Visit to the Head of State, Sabah, Malaysia
- 12 April 2005
by Florence Majanil-Liau, CTM
The splendid and sunny morning on 12 April 2005 was a prelude to the kind of reception the entourage of ten Toastmasters from Division K had at their courtesy call to the Head of State of Sabah, Malaysia, Tuan Yang Terutama, Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Ahmadshah bin Abdullah at the Istana Negeri.
We had planned to meet at the old LPPB Building next to the Merdeka Padang at 9.15am, but as the building is now a private property, we were not allowed to park at the parking bays. This led us to drive in several cars to the Istana, which had ample parking bays. A beautifully landscaped garden with various plants and flowers surrounds the simple but elegant Istana. My first thought was for the new Mayor of KK City to visit the grounds and have some ideas to beautify the City.
We only walked a few metres to the entrance of the Istana which faces the morning sun and a refreshing water fountain. The view from the Istana, which sits atop Signal Hill, was breathtaking as one can see a bird-eye view of Kota Kinabalu and the surrounding areas. At the entrance, we were greeted by staff of the Istana who showed us to the Visitors’ Book, on which each and every one of us signed our names. The door was opened to the Visitors’ Hall and the richly decorated room welcomed us with its splendour colour-coordinated Italian settees, matching drapes and dazzling chandeliers. The room was very spacious and every corner had its unique décor of glass cabinets displaying some memorabilia from dignitaries and associations.
We took the opportunity to take some pictures in the hall and enjoyed the serenity as we waited for the TYT. We were advised not to take pictures during the audience with the TYT. We were, however, surprised when a media crew with a huge video camera and cameraman came to take our pictures. They were apparently from the Radio and Television Malaysia RTM. Our Division K Governor, Richard A. Gontusan, DTM, was interviewed by one of the media personnel on Toastmasters and the purpose of our courtesy call.
At 10.00am, the main door opened and the TYT walked in. He took his seat where he could see all of us on his left and right. During the 45 minutes of conversation with the TYT, we came to know him close-up and personal. We were impressed at how warm, friendly and gracious the TYT is. He has heard of Toastmasters and acknowledged that it has an important role in our society. He shared his first experience in public speaking when he was appointed the Assistant District Officer of Beaufort in 1969, in which he had to address an assembly. According to him, he had a written speech in hand, but was very nervous and felt awkward. Of course, over the years he has honed his skill and is now a confident public speaker.
In keeping with the purpose of our visit, we talked with him about Toastmasters and the benefits it has brought and will continue to bring to its members in enhancing their communication and leadership skills. We informed him that Toastmasters has been in Sabah for 15 years, and to date has a membership of 600 in Sabah, Labuan and Brunei.
Tun acknowledged that English is an important tool not only in communication but also in the personal growth of students. We have to start learning English at a young age he stressed. He went to La Salle Secondary School in Kota Kinabalu for his secondary education. Tun further shared that when he was in the USA for further studies, foreign students were made to take a six-month course on “Speech and Communication Skills,” which Tun passed with flying colours. In his service with the Government, Tun introduced reading as a part of the programme for his officers, in which an officer was given a book to read for one week, then shared with the rest of the officers what he had learnt from that book. He reported that it was well accepted after the initial jitters. We also came to know that Tun is a keen golfer with a handicap of 18.
During the conversation, which was conducted in English and Bahasa Melayu, we were served with savouries and coffee and tea. It was a welcomed breakfast for some of us.
Finally, there was a souvenir presentation to the TYT from our Division K Governor. Our gifts of a book on “100 Ways To Improve Your Public Speaking” and a plaque came with our profound gratitude for this warm, splendid and gracious hosting of the ten Toastmasters.
We took leave of the Istana at about 10.45am with a feeling of awe and inspiration. Awed by the humble and gracious hospitality of our Head of State, and inspired by Tun’s vision to share knowledge and play a role in the improvement of society at large.
(Click on image to view Larger image)
Delegates from Division K Toastmasters
(L to R) Ronald Tang, ATM-B (VPE, KKTMC); Florence Majanil-Liau, CTM
(Div K PRO); Jirom Dony, CTM (VPE, SBO); Dr Jacob Yan, DTM
(Nominee Div K Gov 2005/2006); Christine Yap, DTM (Advisor,
Div K Council); Wong Phong Yun, ATM-B (President, KK Mandarin);
Richard A. Gontusan, DTM (Division K Governor); Yee That Hian, ATM-S
(Area K1 Gov); Fatimah Yassin, ATM-B (Asst DvG E&T); John Liew ATM-S