X Team

Cynthia Ong

Chief Executive Facilitator (ChEF)

Forever Sabah

Cynthia currently serves as the Interim FS Board Chair. She brings 20 years of entrepreneurship, socio-environmental justice and community activism, through her roles as founder/co-founder, board director and/or CEO of numerous organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit in South East Asia and in the U.S. Her experience has been in the fields of organizational leadership, special events and project management, and group facilitation/mediation

Datuk Dr. John Payne

Executive Director

Pongo Alliance

Inspired by English countryside and London Zoo half a century ago, John Payne ended up in Malaysia in the 1970s when the natural forest logging industry was giving way to large plantation expansion. He was privileged to have the opportunity to conduct wildlife and natural vegetation surveys in Sabah and Kalimantan, between 1975-2004, spending over 25,000 hours living inside the tropical rainforest. Several forest conservation areas in Sabah exist as a result of work done as a WWF-Malaysia staff with the Government of Sabah. He has authored several books on Sabah's natural history and was lead author of the Sabah Conservation Strategy (1992) with the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Development.

Anne Lasimbang

Executive Director

Partners of Community Organizations in Sabah (PACOS)

Anne Lasimbang is the current Executive Director of PACOS Trust, a community-based organization (CBO) dedicated towards supporting Indigenous communities in Sabah. For over 25 years, Anne has been working to empower indigenous communities and has supported the development of community organizations in 17 districts across Sabah, 25 schools and community learning centers, and an ongoing array of programs strengthening indigenous knowledge systems, rights, culture and resource management. She is the past president of the Sabah Women's Action Resource Group, Persatuan Tadika Sabah and Persatuan TASKA Sabah, and received the Community Service Award from the Rotary Club of KK in 2008. She is also an avid dancer and hopes to get the rest of the X-team dancing the Sumazau at every meeting.

Fred Kugan

Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests

Planning and Management - Sabah Forestry Department (SFD)

Mr Frederick Kugan is a forester by profession, having graduated from Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) (1987) and from New Brunswick University, Canada (1991).   He has been with the Sabah Forestry Department since 1987 and had served in various positions over the years.  He was appointed as the Deputy Director of Forestry (Forest Sector Planning) since 2006.  His current portfolio, amongst others, involves: Policy and Legislation, Forest Sectoral Planning, International and Corporate Affairs, and Project Collaboration and Cooperation

Dr. Robert Ong

Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests (Research and Development)

Forest Research Center - Sabah Forestry Department (SFD)

Robert C. Ong heads the Natural Forest Ecology and Management research programme at the Forest Research Centre in Sandakan, Sabah. He joined the Sabah Forestry Department in 1991 after receiving his MSc in forest biology from Virginia Tech, and a PhD in forestry from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Over the past 25 years, his research has focused on logged forest restoration and management, as well as the commercial cultivation of native trees and improving wood utilisation. Robert is passionate about environmental education and was instrumental in the establishment of the Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan, a foremost environmental education facility that promotes the sustainable management of forest resources.

Datuk Darrel Webber

Managing Director

Global Forest Strategies - Earth Innovation Institute

Darrel is an expert in sustainable agricultural development, bringing 20 years of experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. He has worked in management for various multinational corporations and environmental NGOs, developing a specialty in engaging the palm oil industry on issues of sustainability. Currently, Darrel served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Anton Ngui

Founder & Chairman of Future Alam Society

Director, Paganakan Dii Tropical Retreat, Sabah

After spending a decade studying and living abroad, Anton returned to his hometown in Sandakan to run his family's hotel, the Nak Hotel. Anton found himself back in the hometown he didn't know any longer with a new, unplanned career in tourism as his next big challenge. While running his family's hotel remains a challenge for Anton, it has however, allowed him to channel his experience in the hospitality business industry towards something he is passionate about: nature. Anton is the Founder and current chairman of Future Alam Borneo Society which is the organiser for Rhythms of Rimba Wildlife Festival. He also co-founded Borneo Eco Film Festival. Anton graduated with a Masters in Visual Communication from Birmingham City University, UK.

Linn Yong


Linn is an entrepreneur, a creative chef, a conservationist, a loving wife, a caring mother and a fearless fighter, all rolled into one.  Originally from Johor Bahru, she now calls Sandakan home.  She graduated in Industrial Design at the Nanyang Polytechnic, Singapore. In downtown Sandakan, at Jalan Pelabuhan Lama, stands proudly one of the oldest hotels in Sandakan, Nak Hotel.  Owned by her husband’s family, the Ngui, this hotel was built in the 1960s and is very well known for its Ba Lin Roof Garden Bar & Bistro and the San Da Gen café downstairs.  Linn serves as the chef at large for both of these food outlets.

Yee I-Lann

International Artist

Yee I-Lann lives and works in Kota Kinabalu, capital of the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah. Her primarily photomedia-based art practice engages with archipelagic Southeast Asia’s turbulent history with works addressing issues of colonialism and neo-colonialism, power, and the impact of historical memory in social experience, often with particular focus on counter-narrative histories from below. She employs a complex, multi-layered visual vocabulary drawn from historical references, popular culture, archives, and everyday objects. She has in recent years started working collaboratively with sea-based and land-based communities and indigenous mediums in Sabah.