a few glasses of champagne, I was in fine fettle for taking a broad look at the grand sweep of history. "Donald, there is no exam to see if a country is ready for independence. Do you think that Congo or even Nigeria were ready? It comes whether you are ready or not, as soon as the colonial power loses interest. That is what is happening in Britain today."
- "But what has all this to do with your friend William Wallace?" Donald asked.
"Well if you were to play your cards right you could become the William Wallace of Sabah," I suggested. "Look, I happen to know that there are lots of statues of Queen Victoria in little towns all over India. No one wants them there. We could buy a job-lot very cheap and get them erected on the town padangs of Jesselton, and Sandakan. You could then get together with some friends, tog yourselves out in masks and camouflage jackets and blow them up. I don't think anyone would mind very much, except for Special Branch of course. It would give them something to do. You could probably arrange it in advance with the Governor. It would be good fun, and I guarantee that in future history books, it will go down as the start of the wars of independence; something like the Boston Tea-Party." Donald chuckled heartily, and we left the deck to go back to the saloon for another drink.
- Three years later, after Sabah had become a State of Malaysia, with Tun Mustapha as the Head of State, and Donald Stevens, (then Tun Fuad Stephens) as its first Chief Minister, there was an investiture in Government House. Donald, presented me with the ASDK. As I leaned forward to have it hung round my neck, he whispered "Are there still any spare statues of Queen Victoria going cheap these days Leslie?"
- But, to return to the party on the Kimanis, things were going rather too well. I have a confused recollection that a Scotsman had materialised with a set of bagpipes. The hours winged by. No one showed the slightest desire to leave. The Captain, no longer quite so genial, approached Sandy Guy with a worried expression. "You realise Sandy that we must leave the quay by 4.30 at the very latest. Can you help me to persuade our guests that it is time to disembark?" H&C were the agents for Straits Steamship Co. and I suppose it was for just such an occasion as this that they received their handling fee. Sandy banged on the bar with an empty bottle. "Time Gentlemen please," he bellowed. The effect was less than dramatic. The Captain was muttering about such technicalities, as low tide, minimum draft etc., but no one seemed to share his concern. Eventually Sandy got the band to strike up 'Auld Lang Syne.'
- This at last triggered a response, and there was a general drift towards the gang-way. Departure was now imminent. The gangway was being raised, when it was noticed that my good friend Joe Berwick, the Director of Agriculture had not yet disembarked. He appeared momentarily at the prow of the ship, a bottle in one hand. He waved happily to the crowd below, and disappeared, pursued by several of the crew. Eventually they ambushed him. The gangway was lowered again and Joe still waving his bottle was frog-marched down by a couple of deck hands. The mooring ropes were cast off fore and aft. The Kimanis engines throbbed powerfully. The ship started to move slowly away. The police band, lined up on the pier, was playing Auld Lang Syne for the third time, and everyone was waving goodbye to the departing passengers.
- Joe stood, swaying slightly, between Sandy Guy and myself. "Must have a pee!" he muttered, with a note of desperation. Both Sandy and I were similarly
afflicted. The problem was that the Jesselton pier was a good five hundred yards long and the public toilet was at the other end. Fortunately, all eyes were on the Kimanis. The three of us surreptitiously edged behind some sacks of copra stacked on the other side of the pier, and unzipped. Three streams arched gracefully into the blue waters of the harbour below. Blessed relief! The Captain blew a thunderous farewell blast on the ship's horn. Sandy and I instinctively half turned our heads. There was a splash from below. We turned back. The Director of Agriculture had disappeared. His balding head broke the surface fifteen feet below. "It's great," he shouted, "Come on in!"
- Joe's shouts attracted the attention of the crowd. Sandy and I furtively zipped up as they swarmed around us pointing and yelling. Some busybody flung a substantial cork lifebuoy into the water. It narrowly missed Joe's head. He shook his fist, and struck out further away from the pier. There were a few further moments of drama whilst a launch came out and unceremoniously hauled him aboard. Alex Campbell, the general manager of the Rubber Fund Board volunteered to take Joe back home with him for a few hours until he was feeling more robust.
- We believed that was the end of the excitement for the day. I went back with my hosts. About 9 p.m. Sandy's phone rang. It was Alex. Was Joe with us? Apparently Alex had, as promised, taken Joe home with him, wrapped him in a sarong and put him into his spare bedroom to sleep it off. An hour or two later he had been surprised to hear the sound of his Land Rover being driven off. He caught a glimpse of Joe, dressed only in a colourful sarong, steering an erratic route, out through the front gate. Alex had already phoned the police, the hospital, and quite a number of Joe's friends, but had drawn a blank.
- The mystery was solved, for me at any rate, the next morning at the Secretariat. It was customary for any plantation representative meeting the Governor or the Acting Governor officially, to be accompanied by the Director of Agriculture. At 7.30am therefore, on the Monday morning, feeling none too bright, I called at the wooden building which housed the Agricultural Department offices. To my astonishment Joe was sitting at his desk, looking in remarkably good shape for a man whom we expected to turn up in the hospital at the very least. "Have you seen Alex Campbell anywhere?" he asked me. "I found his Land Rover in my garage this morning. Alex takes a heavy dram sometimes you know. Probably he got a bit pickled last night and didn't want to risk driving it home."
- "What did you do last night?" I asked him.
"Nothing very exciting, I went round to the Chief Secretary's house for a rubber of bridge, as I do most Sunday evenings. Actually I was a bit tired after that party on the Kimanis yesterday afternoon. I don't remember much about it to tell the truth. Am I right in thinking that we all went down to the beach for a swim afterwards?"
- Together Joe and I went across to the Governor's office. We were ushered into the presence of the Chief Secretary. He greeted me cordially enough, but he seemed a bit frosty with his Director of Agriculture.
- I was so pleased that you remembered our bridge party last night, Berwick. I would be grateful however if you would take the trouble to wear something rather less informal than a sarong for our game next Sunday."
- MALAYSIA will celebrate its 52nd year of Merdeka tomorrow, and it is timely to reflect on what has happened since the nation gained independence in 1957. Amidst the joy and fanfare, there must be a serious revisit to the history of the events that led to this annual celebration. They say, history is a great teacher. But unless this is done in earnest, Merdeka tends to have a repetitive dampening effect in which the context is largely lost. It will be reduced to a one-time cyclical happening, devoid of any meaning.
- And once the bright lights go off, the event will be totally forgotten.With it goes the commitment to take stock of what must be done to buttress Merdeka as a platform to create a genuinely sovereign nation. More recently, Datuk Dr Sharom Ahmat during his acceptance address as a recipient of a honorary doctorate in philosophy at the last Universiti Sains Malaysia Convocation, reminded us again of the importance of history."History preserves the concept of identity, society, balance and through this we remember who we are and where we come from," he said."It is crucial therefore, to never change history, memories and our heritage."Sharom recognised that history is to a society like memories are to an individual. It is, therefore, a vital guide on how we ought to live in the present and in the future.Without such memories, an individual becomes isolated and will have no idea of his roots and where he is in the present."As such, I hope that history will be given priority in tandem with other studies considered important in determining the rise and fall of a nation."In short, whether we realise it or not, history has a material bearing on a country's future; and pleading ignorance is not an option.
