I NOTICE an upsurge in enthusiasm lately in discussing the subject of ethnics in Sabah. Couldn't make out why? Perhaps this is partly due to the media. They get fed up with the routine subjects, for example the never-ending political debacles ever since after the last general election. Many people feel demoralised. Even their thinking capacity is geographically reduced to only knowing what is going on in the five opposition States.
Four, if Perak is excluded due to Shakespearean-style political dramas we see these days.
Maybe there is a real need for Sabah and Sarawak to tell the nation that they have plenty to talk about in terms of ethnicities.
Our leaders should be reminded both in Borneo and Peninsular that they must take cognition, don't just hantam (strike) with couldn't-care-less attitude. Ethnicity may be a trivial subject for them but may mean differently to local people.
Our multi-ethnic society has been a source of inspiration and an achievement. We have lived harmoniously without being suspicious of one another for hundreds of years but now even talking about it is becoming a taboo. What more about religion.
A couple of months ago there was much discussion on Kadazan/Dusun issue. Suffice to say that many opinions were proffered by eminent people like Datuk Fauzi Patel, Datuk Ayub Aman, Datuk Dr Herman Luping, etc.
I must give credit to the Daily Express for exploring the subject in the context of where the Kadazandusun community went wrong over its labelling due to a mistake before just before independence by Tun Fuad Stephens, as also admitted in 1967.
Our archives, museum and library alike should keep proper inventory so that in the future our young can see and evaluate our status based on the records. In this respect what the Daily Express had done by inviting those who witnessed the events to speak about it enhances our understanding of Sabah's post-independence history.
One note of caution though, don't modify and change the written history, nobody can update history, one can only update where one keeps it.
In my experience with university students today, about 80-90 per cent of our first year students aren't even sure when Malaysia was formed. Was it 31st August 1957 or 1963 or 16th September 1963?
When asked what made them confused about the date, their answer is that's what they read in the text books. My response to them usually is to ask them to throw away that textbook.
Back to discussing about ethnics, what intrigued me was when Tan Sri Bernard Dompok in the Daily Express interview on the Kadazan-Dusun issue mentioned the word Kedayan. Which later he corrected the spelling from Kedayan to Kadayan. But before anything else, changing the spelling like this, in my experience, was difficult enough. Let alone changing the meaning. An example, I've been writing all this while word Kadayan, not Kedayan in many official or unofficial materials. I know for sure the spelling of Kadayan is without an "e".
The fruit of my labour only begins to emerge after very long years, meaning today, if anyone finds that something isn't right about his or her ethnic, I would say only he or she knows best and should be allowed to amend before it creates more confusion.
In the case of Kadazan or Dusun issue or vice versa, which is a slightly different argument, I would consider it really is up to an individual to decide. I can only anticipate that the young are interested to know the origin of the dispute and have the legitimate right to search.
On the issue of name of Kadazan since the word Kadazan is relatively new, (compared to Dusun), why has it overshadowed the word "Dusun" and why is perhaps what bugs their mind. When Dompok said, that people in Inobong called them as Kadayan, so too in his part of Penampang called Kadayan, he says that a letter "z" in Kadazan actually is pronounced as "Y" makes it Kadayan.
So as far as I can tell, those who asked me question about Dompok's statement, and from what I understand, he was only talking about the word Kadayan and was not talking about Kadayan as an ethnic.
Some years back an official from KDCA said to me that in Dusun Lutod, the word Kadayan means a guidance or escort. This definition is akin to the explanation found in Javanese language. This is, perhaps, why there is continued debate about the origin of Kadayan.
Kadayan were thought to be from Java island, but as of now, in as long as no one can prove it, I would say Kadayan couldn't be from Java. I would love to see someone overwrite and rewrite the present history. That would be more challenging.
In Sabah, local Sabahan Muslims don't usually identify themselves as Malay, all too often, they prefer to be identified by their ethnic origin, which they feel perfectly happy. Yet though, most ethnics aren't obsessed about it, it isn't something they bring home and quarrel about.
A few years back I met one dark skinned guy married to my relative This guy when ever we met always speak Kadayan and his Kadayan is far better than mine, to my astonishment. One fine day, I found out that he was, in fact, a Bajau from Kota Belud. That was fun and an unsusual discovery.
The moral of my story is whether one wants to be called Kadazan, Kadayan, Dusun, and Bajau alike, it really depends on one choice. My Bajau relative is comfortable being called Kadayan.
My journalist friend in Sarawak asked my view recently because the Iban, Bidayuh, Kenyah and a few more ethnics are talking about changing their name "Orang Ulu" (group name of the above) to something else.
In their mind is Lun Daya. Of course, in Sabah we have such an ethnic called nearly similar, the Lundayeh in Sipitang and Tenom.
The reason for the re-branding, according to him, is that the name Orang Ulu is too archaic, and doesn't sound glamour. He also experienced once in peninsular, when asked about his race, he replied he is from Orang Ulu.
To his surprise none of his friends from peninsular had an inkling. He was asked if Orang Ulu is equivalent to Orang Utan. That infuriated him.
Borneo has a population of over nine million, the majority are Dayaks and second largest group is called coastal Malay (mostly Muslim) comprising many smaller ethnics, including, Banjarese, Kutai, Tidung in East Kalimantan and Baju, Melanau, Brunai, Kadayan, etc, in the West Coast of Borneo. While the Bugis are not local as they are from Sulewasi.
The Borneo Dayak comprise many other ethnics as in the case of Orang Ulu of Sarawak, usually referred to those from the interior or highland but once they move to the coastal area they either call themselves Banjarese or Malay. This is perhaps why many Banjarese are also aren't Muslims.
The Dayaks and the coastal Malays had no trouble living harmoniously for many hundred years. They identify themselves as locals of the island, but thing can get nasty as in the Madura incident.
Recently there was another clash in Nunukan, just south of Tawau between one group that had been around for centuries and another perceived as "outsiders".
Truly Kadayan/Kedayan by birth. Residing in Subang Jaya, Selangor D.E. since 1988 until now.
I was born in the Colony of North Borneo, now called Sabah (Land Below the Wind). It was still the British rule then, and we used to sing "God Save the Queen" at the school assembly in early sixties. On 16 September, 1963, the Colony of North Borneo gained its independence through the formation of Malaysia.
I spent most of my childhood days in a remote village, where basic utilities such as roads, water, electricity and telephones were not known to the village folks.
My childhood days were very challenging, simply because our living condition was just at the lowest level of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.