Save our Heritage for Our Future Generation
Last Sunday, Heritage Sabah President Richard Nelson Sokial was invited by local Sabah VFM English Broadcast; RTM Kota Kinabalu for a radio interview in a program called Youth Airwaves where usually feature talented youth especially Sabahan. Below are the question prepare by the announcer and answer by Richard in advance before the interview.
In case some had missed the interview last week, you can read the content of the interview in here. Bear in mind that this is not the transcript of the interview that was done live on air. We will attempt to get the recording of the interview and will post it up after we obtained it.
1. Brief us about the Architectural and Cultural Heritage Society of Sabah
Architectural and Cultural Heritage Society of Sabah – better known as HERITAGE SABAH is a newly-formed NGO based in Kota Kinabalu.
2. The Objective of the Organization
Objective of the organization: To promote and advocate for the preservation of architectural and cultural aspects that are significant to the understanding of Sabahan cultures and history.
3. What are the programs organize by the organization so far?
So far the main highlight of the NGO’s activities is our ongoing campaign to save our oldest historical landmark, the 107-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower from being visually obstructed by a proposed upcoming shopping mall that was to be built between the clock tower and Padang Merdeka.
Due to our NGO’s efforts, the shopping mall project is now on hold and the NGO is still campaigning to have the project cancelled. We are petitioning the state government to dedicate the hillside and its immediate surrounding areas as a historical preservation district for Kota Kinabalu city.
4. How do you think that this organization could help Sabahan to keep their heritage / heirloom?
Heritage Sabah NGO is a platform to highlight issues of heritage, particularly on historical sites, buildings and structures that have had a significant impact on the social, economic and cultural development of Sabah’s community. But we are not here to save the heritage of Sabahans for them.
Here is our reason – whether it’s due to apathy or laziness, Sabahans have this bad habit of depending too much on other people to do things for them instead of being pro-active and taking the lead. And this is the reason that Sabahans are always being exploited because for the longest time, we haven’t taken charge of our own direction or destiny.
If there are Sabahan communities that choose to step forward and DO THE WORK with us, our NGO can assist in terms of advice – how to identify and edify the best aspects of one’s heritage, as well as suggesting guidelines and policies based on the international best practices to preserve and promote these legacies.
For the time being, our focus for now is mostly on heritage sites, buildings and structures but we will also work with cultural groups and individuals who are interested in studying and documenting other areas of Sabahan heritage as well.
5. in your own opinion, where we should keep our family heirloom / to keep it safe.
I think every Sabahan family has their own story – stories of ancestors, of their adventures and exploits. Some of us have heirlooms, most of us (myself included), do not. The question of keeping one’s heirloom is a personal choice. If a family is confident that they can take good care of it, then by all means keep it but they must know how to take care of it by brushing up on knowledge about the history of the heirloom, if there is one.
Now recently, Sabah Museum has offered to buy heirlooms – however, it is our NGOs belief that heirlooms should be donated, rather than sold. Our heritage should never sell to the highest bidder. Heritage Sabah NGO believes in empowering the local community and supports both the everyday Sabahan as well as Sabah Museum’s good intentions.
We never intended to prevent the museum’s efforts but in our press release we wanted to address public concern as well as to inform the public on what particulars they should ask for if they choose to donate their items. We provided the public with a checklist that would help to ensure that donated heirlooms would be kept safely and could be inspected at any given time.
6. If one needs to know more about the organization, is there any place for them to check out.
For more information on Heritage Sabah NGO, the public can visit our Facebook Page as well as our online blog to get updates of our activities, current issues and advocacy.
7. Advise to the listeners out there ?
Advice for Sabahans: There is no time more crucial than it is now for Sabahans to know and protect their heritage. Everything that we know and hold dear to us – whether it is the languages, customs or even how we can sit together and eat in a Chinese kopitiam regardless of race and religion – is now being threatened by outside influences that aim to disunite us as a harmonious Borneon society.
In order to plan the future, Sabahans must be step up and take the initiative. We cannot wait or depend on others to do it for us. Every individual is a leader and the first step to personal leadership is to decide that you can make a difference. Be a part of Heritage Sabah NGO, understand what we do and if you think that you can contribute, join us as an associate member.
Additional question suggested by Richard Nelson
8) What makes Heritage Sabah NGO special?
One thing that our NGO does which may differ from other similar organizations is that we are not afraid to express our NGO’s views or ask the difficult questions to the people in power especially in cases where there is an apparent lack of care for heritage and cultural preservation.
Over the past two years, our group has been known to tackle local authorities and in a way, forced them to acknowledge the power of public opinion and to be more transparent in terms of how they deal with the people in Sabah. As a result, we believe that the public has become more empowered, knowledgeable and emboldened of their rights to ask questions to the local authorities if and when they feel that something is amiss.
9) What are the challenges faced by this NGO?
New NGOs like ours need continuous funding to run activities and create public awareness. We hope that there are corporate entities and heritage-conscious bodies out there that care about the community and are looking for worthy CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects to support.
Heritage Sabah NGO has plenty of great ideas, in terms of heritage initiatives and opportunities for the local community but we need seed money and contributions in kind in order to kick start these good works.
10) What kind of members do you currently have in Heritage Sabah?
We have members from all walks of life – from architects, urban planners, writers and activists to graphic artists, photographers, and shop owners. We even have a volunteer firefighter as one of our members! Heritage Sabah NGO welcomes members from all walks of life because heritage belongs to us all. What we seek from our members and supporters is a genuine appreciation for what this NGO does and individuals who want to contribute and help our ongoing efforts.
11) What do you hope to achieve with this NGO advocacy?
On the most fundamental level, we want to give hope to Sabahans that there is still some cultural and historical legacy that can be saved as lessons for our next generations. But through our NGO advocacy, we also hope to empower Sabahans to cultivate better future leaders who genuinely invested the needs of the community that they are serving.
Leadership at its core is a combination of knowledge meets altruism. If future leaders in Sabah are shown the true history and and good values embodied by the heritage legacy of their people, then their motivations to help the community will more likely based on sincerity – and not for personal gain.