The first formal day of the A2ELP program was truly informative and engaging. I was eager to listen to stories from Sabah and how social institutions and leaders in this part of Malysia deal with regional security issues.
We started the day at 9 with Dato Ahmad Nadzer, the Deputy commissioner of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom). His discussion and presentation on the duties and challenges of ESSCOM from the organisational and local perspectives are truly thought-provoking. I learnt a number of interesting issues such as (1) the way in which Sabah Government needs to reconsider maritime and land security issues, (2) points on the resettlement of water villages community, and (3) civilian approaches for long term peace keeping in the region (including South East Asia).
We continued our conversation on security and civil society with Dr. Felix Tongkul and K.Shan. Both speakers offered their experiences with various civil society groups. Dr. Tongkul has been one of the most active academics in Sabah who promotes concept of engagement with civil sector (which he called 'the 3rd sector'). His references to a civil sector group called Forever Sabah confirm the roles of community on the promotion of peace, cultural heritage and long-term relationship with other stakeholders. K Shan also offered similar ideas and approaches to the audiences and concluded that social engagement is a way to go for peace building.
The framework on community development and ways to engage with various local stakeholders to build peace was strongly emphasized by all speakers. As an outsider, I learnt different types of leadership that seem to work in the Malaysian culture context. For instance, I have an impression that a strong leader who can be flexible with approaches to engage with people from eclectic needs and backgrounds can be desirable for situation in Sabah.
Our afternoon session was another interesting experiences for me and my fellows in the program. We had a wonderful opportunity to visit Kampung Kipouvo and listens to experiences from the community leaders. In fact, PACOS Trust, a community-based organisation (CBO) dedicated towards supporting indigenous communities in Sabah, started the conversation with some common backgrounds in Kipouvo. The stories from all fours community leaders are extremely interesting. I learnt that the community has long been vulnerable to issuses such as human trafficking, land grabbing, migration and poor treatment by some 'formal' institutions. The speakers shared some sentimental stories on racial and religious discrimination which has been an on-going issue among them.
At the end of the session, we moved to St. Michael's Secondary School Penampang. This is really one of the highlights since we met with, one of the most inspiring educational leaders, Ms. marie Yong who has been directing the school into the direction of eco and green education. We met with students and listened to their presentations on educative and practical eco-education actions and programs such as 'A Drain of Hope For You' and 'Water Vision'. Kids also demonstrated how the projects can directly and indirectly impact their behavior and mindsets.
We ended the day with 'Transect Walk' around the city of Kota Kinabalu and we observed the surroundings and livelihood in this area.
The first day went very quickly and full of interesting issues that challenge our thoughts on 'regional' and 'national' dichotomy. Some local examples from Sabah provoke my thoughts on our region and how the concept of 'people-to-people' work (or will work) successfully by various political and social mechanisms.