- Those who are blind to history are surely to cause unwarranted obstacles to nation-building. For one, the formation of Malaysia (in the spirit of 1Malaysia) is an event that we cannot afford to ignore or be oblivious to.
- Along with it are events like the separation of Singapore from the Federation, as all these have had a big impact on all of us. The book Jinnah-India, Partition, Independence released just a fortnight ago, is fast becoming a best-seller precisely because of its historical value and honesty. It reminded us again why knowing the "truth" through history is vital.The author, India's former external affairs minister, Jaswant Singh, recalls the events leading to the partition of the subcontinent. At one point he wrote: "The cruel truth is that this partitioning of India has actually resulted in achieving the very reverse of the originally intended purpose; partition, instead of settling contention between communities has left us a legacy of markedly enhanced Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or other such denominational identities, hence differences...
- "The British were regarded as an ever willing midwife in tandem with the practice of divide-and-rule tactics.
- Although many applauded the book as an impeccable scholarly work, the author, a senior leader of India's main opposition party, was unceremoniously expelled two days after the book was launched.
- Others called for a boycott, especially when some of the revelations were deemed unpalatable to the interests of the current politics.
- Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, for example, were alleged to be responsible for the country's partition in 1947, together with Muhamad Ali Jinnah, the founder-father of Pakistan.
- To cast Jinnah as "being the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, the liberal constitutionalist and Indian nationalist to the Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan", is to many Indians just politically incorrect.
- But such is the role of history in teasing out the "truth" for us to learn from, no matter what is politically correct. Sadly, however, many a time we prefer to wallow in ignorance and champion the narrow vested interest of partisan politics. All history gets is a back seat, if at all.
- Consequently, our history is often haunted by its own ghosts created to feed uninformed minds, especially the impressionable ones who regard Merdeka as no more than a one-day event of hoisting and waving flags. After 52 years of almost the same, it is time to get rid of the ghosts and start anew.
- We need to find answers to some of the whys and why-nots, in order that we understand and not repeat any of the follies of yesteryear.Merdeka must be the defining moment for all of us to seriously contemplate on how to do better.
- And this needs more than just the usual song and dance. Salam Merdeka to all Malaysians.
The writer is vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Saturday, 29 August 2009
b) Internally, the control wirings and power cables are not strapped and rounted properly.
c) MCPs are ussualy set upon by water, oil and fibre. Little is done to improve the situation.
d) Screws are usually not complete or totally absent from front and back covers. As such many covers are seen..
e) Contactors are not opened up for servicing. They are left to operate until failures sat in.
f) Power fuses are sometimes replaced not according to connected load but what are available in stock. This can lead to single phasing.
g) Defective indicating lights and starts/stop push buttons are commonly found. Replacement are normally by cannibalising from spare starter boards.
a) Insulation resistance of windings are not checked and recorded. Deterioration of cannot be ascertained.
b) Cable terminal box is seldom opened up to inspect for loose connections and heating.
c) Electric heater or carbon lamp is not used to heat up windings to remove moisture when alternator is not in operation.
d) Blowing of windings is only done at overhangs. Little attempts are made to remove dust and dirt in other areas of alternator's windings.
e) Lubrication of bearings are not properly recorded to maintain standard time for greasing.
f) Diode connections to rotating disc are not, checked by torque wrench and as such under and over tightening occur. Both can lead to failure of rotatinz diode assemblies.
2. Main Switchboard
a) Arrangement is not made to re - calibrate the overcurrent and earth fault relays periodically.
b) Defective meters, indicating lights, switches and lighting fittings are commonly found. This shows lack of maintenance.
c) Cleaning of trench is not done. Water, debris, cockroaches and rats are coomon sight.
d) Front, side and back covers are not close tightly. Gaps are left behind inviting the entry of vermin.
e) Defective power and control fuses are not replaced but instead shorted with 'cooper wires . This can lead to fire hazard.
f) Main switchboard is seldom being coened uo to check for loose connections and excessive heating.
g) The top of main switchboard is dirty and couple with rain water through leaking roof has caused rust tc set in. -This leads to entry of water inside main switchboard and probably short-circuits.
1. Induction Motor
a) Complete Overhaul 5 years
b) Greasing 6 months - I year
c) Insulation Test 3 months - 6 months
d) Vibration, Noise Alignment Check including Ventilation Fan check 2 months
e) Clean & Dry Motor Frame 1 month
f) Service Slip Ring & Carbon Brush 1 month
2. Motor Starter
Service starter & check operation of protection Relays 1 month 2 months
3. Sampling check by Maintenance Engineer 1 week
a) Ingression of liquid
b) Motor flooded
c) Chemical erosion
d) Attacks by rodent,
Leading to short-circuit or open-Circuit of windings
a) Provide cover for motor
b) Install motor at safe location.
c) Apply rat bait at infested areas.
Frequent start and stop to remove choking at machinery.
a) Change working habits of operator.
b) Improve supervision by MA.
c) Install thermal switch at windings.
a) Defects at bearing or shaft.
c) Problems in driven machinery
a) Rubbing of stator and rotor leading to snort-circuit
b) Roasting of winding - overload
a) Perform regular inspection of motor, drive system and driven machine.
b) Ensure thermal overload relay is working .
c) Install motor away from vibrating areas.
Running on two phasing
a) Defective contacts at starter's isolator or contactor
b) 1 No. power fuse open-circuit
c) Wiring to one phase open-circuit
d) Loose connection, loose bolts.
Two sets of windings are overloaded
a) Ensure starters are well serviced
b) Correct size oE power fuse is being used.
c) Ensure all screws are tightened.
d) Install electronic phase breaking relay.
Note An increase of 5 degree C over its maximum operating temperuter will shorten its life spar. by half.
Improvement Could be improved by:
a) Cleaning, re-varnishing and baking
b) applying aerosol insulator spray.
a) Turn to turn short
b) Phase, to Phase short
c) phase to frame short
The insulation of conductor is caused to be removed by:
C) Rubbing of stator and rotor (bearing defect)
d) Ingression of liquid
defective rubber lining or gasket or wrong installatio:
terminal cable box
e) Vibration and thus movement of coil windings
a) Ensure thermal overload relay is in good working condition.
b) Do not start and stop too frequently.
c) Bearing and alignment is good
d) Rubber lining or gasket is properly installed.
e) Ventilation ducts are not clogged.
a) Motor undersize.
b) Restriction in turning
a) Insulation of conductors is darken,
b) Brittle and easily peel off.
