Sipitang MP Ahmad Sapawi will be the foundation's sixth director since it was founded in 1966.
KOTA KINABALU: For the first time in its 47-year history, the Sabah Foundation will helmed by an active politician as Sipitang MP Ahmad Sapawi has been given the job as director of the body also known as Yayasan Sabah.
Sapawi’s appointment was announced on Friday by Chief Minister-cum-chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Sabah, Musa Aman, who said the appointment is effective from July 1 this year.
Sapawi, 59, takes over the management of the foundation from Khalil Jamalul. He will be the foundation’s sixth director since it was founded in 1966.
His other predecessors were Syed Kechik Syed Mohamad Al-Bukhary, Ben Stephens, Jeffrey Kitingan and Musa Aman.
“With this appointment, Sapawi will take over the duties and responsibilities from (Tan Sri) Khalil who during his tenure had discharged them professionally and effectively. I am confident that the new director will exercise his responsibility in the same manner,” said Musa in a statement.
Musa also announced that Khalil would remain as the executive chairman of Innoprise Corporation Sdn Bhd (ICSB), the investment arm of the foundation.
The handing-over ceremony was held at the Chief Minister’s office.
Sabah Foundation’s first director was Syed Kechik. He was succeeded by Stephens when the Berjaya government came to power. Kitingan was appointed director after Stephens stepped down in the early 1980s and he was succeeded by Musa after the fall of the PBS government in 1994.
The foundation was established in 1966 by Tun Mustapha Harun through an enactment in the Sabah State Legislative Assembly.
In order to finance its activities, the foundation in 1970 received the administrative and marketing rights to huge tracts of tropical forest which were handed out to timber companies as concessions.
Exploitaton of forests
The profits of the foundation were partly distributed as a dividend to all Sabahans aged 21 years and above. This distribution was first known as Amanah Saham Tun Datu Hj Mustapha and was later renamed Amanah Rakyat Sabah.
Critics saw this as a means to exert political influence on the voting behaviour of the population pointing out how the state government controversially increased the dividends prior to elections.
Accusations were also levelled at the foundation over the management and exploitation of tropical forests which were its assets.
Some of these areas have now been designated as protected forests areas and include the famed Danum Valley (43,800 acres), Maliau Basin (58,840 acres), Imbak Canyon (30,000 acres).
The foundation now operates as Yayasan Sabah Group (YSG) with its administrative centre in Menara Tun Mustapha (formerly Sabah Foundation Building) and Wisma-Innoprise here.
Its budget, which was initially derived from its timber activities, has has since diversified into other areas including the oil and gas industry.
The foundation reportedly spends up to RM20 million annually for its education assistance programmes.
The Yayasan Sabah College (KYS) set up in 1990, provides tertiary education to enable more Sabahans to pursue higher learning without having to leave Sabah. The college hopes to be upgraded to university status this year.
In line with the government’s aim to create more jobs for Sabahans, the RM500 million Sabah International Convention Centre (SICC), a development spearheaded by the foundation, is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs.
Musa said recently that the foundation will continue to carry out programmes and activities that will benefit Sabahans.