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Call for more specific research on Borneo


Miri - 8 July 2010 – More specific research on Borneo should be conducted, particularly on its development aspects since there has already been substantial research done on its social aspects.


Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam, who is also the Minister of Tourism and Heritage and Minister of Industrial Development, as well as the chairman of the Curtin Sarawak Council, suggested this when officiating at the opening of the 3-day 10th Biennial Borneo Research Council (BRC) International Conference held at Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) on behalf of Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on Monday.


He was echoing a call by the chief minister in his text of speech read by Dr Chan for the BRC and Curtin Sarawak to collaborate on research, especially now that Curtin Sarawak has a Borneo Studies programme and is actively conducting Borneo-related research of its own.


In his speech, Taib commended the BRC, an organisation of eminent scholars and researchers, for its great work in advancing and promoting research on Borneo since 1968, adding that much of their work has brought direct benefits to the island and the social and economic status of its people.


Taib also said he was happy to note that Curtin Sarawak had taken the initiative to introduce a Borneo Studies programme as a major this year.


“The Borneo Studies programme marks a new chapter in Curtin Sarawak’s continued development and allows it to play a larger role in the social, biological and economic fabric of Sarawak,” he said.


He added that through its research, Curtin Sarawak will be able to bring about a better understanding of such aspects as biodiversity, ecology, cultural heritage, history, anthropology and languages of Borneo, as well as issues like education, health, human resources, migration, sustainable development and tourism.


Furthermore, given the development of its Borneo Studies programme, as well as the establishment of the Curtin Sarawak Research Institute and BioValley Park in the vicinity of its campus over the next two years, it would be opportune for the university to start establishing research linkages and research clusters with members of the BRC.


Taib also expressed hopes that the conference would facilitate greater academic networking among Borneo scholars, and also give local undergraduate and postgraduate students the opportunity to interact with leading scholars and researchers from around the world.


Themed ‘Borneo: Continuity, Change and Preservation’, the conference provided a platform for scholars and scientists to disseminate research and scholarly findings on relevant topics on Borneo ranging from the environment, technology and human resources to history, culture and social transformation.


Some 150 delegates from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia participated in the conference, which was being held in Miri for the first time. Previous BRC international conferences were held in Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Brunei and Kalimantan.


Over 70 papers were presented, covering a wide range of subjects and disciplines, including cultural heritage, archaeology and anthropology, language, education, history, literature, health and healing, ecology, biodiversity, information technology, security, tourism, identity and social transformation, human resources, architecture, and property and land issues. There were also panel sessions on migration, burials and language.


Also present at the opening ceremony were Assistant Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications and Assistant Minister of Social Development and Urbanisation Datuk Lee Kim Shin, who is also chairman of the Curtin Sarawak Management Board; Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Corridor Development Authority (RECODA) Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot, who is a member of the Curtin Sarawak Council; Miri Resident Ganie Ugay, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Curtin Sarawak Professor Ian Kerr; Dr Clifford Sather, who is a member of the BRC Board of Directors and editor of the Borneo Research Bulletin; and conference organising chairpersons Bibi Aminah Abdul Ghani, Rama Venkatasawmy and Terry Justin Dit.


During the opening ceremony, Dr Sather presented the BRC’s Medal of Excellence to historian, author and former-journalist Professor Bob Reece in acknowledgement of his outstanding contributions to the study of the history of Borneo. Reece has written extensively on a wide range of topics regarding Sarawak since the 1960s. Regarded as the premier historian of modern Sarawak, his writings are distinguished by their close attention to social and political context, their wit, lucid prose style, mastery of the art of narrative, and by their ability to vividly portray the life experiences of individuals.


Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan officially launching the conference.


Member of the BRC Board of Directors, Dr Clifford Sather, giving a speech.


BRC Medal of Excellence recipient Professor Bob Reece.


Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan (6th left) and other VIP guests with delegates.