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IR JAMES YONG – IEM Sabah Branch Chairman

IR James Yong - IEM Sabah Branch Chairman


IEM or the Institution of Engineers Malaysia is a very big organisation with over 40,000 members nationwide. In Sabah we have about 2,000 members. IEM Sabah Branch is a learned institution whereby we promote excellence in engineering. We also encourage students to take up engineering for the common good of society because there are a lot of things engineers can do to promote well being in society, to provide engineering solutions to otherwise other people will say unachievable problems. I have always preached that any problem that comes with engineering, we can always ‘ENGINEER IT’ to find the solution. The good think about being an engineer by virtual of his/her education and training, we are trained to think logically and systematically. So, in the end, we always provide solutions, not just solutions but alternative solutions to create a win-win as such.

I know a lot of parents nowadays do not encourage their children to take up engineering because of the heavy responsibilities attached with it. Engineers can always be sued and jailed if there is a structural failure that cannot be said for other professions. As such, the liability of the professional engineer is very heavy. But if a student or engineer has the passion for this profession, the reward, the personal satisfaction and professional satisfaction is always there that cannot be found in other professions as we are always held as having a high level of professionalism than other professions because the attached liabilities to it will take us to our graves!


Our Immediate Past Chairman Datuk Ir Hj. Yahiya Ag. Kahar has done a very good job in bringing IEM closer to the government sectors. Because of his efforts, we can see that engineers in the private sectors and engineers in the public sectors are speaking as one voice and are supporting each other and that is very good. This has resulted in the government great understanding of the role of IEM Sabah Branch. IEM Sabah Branch can stand tall because we are always invited to sit in technical committees to give technical advice to government departments so in general to the wellbeing of society. Our immediate Past Chairman has done that role very well!

For me this year, I have noticed the impact of women engineers and young engineers in IEM Sabah Branch. We can see the dynamism, we can see the new ideas that this women engineers and young engineers can bring into this Institution. So, for this year I will do my very best to ensure to open up the doors to a wider pool of engineers, especially the women and the young engineers into IEM Sabah Branch.

By doing so, I am quite sure will we have new and fresh ideas, which are good for the Institution, which are good for the members as well and in the end for society. To help the society, by reaching out to them. Our corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs will be more inclusive than previous years.


Recently, we have a lot of NGOs coming out to talk about the good and bad of the Pan Borneo Highway and also about Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED). There are pros and cons for all these big projects which will off course have environmental impact. If we just listen to only one side of the story, if we support 100% the NGOs who against these developments, then there will be no development.

However, being Engineers, we tend to look at these problems objectively. We know that the Pan Borneo Highway will be built and cut across Kolopis area which is flood prone, and this is a very hot topic nowadays. Either we don’t build any road there or we create a new alignment. But rest assured being Engineers, we will look at different routes, which is the best alignment to run across a Kampung whether it creates flooding or traffic problems, congestions or whether it will damage the environment, whether we cut down the hill too much, or destroy the forest too much. All these sensitive issues will be addressed and discussed and the social economic impact, cost versus benefits arguments, proposals will be studied.

However, being engineers, we look at solutions. Which will be the best solutions to tackle the problems so we can engineer it. If you don’t want to be controversial, then you only recommend the minimum. Support minimal development, small scale development. But engineers are not just trained to do that! Engineers are also trained to look into projects and issues which have environmental impacts to promote development.

If there are no engineers, probably you will have no water. Engineers design damns, pipelines to bring water to the general public. By the same token, if you don’t have development, you don’t allow a road to be built across a flood plain or a jungle, than for you to reach from point A to B which will bring development to the Kampung folks that is unimaginable and cannot be done. The Kampung folks then will not be able to enjoy the modern amenities of life.
This is where the engineers come in. We look at the problem, we find solutions, we offer alternatives and we let the policy makers to ponder our feasibility studies and for them to pick up the best options. If we don’t do that, then we will be forever subjected to the 1st world country telling us the 3rd world countries, do not touch anything, preserve the green, don’t destroy your forest where as in 1st world country, they have already cleared all the forest, already have built all the roads, basic infrastructures and they come around and tell us 3rd world countries we cannot do that.

So hopefully, being NGOs, being protectionist of the environment, you also at times have to think like engineers. For every problem, there is always a solution, with a cost attached to it. Our role here is to provide an alternative, to create a win-win and the final decision off course will rest with the government of the day whether they accept the proposal of the engineers.