This is called roasting of windings
1.3 Can cause short-circuit between turnss
a) Mainly due t0 wrong setting cf themal overload relay (TOR)
b) Defective ther-mal overload relay check by reducing the setting to minimum level.
c) $Thus ensure thermal overload relay is working.
f) Poor Insulation
g) Single Phasing
h) Starter Defects
a) Bearing Defect
b) Shaft Defect
c) Alignmen t
d) Driven -Machinery Jam
a) Dust & Dirt
b) Liquid Ingression
d) Rodent Attack
e) Chemical Erosion
4. Operational - Winding Overheat
Machine Blower Fan (With highs inertia)
Electric Motors 3 phase 415V 1500 rpm 20PP
Method of Starting
Use Auto- Transformer (for high power or inertia machine)
Initial Starting Current = 1.7 to 4- In (Say 3 In)
Usual Starting Time = 7-12 secs (Say 10 secs)
Rated Current (In) = Set Current (Ie) = 29A
Multiples of current setting Ile on starting = 3 Ie
Selection of Thermal Overload Relay
Try CT31-32• 23-32A Try CT3-45 25-32A
Tripping Time Tripping Time
Cold Start 25 secs (OK) Cold Start 50 secs (OK)
WaLw Start 7 secs (NO) Warm Start 12 secs (OK)
a) Simple and Inexpensive
b) Starting cannot be regulated
a) High starting current
c) Starting cannot be regulated
a) Relatively inexpensive
a) Low starting Torque
b) 6 terminal motor required
c)Break in line supply when changing (arc & loss of torque)
d) No adjustment of starting current
a) Possibility of adjusting starting starting current current
b) No break in line supply during starting
a) small reduction in starting current
b) Require resistor
a) Good torque
b) Possibility of auto-transformer adjusting starting values
a) Requires a costly auto-transformer
a) Very good torque
b) Low starting more expensive
C) Possibility of adjusting starting current
d) No break in line supply
a) a slip ring motor more expensive
b) Requires resistors
a) Direct-On-Line (DOL)
c) Auto-Transformer (AT)
d) Rotor Resistance (RR)
e) Primary Resistance Not Cc nly U99
Selection of Starters
a) 1hp.- 5.5 hp use DOL starter -
b) 7.5 30hp use SD starter
c) 40hp and above use AT starter
d) Slip-Ring Induction motor use RR starter
- The prediction in my December report, that the 1963 monsoon would be I comparatively mild,' was the worst weather forecast since Noah's wife told him it was only going to be a passing shower! It turned out to be the heaviest and most prolonged monsoon and the worst flooding in the recorded history of the Labuk. The north east winds blew steadily in from the Sulu Sea from the beginning of December. From then on, we had heavy rain on no less than 105 out of the succeeding 110 days. The sun virtually disappeared for the duration and we recorded an average of only 1.8 hours of sunshine per day for the entire period. The rainfall statistics understated the real figures, because our weather station was actually submerged for a couple of days during which the rainfall went unrecorded. In spite of this our rain-gauge showed a total of 117 inches of rain for the period of the monsoon.
- We had of course, seen heavy rains during the previous monsoon. This was different however. For the first few days of January, the rain poured down with such intensity that it looked almost as if a giant hand was scooping the water out of the Sulu Sea and emptying it down on us in sheets. The Tungud River, which had been rising steadily throughout December, rose to levels which no one had seen before.
- The flooding came in three phases. In the first phase, the storm was centred on the estate. In the second phase, the storm surged on up the Labuk Valley, as far as the eastern foothills of Kinabalu. Although the rainfall on the estate eased off, the Labuk River rose to amazing levels and a wall of water swept down on us with a ferocious and frightening power. The third phase, when we all thought the worst was over, consisted of a series of smaller storms. Minor flooding continued on and off until the 20th March, and these floods although less dangerous to life and limb actually caused the most serious damage to the planted areas.
- Very fortunately Olive and the children were still in Devon. Following the departure of Moray Graham and the Wyngartens, the only two expatriates on the estate were myself and Donald Pettit, the new assistant manager. Donald was a batchelor, a large, typically unflappable Englishman, educated at Rugby Public School. He had worked with me previously in Africa. I had specifically asked London office to transfer him to us because I knew he would be able to take the vicissitudes of life in Borneo in his stride. Throughout the floods, although he could not as yet speak more than a few words of Malay, he was a tower of strength.
- After our experience with the previous monsoon, we had taken as many advance precautions as we could think of. We ensured that the shops were fully stocked and that there was enough rice to feed all our workers for a month. Each headman and overseer had been provided with a canoe and a small Seagull outboard-motor. We had sent our two bulldozers down to Sandakan so that they could be repaired, serviced, and be ready for work as soon as the weather dried up. (This was a good idea in theory. However it did not work out as planned. The tug towing the scow hit a violent storm in Labuk Bay. The scow broke loose. Both bulldozers sank to the bottom of the bay and were never recovered. Fortunately they had been insured for the journey.)
- We had managed to complete the workers permanent houses in the new Ulu Village by the end of November, and all the married families had been moved up there from the temporary camp downstream. We were very proud of the new houses. They were larger than the standard required by the Labour Department. As the wives had requested through the JCC, each house was provided with a kerosene cooker so that the kitchens could be kept free of wood smoke.
- After the huge deluge in the first two weeks of January the Tungud River burst its banks and the entire planted area was flooded. Day by day, as the rain poured down without a break, the floodwater continued to rise, until the whole village site was inundated to a depth of a few feet. We were fortunate in one respect. The Tungud is a comparatively short river. Since the rainstorm was centred on the estate and its immediate surroundings, there was no serious current to contend with. The water spread out over the palms like a placid pond, and there was little chance of anyone being swept away. However, with the rain still teeming down, the level of the Tungud rose further. Eventually it came up almost to the floors of the houses, on their six- foot high posts. The water was now too deep to wade from one house to another and the families were marooned in their homes.
- The headmen patrolled the whole village night and day in their canoes, to reassure the wives and families. Donald himself had a little motorboat and he buzzed around his division tirelessly, with his pipe clenched in his teeth, exuding an air of calmness and imperturbability. As the water continued to rise, something had to be done. Donald and I held an emergency meeting with the JCC, the headmen and overseers. We decided that, in the interests of safety, we had to evacuate the whole village to higher ground, before the flood rose any higher. There was plenty of hilly land, further away from the riverbanks, but of course it was still under jungle and not reachable by boat.
- The only accessible patches of dry land within the cleared area were the two hills on which we were currently building the first two management houses. The hills, perhaps a hundred feet high and no more than perhaps an acre each in extent, were now like small islands, emerging from a huge lake. Fortunately the first house, which I was waiting to move into was already roofed. It only awaited ceilings, doors, windows, plumbing, wiring and decorating. With three bedrooms, verandas, and large servants quarters, it could house, in an emergency, most of our married families for a few days. Every boat we owned was pressed into service for the move. All the men, women and children and their possessions including their goats, ducks and chickens, were loaded on the boats. It was like the evacuation of Dunkirk. Our Armada, consisting of our new scow, our diesel kumpit, the management launch, the catamaran and several assorted canoes set off, loaded to the gunwales and, sailing right over the top of our submerged palms, disembarked their passengers on the slopes of our management hill.
- There was a lot of building material on the building sites, such as lengths of wood, concrete blocks and roofing sheets. We also raided the central company store for tarpaulins and corrugated iron sheets. Kong Miew and his building team helped by every able-bodied man on the site, swiftly erected dozens of small huts all round the hill. That afternoon, twenty or thirty of the Kadazans from the upper Tungud came downstream to seek sanctuary. For the first time any of them could remember, their houses had been submerged and Rangga thought they would be safer on our estate. I was pleased to find my old gardener Urut Turut amongst them.
- To the consternation of our Muslim workers, they had brought with them a few domestic pigs. We swiftly sorted this situation out by allocating the second hill on its little island to the Kadazans, and to Changai and his group of pagan Dyaks. We soon erected more temporary huts for them. The two hills began to look like South American shanty towns, but at least everyone was now secure, dry, and had a roof over their heads. In all we had over five hundred people to look after.
