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Bintulu Port Holdings Berhad (BPHB) Group Chief Executive Officer Datuk Mohammad Medan Abdullah enjoys writing poems on nature, the human condition and playing the sape – the traditional musical instrument of the Orang Ulu community in Sarawak.

BINTULU: Growing up in the Bario highlands, located 3,500 feet above sea level, Datuk Mohammad Medan Abdullah lived in a longhouse with his late parents who worked as farmers.

Life in the village was simple; however, the Bintulu Port Holdings Berhad (BPHB) Group Chief Executive Officer has learnt the importance of staying focused on the task at hand since young.

“Too often, people don't pay enough attention on what they are doing at the moment. They tend to think about yesterday or what’s next. But, yesterday has passed and tomorrow has yet to come, so, what’s most important is to focus on the present. So, I didn’t think too much about what I wanted to be then or what to achieve but to focus only on my studies, the most important task at hand for me,” he said.

This he said meant there was no big secret in terms of his formula for success. Instead, he merely committed himself to accomplishing one task at a time.

Despite his busy schedule of helming Bintulu Port, Mohammad Medan finds time to relax and stay calm before hitting the office.

The 61-year-old enjoys writing poems on nature, the human condition and playing the sape – the traditional musical instrument of the Orang Ulu community in Sarawak. He also plays the guitar, ukulele and serudi, a bamboo wind instrument found among some of the tribes in Borneo.

“I am a Kelabit (one of minority Orang Ulu tribes). Like those of my generation, I grew up in a longhouse and was close to nature, and the environment we grew up in was rich in tradition and culture, and a healthy respect for the natural world.

"Hence, I love to write (poems) on serenity and appreciate the beauty of nature,” he told the New Straits Times when met at his office at Wisma Kontena, Bintulu Port here, recently.

“I started to write poems since primary school but I never learned how to play the sape when I was young. It only started in 2010, when I received a sape as a gift from some villagers from Sungai Asap, Belaga.

"Initially, I was reluctant to accept it because I didn't know how to play it but they insisted I should take it as they were proud of what I have achieved (in the oil and gas industry)," he said.

He brought the traditional instrument, shaped like a boat, to Kuala Lumpur and it was displayed in his living room for two years.

"It (the sape) looked at me and I looked at it. One day, while resting in the living room, I decided to pick it up and started plucking the strings. Soon I could eke out a few tunes on it, and since then I started to learn to play by ear and by listening to some other people’s recordings.

"It didn’t take long for me to master it as I have been playing the guitar since young and as the sape is the traditional instrument of my community, I could still recall some of the melodies I heard as a young boy,” he said.

The self-taught sape player was invited by the Sarawak Tourism Board to perform at the Rainforest World Music Festival in 2013. That same year, he also performed as a special guest at the MAPfest (Melaka Arts and Performing Festival).

Mohammad Medan also took part in the closing ceremony of the "Longest Non-Stop Sape Performance" which entered the Malaysian Book of Records (MBOR) last year. He played along with sape maestro Mathew Ngau and Larissa Ping, Miss World Malaysia 2018.

A total of 54 players played together for 50 hours, either in groups or solo, in a non-stop musical relay in Miri.

“Nowadays, I only perform during some company events or charity functions. It is fun and to me, the tune is calming to the mind,” he remarked.

With over 30 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, Mohammad Medan was appointed as the Group CEO of Bintulu Port in 2017, and aims to lead the Port towards becoming a world class port operator.

BPHB operates Malaysia’s sole export terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and plays a pivotal role in the development of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

Apart from diversifying its business from reliance on just one cargo (LNG) in the beginning, Bintulu Port has since diversified its cargo throughput into multi cargoes; and has intensified its on-going efforts in transforming into a green and smart port for the future.

“To become a world class port operator, we focus on 3Ps, which stands for profit, people and planet. As a commercial and business entity, we need to take care of the profit by not only increasing the volume throughput but also diversifying the business portfolio, upskilling and empowering our people who are our employees and internal stakeholders as well as working with all related parties in a sustainable way to protect the environment and planet – to ensure sustainability for all,” the Universiti Malaya law graduate said.

Having graduated in 1982, Mohammad Medan began his career as a trainee legal officer in Petronas. In 1990, he was handpicked by President/CEO of Petronas Tan Sri Hassan Marican to be among the core team to take the Petronas business global.

Over the years, he held numerous critical positions in Petronas and Petronas Carigali Group of Companies and was appointed as managing director and CEO of Malaysia LNG Group Companies in 2007 -2010, the first Sarawakian to helm the post.

Besides the Chairmanship or being a Board member of many Petronas companies, he was also appointed as the Chairman and Board Member of a UK-registered company, PETGAS UK Ltd, which primary responsibility covers the trading of LNG and gas in the UK and European markets.

Prior to helming the Bintulu Port Holdings Berhad Group, Mohammad Medan served as the managing director and President (Asia Pacific) of Gazprom Marketing and Trading Pte Ltd (Singapore), an affiliate of the largest gas company in the world.

There, he was entrusted with the role of leading strategic business growth in the Asia Pacific region. While serving in Singapore he was also appointed to the Sarawak Oil and Gas Council (SOGC) and the National Education Advisory Council (NEAC), making time to contribute to the national agenda.

Last year, Mohammad Medan received the conferment of the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM) Court of Emeritus Fellows (COEF) in conjunction with the 29th Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Lecture Series.

He was conferred the COEF due to his significant contributions to the field of management and leadership not only in his organisations but across the industry.

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