(It was the year 1938...)
We crossed from Singapore to North Borneo# on the S.S. Kajang . A lazy pleasant week. Drinks at noon and six o'clock, deck games, and sleeping - that was all there was to it....
Some years earlier, an observant, pragmatic American had made this very same trip. Day after day, elbows on the deck rails, he took in everything that could be seen of Sarawak, Brunei, Labuan and then North Borneo; finally, when he reached Kudat ##, he asked, "Say , how long have you guys owned North Borneo?" The question had an inbuilt inaccuracy ( the British did not actually own it) but there seem to be a challenge in it. A government officer help him continue: "Fifty years. Why?"
"Well", said the American,"Take my advice - give it back to the monkeys!"
The story entered local tradition immediately; indeed it became a sort of initiation ceremony. All future newcomers, including myself, going east from Singapore for the first time, had to listen to it at least a dozen times. What is more, the story had a an unexpected sequel. A few years later, (in the closing days of WWII) the American's energetic compatriots, aided by Australians, made sure we followed his advice almost exactly - they blasted every town in the Territory, indeed every village shopping center, flat to the ground. Occasionally they hit a Jap, and everyone cheered them on. When the din was over, the monkeys came from the nearby jungle and settled among the ruins and resurgent jungle.
However, homo sapiens does not give in all that easily, and in due course the monkeys and apes (and orang utan(?) or rangatang) were slowly driven back by reconstruction....
..And so, like it or not, Sabah came into being...
* ydd= Yankee Doodle Dandy
# Sabah, located on the northern fifth of the island of Borneo (the third largest island in the world), was until 1963, called North Borneo.
## The Kudat district is the most northerly part of the great island of Borneo..
Kell, Derwent aka Clarke, M.C. (1984), A Doctor's Borneo, Boolarong Publications, Brisbane.
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BEWARE, (on the way back) of the orang utan.