- As regards food we were in good shape. Titi had already transferred all the rice and provisions from his shop up to the hill site. I purchased his entire stock from him and we decided that for the duration of the flood, food would be distributed free of charge. The ever-resourceful Maria, commandeered one of the bathrooms and served a continuous supply of hot sweet coffee out of the window. Each headman arranged a central point for his own group.
- Some of the wives had brought their precious kerosene cooking-stoves with them, and the distribution and cooking of food proceeded fairly smoothly. Fires were lit in the little huts outside the main house and soon they had clothes hanging up to dry around them. The children thought the whole thing was great fun, and they scampered around naked in the rain. Although food was no problem, I was worried about drinking-water. The only water supply was of course, the muddy river, and there was a danger of an outbreak of dysentery or cholera. Fortunately our storekeeper reminded us that he had dozens of water-filters in stock. We distributed them around our emergency camp. Our dresser, Mr Mathen patrolled all the huts tirelessly, ensuring that the water was first filtered and then boiled, before consumption.
- It was a miracle that we did not have a single serious case of stomach trouble amongst the workers or families during the period of the floods. What we did have however, was an outbreak of babies! The records show that Ivy John, our redoubtable Indian mid-wife, during the lengthy 110 days of the monsoon, delivered no less than 15 healthy babies, often in conditions of extreme discomfort to herself as well as to the mothers. The first night after the evacuation, the flood reached its peak and the water came half way up the walls of the evacuated houses. This meant that it was ten feet over the ground level at the village. We were relieved that we had managed to get all the inhabitants up to safety in time.
- After the community had been living a few days on the two hills, the rain started to ease off. We caught a glimpse of sunshine and blue sky for the first time in ages, and the level of the Tungud River began to recede. Rangga and our Kadazan friends loaded their possessions and their livestock into their canoes and set off back upstream. I was surprised how cheerful they all were. Ibrahim told us that with their semi-nomadic lifestyle, they were quite used to moving their huts at the drop of a hat. It was their custom to move house whenever they had a death or even sickness in the family, and all the construction materials they needed were readily available in the surrounding jungle. When they got back upstream, they could carry out any repairs needed to their houses in a matter of hours.
- One day later the flood at the new village had dropped to only a foot or so over the ground. The houses emerged undamaged, except that we would have to give them another coat of paint when things dried up. The wives were eager to get back to start the cleaning up operations whilst there was still water under their houses. There was an hour or two of sunshine and we took the opportunity to get the Armada loaded up and underway for the return journey.
- The scene now shifted to the Labuk. The storm which for a couple of weeks had been centred over the estate now moved inland, following up the course of the Labuk River to hurtle itself against the rocky face of Mount Kinabalu. We heard later that at Telupid they recorded 79 inches of rain in three days, and that the river had risen by an incredible 50 feet. The United Nations Survey Party who had been working near Telupid were washed out. They were forced to abandon their site and move back down-river to Sandakan until the dry weather arrived. On their way downstream they picked up my friend George Lyall who was employed by the mining group Naylor Benson, prospecting for bauxite in the Bidu Bidu Hills. George was in a bad way. He had not expected the river to rise to the level it did. His workers, after unsuccessfully trying to persuade him to move out, had eventually fled, leaving him on his own for several days. His entire camp had been washed away.
- The UN team rescued him and brought him down to us with nothing more than the wet clothes he stood up in. I could not believe the change in George since I had last seen him. He was emaciated and haggard. He refused to go on to Sandakan with the UN contingent however. He wanted to be able he said, to get back upstream as soon as possible to sort out his lost equipment. He asked if he could borrow some dry clothes and stay in our rest house, for a day or two until the flood level dropped. There would be no problem about that, I reassured him. George was a regular and a welcome visitor. He often stayed a night with us on his way up or down the river. He was from the north-east of Scotland like myself, and we got on well. He was an intelligent man and incredibly well-read. He could quote large chunks from the Bible, Shakespeare and Robert Burns at great length. We had spent many evenings together in the rest house over a glass or two of malt whisky.
- I called Attan, the rest house cook, and he reassured me that he had sufficient food to cater for George for a few days. One of the UN Team asked if he could use our phone. I told him that the exchange was under water and the phone had been out of action for weeks. "Did you hear the BBC World Service on the radio yesterday?" he asked "There was a report about huge floods throughout North Borneo, and the Labuk Valley was specifically mentioned as the worst hit area." This was something I had not thought about. If either Olive or Colin Black had heard the broadcasts, they would be worried about us. I decided that I had better take the first opportunity of going down to Sandakan to phone them.
Before he departed, the leader of the UN Team took me on one side. "Leslie, I am very worried about George," he said. "He is extremely depressed you know." "Yes, not much wonder," I replied.
"No, I mean he is really, really depressed. He has been acting very strangely."
"We'll keep an eye on him," I assured him.
- Since the estate-office, and the temporary management houses were on the tidal reaches of the Labuk we did not expect the flood levels to be as dramatic as they had been on the Tungud. However for the next couple of days the level of the Labuk continued to rise steadily. Eventually it came over the floor of the office. We organised a team of workers to build a huge raft and we transferred all our office furniture, files and equipment to it. The rising water swamped our central stores. Lengths of timber and empty oil drums were bobbing around the office padang and sweeping down the river. We rushed round trying to rescue anything we could and transfer it to the management hill.
- Our germination shed, with its valuable stock of seeds for future plantings was at the nursery site, on the highest point in the planted area, a few hundred yards back from the river. Eventually even this was submerged. Kenganathan with a team of workers battled manfully to get all the seeds to a place of safety on the management hill. There was nothing we could do about the nursery palms, but we did not think they would suffer unduly by being submerged for a few days.
- I was quite exhausted when I got back to my house in the late afternoon of the 25th January. Ivy John's canoe was tied up at the back. My driver's wife, Norlini, who was Mahid's eldest daughter, had just been delivered of a healthy baby girl, and there was much rejoicing amongst the Cocos Islanders in the servants quarters. Ivy stayed for a cup of tea with me and then departed upstream. Fortunately our house was higher than the office, because it was on eight-foot high piles. The Labuk River had risen further however. It was now only a few inches below the floorboards, and it was still creeping higher. I thought it wise to call for our launch to be brought down near to the house in case it was needed.
- The flood had now covered the far bank, and the current, cutting off the corner up stream, was now hurtling straight at us. There was a constant roaring noise. Huge trees and debris were sweeping past, sometimes missing us by a few feet. Looking out from the veranda, there was now nothing but water except for the tops of a few trees, as far as the eye could see. It was like standing on the deck of a ship with the water rushing past. As I was looking at it, a small hut bobbed past and was swept off downstream. Wait a minute, I thought, that looked like our garage! I called my driver, Benchiron, from the servants' quarters. Yes, he confirmed, it was indeed our garage. It seemed there was a counter-current swirling past the back of the house. It must have carried the garage up and round into the main stream and it was now on its way to the Sulu Sea... But hang on, our new Land Rover was in the garage! Benchiron dashed to the back of the house and poked into the murky water with a long pole
"Don't worry Tuan," he said reassuringly, "Its still down here. I can feel it." Mahid joined us silently.
"I think Tuan you had better go across to the rest house. My son Attan is very worried about Tuan Lyall." I suddenly remembered that, dashing around frantically as I had been for the last few days, I had not clapped eyes on George since he arrived. It was just getting dark when I got into our canoe and paddled across to the rest house. It was a foot or two lower than my house and the water was already over the floor boards.
