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Kadazan Revival (Must Read)

Posted By Dennelton on Friday, September 11, 2015 | 22:39

This dark period proved the political crucible for a more substantial sense of identity to emerge among a younger generation of Sabahans. For many of the current generation of leaders the formative experience of their youth was the confrontation of December 1972. Eight of the remaining Mill Hill missionary priests under notice of expulsion had decided that they could in conscience passively resist the expulsion orders unless reason was given for them. As the time decreed for departure approached, the youth of the Catholic schools took turns sleeping in the priests' houses to guard against a sudden raid by the police. At 3 a.m. on 2 December the police field force struck at three Catholic Kadazan strongholds. In Papar and Tambunan they managed to cut the ropes of the church bells before the sleeping youths could ring them to summon the faithful, and the priests were spirited off to jail. In Kuala Penyu the police were less successful and 600 parishioners gathered in the night to block their approach. Only by calling up hundreds of reinforcements the following day did the field force and riot squad manage to force their way through the crowd to take the priest away.

This dramatic confrontation appears in the long run to have galvanized the KD forces, and sharpened the sense that KD identity lay outside Islam, All the churches now assert that the Mustapha persecution was a blessing in disguise, in forcing Christians to become more dynamic, more Malaysian and more lay-led. At the height of their difficulties Catholics formed lay pastoral councils at parish and all-Sabah levels. The first of the Sabah Pastoral Council in 1971 was Peter Mojuntin, the most charismatic of the younger KD political leaders. He had become Secretary of UPKO at its 1964 formation at the age of 25, and reluctantly accepted Stephens' call to join USNO in 1969, becoming one of the few Kadazans given a role as state minister in the Mustapha cabinets of Christian spokesman, frequently invoking the "20 points" governing Sabah's entry to Malaysia in an attempt to defend religious freedom.

Mustapha's fall in 1975 was brought about not by KD assertiveness but by the dissatisfaction of Mustapha's former supporters at his extravagant and authoritarian style and increasingly long absences. The last straw for the Kuala Lumpur government was his open threat to withdraw Sabah from Malaysia if Kuala Lumpur did not indulge his policies. At this the Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Razak encouraged the formation of an alternative party led by Mustapha's deputy Harris Salleh. Harris knew he could only win a Sabah election against Mustapha by winning the KDs to his side, so proposed bringing Donald Stephens (now known as Tun Fuad) and Peter Mojuntin into the party. Berjaya was formed under the leadership of Stephens and Harris in 1975, and went on to defeat Mustapha's USNO in 1976. The support of KDs, and particularly of Christians, was critical in this victory, and they were rewarded with the ending of the cruder aspects of Mustapha's Islamization campaign.

Although Stephens was the initial Berjaya Chief Minister, the death of both he and Peter Mojuntin in a plane crash two months later was a further blow to KD hopes to return to the central place in Sabah politics. The Muslim (of mixed ancestry) Harris Salleh took over as Chief Minister, and cultivated ever closer relations with Kuala Lumpur. The Harris state governments of 1976—84 presided over much federally-driven modernization of the state, and the emergence of a much larger group of educated KDs who could be considered middle-class. But the participation in government of prominent KDs (led by academic Dr James Ongkili as Deputy Chief Minister) did not satisfy the desire of this rising group for a sense of their own worth as a distinct people.

Educated KDs complained that their job prospects were curbed by the continuing bias toward Muslims in higher public service positions, and that Muslim dominance in the state was being promoted by the tolerance or even encouragement of Muslim immigrants from the southern Philippines and Indonesia. More fundamental a blow to KD identity was the acceptance by the Berjaya governments of UMNO's view that all bumiputra should see themselves as one people with one (implicitly Malay and Muslim) culture, in implied confrontation with Chinese and foreigners. Realizing that the term bumiputra had become repugnant to many KDs, the state government adopted in 1980 the Indonesian term pribumi to designate all Sabah peoples of "Malay stock and related groups". The 1980 census thereby obliterated KD as a category, and classified those previously seeing themselves as the "definitive" Sabah people in a common category with migrants who had very recently arrived from the Philippines and Indonesia.

With explicitly ethnic political conflict ruled out since Stephens' decision of 1967, the conflict between KD identity and the Harris government focused on cultural issues. The Kadazan Cultural Association (KCA), which had clung to a tenuous existence during the Mustapha years, began a new lease of life with the election of Joseph Pairin Kitingan to its Presidency in December 1976. Pairin was an Australian-trained lawyer new to politics, having been recruited as of the Berjaya landslide in 1975, and elevated to Minister and Deputy President of the party after the death of Stephens and Mojuntin. He developed the KCA into a popular organization with branches in each locality, and a particular role in running the annual harvest festival. The Chief Minister tried to head off this potential source of opposition by asking Pairin to head a multi-ethnic Sabah Cultural Association, but Pairin declined and the projected umbrella body had little life.

In 1981 the state government declared that the harvest festival which had become the chief expression of KD ethnic identity should become a "people's festival" for all Sabahans. The government took over the running of the festival in May 1982, shortening it to one day, removing the harvest rituals conducted by animist priestesses (bobohizan), and restricting access on security grounds because Malaysia's king would come to preside over the event. The KCA determined to organize its own national harvest festival on the traditional lines in Pairin's stronghold of Tambunan. Despite the total boycott of this event by the state government, and the denial of all government facilities to it, the autonomous Tambunan festival became a triumph attended by thousands who called themselves Kadazans, Dusuns or Muruts from all over the state.

This event established Pairin as the new hero of long leaderless KD identity. The KCA organized his anointing in March 1984 as Huguan Siou - an old title for a supernaturally powerful warrior, rediscovered by Kadazan nationalists in the 1960s to mean "great leader" or even "paramount chief”, and only previously conferred on Donald Stephens, in 1964. Ceremonies in various places to have the bobohizan pray over the Huguan Siou to strengthen him had some effect in uniting KDs in more remote areas behind the urban leadership. These developments however made Pairin's continued place in the Harris government extremely problematic. A series of rows culminated in his resignation from Berjaya in 1984, and triumphant return to state assembly in a by-election for his

Tambunan seat In December of that year. Five months later Pairin was Chief Minister, his newly-formed PBS succeeding at the state election in overturning a Harris government grown corrupt and authoritarian. At the subsequent state elections of 1986 and 1990 Pairin's PBS gained even more handsome victories at the polls despite increasing opposition from Kuala Lumpur.

Part Three: The Bumiputra Challenge (Must Read)

Endangered Identity: Kadazan or Dusun in Sabah --- Anthony Reid
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The Editor

I'm Dennelton from Sabah, editor of www.tvokm.com. I am a blogger since 2008, i have a great interest about blogging and seeking additional income through the internet. Follow me with like our official Facebook Page HERE

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