Monday, May 19, 2014

One misstep, thousand years of regrets...

Someone of standing told me that he was involved in a project that would return 60 tonnes of palm oil ffb (fresh fruit bunches) per hectare per year. Two things are necessary: (a) a supergene that his associate has developed and (b) a bio-fertilizer that his researcher has stumbled upon. I have heard of the former before. I even visited the breeder; that was in 2007 or thereabout, when I was the “executive chairman” of IMC Plantations. We didn’t buy his seeds because of a couple of considerations. One, the seed price was high; two, all established breeders we spoke to were skeptical of the claim; and three, bringing them to Kalimantan to germinate and grow was legally challenging.

Then we came to know another plant breeder who appeared to have the same lines of genetic materials. We decided to collaborate with him. Some 150 palms were duly transplanted to our seed garden in East Kalimantan. I did not follow up after my retirement, but I heard that things did not quite work out and the project was abandoned.

Some two years later, the daughter emailed to me to say that her father had passed away because of liver cancer. He was still in his mid-60s. I felt sad for her, since she had to inherit some messy stuff left behind by her father.


After hearing this new supergene alert, I thought I should check with the daughter what had become of her father’s efforts all these years.

I couldn’t feel sorrier for her. Not only her late father’s efforts have gone down the drain, she is also struggling to come to terms with IMC over the break-up in the collaboration. But what was more shocking was for me to learn that the father had hidden the fact that he had a second family in Jakarta! This 15-year secret was only disclosed to her three months before his death. He had to die as a Muslim and was duly buried as one. How devastating it was to the family!

The father was a self-made scientist. He had a diploma from the then Agriculture College in Serdang. But he was bold enough to try new things. Unfortunately, money management was apparently not his strong suit. He became a close friend of Suharto’s youngest daughter. He even showed me a portrait picture taken in a studio of him together with the late Strong Man’s family. Didn’t he know how to make use of this “guanxi”? He could well be one of another Sudono Salim, aka Liem Sioe Liong. Or was he totally consumed by the charm of the Indonesian beauty?

The man has already passed away; how can I say unkind things about him?

But isn’t there lessons in this for us to learn?

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