- As I tied up the canoe, I was met by a rather bizarre scene. George dressed in a sarong and one of my shirts, was sitting, quietly smoking a cigarette and reading, by the light of a kerosene lamp. The water was rushing past his ankles. He tossed his cigarette butt into the water and it was swept away to the back of the house in the strong current which was flowing across the floor. As I waded towards him one of the side tables at his elbow took off and floated away. George did not even glance at it but continued reading. Attan waded through from the kitchen and put the side table on top of the billiard table. The green baize surface was now piled high with boxes, bed linen, dishes and sundry kitchen items. I asked George how he was feeling.
- "Ravenously hungry," he replied, rather unexpectedly. "I have not had a bite to eat since I arrived here." I spoke to Attan who was now behind the bar, quietly gathering the bottles of spirits, and putting them in boxes. He was indignant.
"Yesterday he had three big meals. Today I cooked a leg of lamb for his lunch, with beans and potatoes. He ate nearly the whole leg, and an hour later he asked me why I had not given him any lunch." I collected a couple of glasses and a bottle of Royal Lochnagar, George's favourite malt, and I sat down in a cane chair opposite him. We chatted companionably for some time.
As usual the darkness fell swiftly. Attan pumped up the kerosene lamp to give us a bit more light. The water continued to rise slowly, until it was just below the cushions of our chairs. I was beginning to get quite worried about the situation. To start with, George seemed perfectly normal apart from his conviction that he had not eaten for days.
- He was quite lucid until, out of the blue he asked me, "Did you hear me laughing yesterday?" I confessed that I hadn't. "I laughed for the whole evening," he said.
"What were you laughing at?" I asked.
"You," he replied. "You think you have all of us fooled but I know you are the leader of the pirates who operate in this region." He held up a dog-eared notebook. "I have a detailed dossier on you in here. Now, I know you are wondering why I'm risking telling you this," he continued. "There are two reasons. First I have sent a copy of this to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, in code. Secondly, even if you want to kill me to keep me quiet, you cannot, because I am completely invulnerable."
George seemed to be getting agitated. He lit cigarette after cigarette and tossed them into the water when they were half-smoked. He was talking more and more wildly, as the level went down in our bottle. Suddenly he leant forward and gave me a fierce stare."
"You don't believe a word of this Leslie. You think I'm mad don't you? I assured him hastily that nothing could be further from my mind.
"Do you have a gun?" he asked. I said I had one but it was locked up.
"Let's get it. I will prove to you that I am invulnerable. You can load it, put it to my head, pull the trigger and nothing will happen. That should convince you."
It was a surreal situation, I felt. The lamp cast small circle of yellow light on the two of us sitting on our cane chairs with our glasses in our hands, and our feet in the black flood-water which was sweeping past us. The scene has remained etched in my memory. It was time however that we moved out. Attan had already been paddling the canoe to and fro transferring his belongings across.
"It's not safe here," I told George. "You
- Must come over to my house. The piles are longer and we will be a bit higher out of the flood." He laughed.
"You haven't been listening to me. I am the one who is invulnerable. It is you who should move in with me for safety."
- George protested feebly as Attan and I half dragged him into the canoe and we paddled the few yards across to my house. The rain had stopped for an hour or two. The storm clouds were clearing away and the moon was beginning to appear. However the water-level was still rising, and when we got back I saw that it was now coming well over our floor-boards. Mahid and his family were busy transferring as many of our possessions as they could into the Puyoh, which, under the command of Lai, our sarang, and with my old friend Tundah as his Mate, was temporarily tied up alongside our front steps. This was a wise precaution, just in case the level rose any higher.
- I did not think however that we would have to evacuate the house. No matter how much rain came down the river, I reasoned, the level of the Sulu Sea was not going to rise. The tide was, I knew, due to turn sometime in the early hours, and by tomorrow morning, I thought, the flood level would probably have dropped. Mahid produced an impromptu meal which George ate ravenously. Whilst we were eating, a large log hurtled out of the night and crashed into our veranda. The whole house shook on its piles. We all rushed to the front rail, with long poles. With some difficulty we pushed the log away and watched it disappear into the darkness. This I realised was now the greatest danger. If a pile of logs was allowed to accumulate, the posts holding up the house would be under immense pressure.
- At least two men must now be on duty the whole time. There were six men in the house. Mahid, his two sons Thaib and Attan, my driver Benchiron, and of course George and myself. It was going to be a long night. I drew up an impromptu duty roster. George had quietened down after his evening meal and was behaving quite normally again. He and I decided to take the first watch. The others went off to the servants' quarters to comfort the women and children and to try to snatch some sleep.
- Log after log was hurtling down the river, washed away from the timber operations upstream. We kept a powerful torch trained on the black current. When we spotted a log coming towards us, we stopped it with our poles, guided it along the front of the veranda and it was snatched away downstream by the fierce current.
- It was not difficult, but it was exhausting work and we could not relax for an instant. By the time Attan and Benchiron came through to relieve us at I a.m. I was almost dead on my feet. George went through to the spare bedroom. I flung myself fully clothed on my bed and dropped off to sleep instantly. Something woke me. The flood had obviously risen further and now came up to the level of the bed. The mattress I was lying on was bobbing gently in the water. A torch flashed in my face. George was standing in the water beside me. He was shouting furiously, and waving a parang.
- "I'm going to kill you, you bastard. You have drowned my dog." I rolled off the other side of the bed swiftly and backed away.
"You haven't got a dog George." Attan and Benchiron splashed through with a kerosene lamp, to see what the commotion was about. George's mood changed abruptly. He sat down on my bed with his head on his hands and started to sob.
"You've drowned my lovely dog . You've killed it." I sat on the bed with him and tried to comfort him. He handed over the parang without any protest. George now seemed almost unable to walk. We half carried him back to the lounge against the current, with the water up to our thighs.
- We gave a gasp of dismay. Whilst we had been occupied with George, a huge uprooted forest tree had floated into the house. We all pushed at it, but it could not be dislodged. Within minutes more and more logs piled up behind it. This was what I had been afraid of. The speed of the current was now terrifying and the roaring noise got so loud we had to shout to be heard. Suddenly there was a loud crack and the house shuddered. We did not need telling that one of the piles had snapped under the weight of the logs.
- Lai had now tied the Puyoh in a grove of trees about twenty or thirty yards upstream of us in order to keep it out of the current. With some difficulty he and Tundah manoeuvred it back to the house. Mahid's family piled on to it. His wife Emah, and daughters Nordi, Silah, and Norlini, with the new baby wrapped in her arms were all taken down to the cabin and made comfortable. As we were splashing around, collecting a few last minute items, there were more loud cracks, as post after post snapped under the water. One side of the house started to sink. Lai insisted that it was dangerous to keep the boat tied to the steps. We cast off and the Puyoh battled back against the current to its mooring in the trees.
- The moon briefly emerged from a bank of clouds. We stood on the deck, watching silently. There were a few more loud cracks. One side of the house rose high in the air, then it swung round, righted itself, sank a few feet deeper into the water, then, very slowly at first, it floated majestically off down the river.
- It was unfortunate that the acquisition of Kimansi, and the subsequent acceleration of our development operations, coincided with the outbreak of Confrontation, the long undeclared jungle war with Indonesia. When Tunku Abdul Rahman announced his plan for incorporating the Borneo territories into Malaysia, as early as May 1961, there had been no official opposition from Indonesia. Their Foreign Minister Dr Subandrio in a speech to the United Nations in November 1961 stated, "When Malaya told us of their intentions we told them we have no objections and we wish them success with this merger." However this did not fit in with President Soekarno's expansionist plans and it was anathema to the powerful Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, the third largest communist party in the world
- In April 1963 we began to hear about incursions by Indonesian 'volunteers' along the jungle borders of Sarawak and Sabah. Donald Stephens who was by then the Chief Minister designate (prior to taking over officially in September) invited Dr Subandrio to visit Sabah to reassure him that the population was 100% in favour of Malaysia. This had little effect on the hardening Indonesian opposition. Within a few weeks of Subandrio's visit a well-equipped company of Indonesian regular soldiers from Kalimantan invaded Sarawak and attacked a Malaysian security outpost at Long Jawi, in Sarawak. The garrison consisting of Gurkhas and Dyak Border Scouts was taken completely by surprise and was wiped out. Only one soldier, an SAS corporal, escaped alive.
- A few weeks later on 29 December 1963, we heard of a further attack, this time in Sabah, at Kalabakan near Tawau. On this occasion several members of the Royal Malaysian Regiment were killed or wounded. By then it had blown up into a full-scale war between Indonesia and Malaysia. The Indonesian army was the largest in the region and it was armed to the teeth by Russia and China. Britain, Australia and New Zealand came rapidly to Malaysia's aid and a mixed Commonwealth force of over 28,000 troops was despatched to Borneo. Indonesian troops mounted half-hearted attacks on Singapore and on parts of Johore nearest Sumatra, but these were easily repelled by the much more disciplined Malaysian forces. Most of the fighting took place deep in the jungles of Borneo. Konfrontasi lasted for a further three years and it only ceased completely with the signing of the peace-accord in August 1966. In all 114 Commonwealth soldiers were killed and many more wounded. It was estimated that the Indonesians lost five times that number.
- Since Tungud was far from the Kalimantan border, we did not expect to be involved in any fighting. However at the height of the war, we had a visit from Claude Fenner and a group from Special Branch which left us rather worried. Claude was by then the Inspector General of the Malaysian Police force and was playing a leading role in coordinating the activities of the Malaysian and the other Commonwealth forces. I had first known Claude in the early fifties during the Communist Emergency in Johore, when he was a Police Superintendant, but I had not seen him since I left for Africa in 1958.
- Claude had survived an adventurous career in the Second World War. As a member of Force 136 he had operated behind the Japanese lines in Malaya. After the war, although officially a member of the Colonial Police Force in Malaya, he retained his links with the Special Operations Executive. In the early fifties, many British officials were convinced that it was only a matter of time before Communist China attempted to take over the whole of South East Asia. Claude was made partly responsible for putting together a small team of Malay-speaking expatriates with local knowledge, who would be trained to form "Stay-Behind" Groups and to organise resistance in the Malayan jungle in the event of an invasion. In 1952,1 was invited to become a member of this covert body. It sounded interesting, and I agreed with alacrity.
- The training, such as it was, took place on my next visit to UK. The first part of the course was held in a room in an anonymous block of service flats in London. It was all very hush-hush. It started with a series of one-to-one discussions on the theory and practice of Communism, with a gentleman who was I believe, a Professor of Political Science. I suspected that the main purpose of this was to confirm that in spite of my liberal views, I didn't have any Communist leanings, rather than to impart any political knowledge. I was then passed on to a different set of instructors to learn the techniques of passing covert messages, following people through crowds, setting up dead-letter boxes, safe houses and so on.
- It was all great fun. I felt like Dick Barton, Special Agent. One of the practical exercises I was given was to spot a couple of ladies who were due to meet outside Charing Cross Station at 08.30 the next morning. One of them, I was told, would be wearing a light coloured raincoat and the other would be carrying an umbrella. They would exchange pass-words and move off together. I was to spot them, follow them, and report back on their destination. I arrived in good time. There was, in those days, a small cafe on the Strand, right opposite the Charing Cross Station forecourt. I sat in a window-seat and ordered a coffee. I had a copy of The Times with me. I made a hole in it, just as I had seen in a detective movie, and ignoring the curious glances of the waitress, I surreptitiously watched the activities at the entrance to the station.
- It was just my bad luck that it was raining. At 08.30 a thousand girls streamed out of the station. Five hundred of them wore light coloured raincoats and the other five hundred carried umbrellas. In a panic, I chose two almost at random and followed them. They went across Trafalgar Square and into the National Gallery. I went in after them. They went down to the ladies toilet. After hanging around outside the toilet for a while, I started to get funny glances from ladies going in and out. One of the uniformed attendants came over and gave me a hard look. He obviously thought I was some kind of pervert. I slouched off with a red face. To my surprise I was congratulated by the instructor in the afternoon, for picking out the correct couple in such difficult circumstances. He obviously must have been watching my every move from somewhere.
- On another occasion I was less successful. I was instructed to be outside Swan and Edgars in Piccadilly at exactly 3 pm, with a copy of the Financial Times under my arm. A lady would approach and after we exchanged the correct password, I had to pass on a complicated message which I had to memorise. It was something about a Communist Ammunition train which would arrive at Wuhan Station at X hours. It would be carrying Y number of shells and Z number of bombs etc. etc. I realised that with my memory, there was no chance that I could possibly retain the message in my head. I came up with a cunning plan! I had lunch that day with an old army friend, in Ah Boon's Chinese restaurant in Gerard Street. I went to the telephone booth at the back of the restaurant and inserted the message, which I had previously written out in full detail, under the Zs in the telephone directory.
- At 3 p.m. I was on duty as instructed, outside Swan and Edgars. I was approached by a young lady. We exchanged the appropriate passwords. She looked a bit flustered and in a state of high excitement. I imagine she was probably being trained by the Department for a job something like Olive had been performing in Singapore. (Olive told me that she herself had undergone some similar sort of training in London, before being sent to work in the Cypher Department at Phoenix Park.) I pretended I was telling the young lady the time, and whilst winding my watch, I whispered to her "Look, never mind the message. It is something about about a Chinese Ammunition Train. Its too complicated to explain here. Just trot along to Ah Boon's Chinese Restaurant in Gerard Street and look up the name Zabrowski in the telephone directory. You will find all the details there." She moved away furtively, looking right and left. I somehow did not feel that she would have an outstanding future as a modern Mata Hari.
- The next morning I reported as usual to my instructor at the flat. Again he had watched the entire meeting from afar. He was very complimentary about my act with my wrist-watch. I was very smug. "However," he added, "What in heaven's name did you tell that girl? She came back with some fantastic story that the Chinese Communists and a Russian spy named Zabrowski were involved in a plan to blow up some restaurant in the West End." Well it had seemed to me a good idea at the time!
- The London course was all great fun, but I wondered what relevance it might have in the event that I was to see action in the jungle. The next part of my training was however far more pertinent to possible future activities in Malaya. It took place at a secret training camp somewhere in the south of England. As far as I could see there was only one other person being trained there. We only glimpsed each other in the distance and we ate separately. The instructors and I used first names only.
- I was given training in unarmed combat, pistol shooting, parachute drops, and blowing things up with plastic explosives and time-pencils. Having already had some training as a young national service officer and having carried an automatic pistol and a Winchester carbine around with me night and day for the last three years since I became a planter, I thought I already knew a bit about guns. However the training improved my shooting considerably.
- I particularly enjoyed the final session. It took place in a small room where I had to shoot at a series of cardboard figures of terrorists who fleetingly appeared and disappeared at the windows and the doors. I made one tiny mistake when I put a bullet through the head of one cardboard figure which suddenly appeared at the door. It turned out to be a cardboard cut-out of Field Marshal Montgomery. The training sergeant was not too pleased with that. But nobody's perfect!
- On the explosives side, we concentrated particularly on derailing trains, and destroying factories, using plastic explosives and time-pencils. I discovered to my delight that I had a particular talent for destruction. Shortly after the course finished, Olive and I were married in Wales and we returned to Malaya together. I had of course to sign the Official Secrets Act and, other than Claude Fenner, the only person I could speak to about my training was Olive, since she was in the business herself. When she knew me better she remarked that she could not understand why they bothered to teach me about explosives. With my talent for Do-ItYourself, she suggested, all I needed to bring a Communist Factory to its knees would be a spanner. Wives can be very hurtful sometimes!
- But to return to the Labuk and to the reason for our surprise visit from Claude Fenner and the Special Branch people: I was told that they had received information that one of our trainee overseers, a Javanese by the name of Wargo Admodisastro was an Indonesian spy. Wargo was arrested. He confessed under questioning that he had been sent by Jakarta to Pamol to prepare for an uprising amongst our Indonesian workers. It was to be led, it was claimed, by a platoon of Indonesian commandos who would land on our airstrip, and help to take over the entire Labuk Valley.
- Wargo was taken away and we never heard of him again. After Claude departed, a company of British troops was billeted on our estate for a few months to guard the airstrip. Apparently the Indonesian plan was aborted. We learned that the entire commando platoon surrendered to the allied forces on the Indonesian border a few months later. To me it had sounded like a hair-brained scheme on the part of the Indonesian generals from the outset, since most of our Indonesian workers were Bugis who had come to Sabah to escape from Soekarno and his regime.
- There was however a curious, typically Sabahan sequel to this incident. Indonesian Konfrontasi came to an abrupt halt following the anti-communist revolution in Indonesia. The new government of Indonesia refused to take the commandos back because some of them had links with the PKI. "You captured them. You keep them," seemed to be the attitude of the new regime. The Sabah government rather to their embarrassment found that they had a platoon of unwanted Indonesian commando prisoners on their hands. Tun Mustapha phoned me personally about it. He suggested that we should relieve the situation by offering them employment on Tungud. Anthony Wong went over to interview them and recruited them all. He reported in due course that they were some of the best workers we had! I often felt that Gilbert and Sullivan could have had a field day if they had been around over this period.
- What was to affect us much more than the military threat was the fact that because of Confrontation, the border with Indonesia was firmly shut for a few years and (apart from our commandos) all immigration from Indonesia was completely stopped. This was just at the time when our development was at its peak and our need for labour was at its greatest. The situation looked serious, and we were contemplating having to cut back our programme. We were saved, surprisingly, by a timely drop in the price of tobacco in the Philippines. Tobacco was the main crop in Northern Luzon. Thousands of Illocano smallholders were suffering severe hardship. I went over to Manila and through the good offices of our Unilever subsidiary, the Philippine Refining Company, we established a recruiting agency. This proved a great success and soon there was a steady flow of immigrants coming down to Sabah.
- By 1966 we had 1,800 workers of whom nearly half were English-speaking Filipinos. We were told by the Philippine Ambassador when he visited the estate, that at the time, we were one of the largest employers of Filipinos in the country. The advent of the Filipinos changed the entire culture of the company. Many of them brought their guitars with them, and in the evenings in the club they would get together to sing American and Filipino folk songs. The Filipino ladies who came with them introduced us to their native dances, which were influenced by their Spanish colonial days. The parties in the Labuk club became much more lively. We all had to learn the steps of the paso doble, and the tinikling, the popular Filipino bamboo-dance. By way of exchange, Bryson Middleton started a Scottish Country Dance Class, which the Filipinos took to with enthusiasm.
- The new arrivals did not only consist of agriculturalists. The standard of education in the Philippines was at that time, by far the highest in South East Asia, and unemployment amongst educated and skilled people was running at a very high rate. Every Filipino kumpit which came up the river brought in workers with a whole range of skills which were useful to us. They included clerical workers, research staff, mechanics, teachers, drivers, draftsmen and builders. On the other hand, since Sabah was the only place a Filipino criminal could travel to without a passport, the arrivals also included one or two bank-robbers, a sprinkling of murderers, and sundry other desperadoes, escaping from the Philippine police-force.
- Strangely enough, other than the small group who may or may not have been involved in the Great Safe Robbery, once on the estate these individuals gave us no problems, any more than the commandos had. This was particularly surprising since there were no policemen nearer than Beluran. I suspected that the Filipinos were very much in awe of Ibrahim who, I was told, had threatened to kill anyone who stepped out of line. The newcomers were also aware of the reputation of the Bugis and the tattooed Dyaks, and they were firmly convinced that the Kadazans upstream were head-hunters to a man. They were all on their very best behaviour whilst they were with us, just as the Balanini pirates had been.
- The last management house to be built was the general manager's house. It was to be situated, in keeping with plantation tradition, on the highest hill in the management compound overlooking our future golf-course. It would have a glorious view to the west, with Mount Kinabalu towering up on the skyline. One of the new Filipino immigrants was a trained draftsman, a young man by the name of Pablo. I found in a magazine, a picture of an attractive house on the beach in Hawaii. I made a few changes to it and passed it to Pablo who turned it into a working drawing. It was far too big an operation for Kong Miew to undertake. However the Filipino builders coped with the woodwork and the roof. The stonework was completed with the help of a Chinese bricklayer, one Lee Mau Sang, who came to us as an artisan and who over the years graduated to become a resident building contractor.
- The new house was light and airy and looked rather Californian in style, with huge central merbau beams which we produced in our own saw-mill. It proved to be very practical. It had a VIP suite attached, which was used over the years by many Sabah dignitaries on their visits to the Labuk. Long after my retirement, I re-visited the estate, and was delighted to see that the management houses were still in as good shape as when we built them forty years earlier. David Martin who stayed in it on his retirement visit, said how delighted he was that we had built it without the help of an architect.
- With the increase in numbers of Northern Filipinos, we now had a large number of Christians on the estate, both Catholic and Protestant. We had already built a beautiful mosque for our Muslim workers. The Filipino representatives on the JCC asked if we could have a church for the Christian community. In consultation with our leading Christians, I produced a rough sketch. Pablo turned it into a professional-looking plan, and our building gang had it erected in a matter of a few weeks. It was sited on a picturesque spot on the Tungud River beside the new bridge. The Christians contributed nearly half the cost and the company contributed the rest. The church was light and airy, and as in the general manager's house, it made much use of decorative hollow blocks, which Kong Miew produced on the site. We built a spire with a cross on top using some metal pipes. Finally at the request of the Catholics, we built a confessional box in one corner near the back door. On one of my visits to Kota Kinabalu, I contacted both the Catholic and the Anglican Bishops. They were delighted to learn of the new church. They agreed that there would be no problem in having it used, at different times, by both the Protestants and the Catholics. The Bishops agreed that they would come over to the estate together to conduct a joint, ecumenical, opening ceremony.
- We arranged to have the opening when Colin Black was on a visit to the estate, accompanied by his wife Eileen. There was a large crowd in attendance. We had flown in several dignitaries from Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu. We were disappointed that the Catholic Bishop was unable to attend since he had been summoned to Rome to attend the Ecumenical Council. The old Dutch Priest from Sandakan had been instructed by the Bishop to attend in his place. However he was not happy about sharing a church with Protestants. Although he turned up, he resolutely refused to participate in any sort of joint opening ceremony.
- The Anglicans were represented by Bishop Roland Koh. He was dressed in resplendent white and gold robes. He had a mitre on his head and he carried his bishop's crook. Eileen Black opened the proceedings by making a short speech and cutting the ribbon across the gate into the churchyard. The congregation then advanced up the path, to assemble in front of the new church. Bishop Koh positioned himself in front of the church door and commenced the dedication ceremony for the Church of St Peter of the Labuk. It was lengthy. The ceremony was being held at mid-day to allow the VIPs to fly back to Sandakan or Kota Kinabalu after lunch. It was blistering hot in the noonday sun. The ladies in their hats and gloves were already showing signs of discomfort. The Bishop in his heavy robes must have felt even worse, but he continued stoically.
- At last after a final prayer he advanced and struck the door symbolically three times with his crook. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I now invite you to take your places inside the church." Turning to me the Bishop said, "You may open the door now, Mr Davidson." I grasped the handle firmly but with due reverence. To my dismay, it would not turn. I rattled the door but it remained closed. It was, in fact, locked. David Marsh was in the crowd. "I'll get the key," he said and dashed off. He returned after what seemed an age.
"The building foreman has got it"
"Good," I said. "Let me have it."
"No," David replied, "he has the key, but he left for Sandakan a couple of hours ago as soon as they finished decorating the Church. He will be back on Monday."
The Bishop and I looked at each other and at the waiting congregation. "We shall have to break down the door," I whispered. The Bishop thought that would be very improper, just after he had blessed it. The crowd were beginning to get restive. The VIPs were starting to fidget.
"Look Bishop," I asked "Is there not a brief de-commissioning ceremony, like they use in UK when they turn churches into bingo halls? If you could perform this, we could break down the door and you could then re-bless it." Bishop Koh felt that this would not be appropriate either.
- Colin Black was not known for his patience and understanding. He was starting to look testy. The Catholic Father was looking on with an expression which said, "I told you no good would come of having a joint ceremony!" We had to come up with something quickly. "Bishop," I said. "You haven't blessed the back door, have you? Can I suggest we break in from the rear?" Bishop Koh gave his reluctant agreement to this. In a second or two there were loud crashes and a couple of workmen opened the front door from the inside.
- The congregation filed swiftly into the welcome shade of the church. The interior was beautifully decorated with palm fronds and tropical flowers. The Dutch Father now staged his small protest against the inter-faith service. He was the last person to enter. He marched up the aisle, brushed past Bishop Koh and shut himself in the confession box. When the Anglican Service was over, he popped out like a jack-in-the-box. "Catholics will stay behind for a proper service," he announced. As we returned to the club for our festive lunch, Bishop Koh looked pensive. "Whatever they agree in Rome," he said. "It looks as if ecumenism still has a long way to go in Borneo!"
- I was not, myself a regular attender either at the Church or the Mosque. However, a few weeks later I was back in St Peter's Church again. This time it was for a big Filipino wedding. Natividad Balangue was a Botany graduate from Manila. She worked for Chris Hoh as a research assistant. She was to be married to George Villacero, who was one of our bulldozer drivers. The wedding celebrations were organised jointly by the research department and Joe Joyce's roads department. Natividad and George were both Catholics. The marriage ceremony was to be performed by the Catholic Father from Sandakan at 6 pm, and it was to be followed by a great feast in the Club, to which almost the whole community had been invited.
- We had our usual weekly management meeting the afternoon of the wedding. Whilst it was underway, my secretary came in to report that Sabah Air had rung to announce that the plane which we had chartered to bring in the Catholic priest had been cancelled owing to a mechanical problem. It would not be available for a charter until the following week. This was a disaster. Joe Joyce reported that the buffalo had already been slaughtered for the feast. Someone jokingly said that the captain of a ship could perform wedding ceremonies, so why not the manager of an estate? None of us took this seriously however, and Chris dashed off to investigate whether we could bring the priest up by speedboat, or alternatively, if the feast could be postponed by a week. We carried on with the meeting, and Chris did not reappear.
- When I got back to the house at about 5.30 pm, Olive was waiting for me anxiously, dressed in her smartest clothes. "I'm sorry," I said. "I should have rung to tell you, the wedding has been postponed. The priest can't get in because the plane has broken down."
"No," Olive said. "The wedding is still on, and we have to be at the church in half an hour. Chris Hoh has just been round to tell everyone that it is to proceed as planned, and that you, heaven help us, are going to perform the ceremony."
Whilst I bathed and changed, Olive was frantically searching fora prayer book. All she could find was a bible. Whilst we were being driven to the church I searched through it.....Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and so on. There was nothing I could find in the shape of a wedding service.
- I stood at the alter, with the bible in my hands, facing a packed congregation. George stood in front of me with his best-man at his side. The Filipinos had great style. The church was again beautifully decorated with palm fronds and flowers. (In normal circumstances it is a criminal offence on an oil palm estate to cut a frond off an immature palm, and I shuddered to think of the damage which must have been inflicted on our precious palms.) Natividad's arrival on the arm of Joe Joyce, was heralded by the massed guitars of the Filipino community lined up on each side of the aisle. They were playing, for some mysterious reason, the American marching tune, 'Blaze Away.'
- Natividad was radiant in an elaborate white wedding gown, and Mrs Castelotte one of our teachers was her maid of honour. I had never attended a Catholic wedding ceremony, least of all a Filipino one. Remembering snatches of my own wedding service, I intoned solemnly "We are gathered here today to witness the joining together in holy matrimony etc. etc." Then I read a lengthy extract from the Sermon on the Mount. It seemed to go down well. The happy couple exchanged rings, with no prompting from myself and Mrs Castelotte did something elaborate with a silk cloth which she tied round both their hands. Then her husband Pio stepped up with his guitar and led the congregation in a very lovely Ave Maria.
Then it was my turn again. I repeated the words I could remember from past weddings. "Speak now or forever hold your peace ... Let no man put asunder... Do you George Villacero?..... Do you Natividad Balangue? I now pronounce you man and wife.....You may kiss the bride...."
Joe Joyce said that if we had rehearsed it for a week beforehand it could not have gone more smoothly. Mrs Castelotte said at the wedding feast that it was the first time any of them had attended a Presbyterian form of wedding ceremony. It was, she said, very different from the Catholic type service which they were used to back home, but they had all found it very moving.
- A week or so later the old Dutch Priest arrived on the estate. He asked to see me in my office. I braced myself for what I expected to be an unholy row. Not for the first time the Father surprised me. "I want to thank you, my son, for performing the ceremony on my behalf. It is of course perfectly permissible for a lay person to perform a wedding ceremony in an emergency. All that remains now is for me to formally bless the union. Natividad tells me that it was a beautiful wedding."