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The Bumiputra Challenge (Must Read)

Posted By Dennelton Mandiau on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 | 07:15

Sabah joined Malaysia in 1963 with an Alliance Government superficially similar to that of West Malaysia, comprised of three parties each based in a particular ethno-religious tradition. Donald Stephens' predominately KD party changed its name January 1964 to the United Pasok-momogun Kadazan Organization (UPKO) after re-absorbing Murut followers of Datuk Sundang who had in 1961—63 opposed joining Malaysia before elections, and who preferred the term Pasok Momogun (people of the country) to Kadazan. The United Sabah National Organization (USNO) was created by Sabah's most prominent Muslim, the Suluk Datuk (later Tun) Mustapha, who became the state's first indigenous Governor, a supposedly ceremonial post analogous to the monarchs of West states. USNO was thereby left without a strong political leader, but it had the great advantage of support and sympathy from Malaysia's dominant party, the Malay UMNO, which encouraged USNO's ambitions to become the Muslim-led party of all Sabah's "bumiputra" (sons of the soil), the term invented with Malaysia to replace Malay as the "indigenous" category entitled to special privileges. The third party, in the Alliance was the theoretically multi-racial but predominately Chinese and urban Sabah National Party (SANAP).

The Sabah Alliance had none of the stability of its West Malaysian equivalent. It was torn by the then debate between Lee Kuan Yew's "Malaysian Malaysia" and Kuala Lumpur's model of racially-defined parties accepting Malay primacy in return for guaranteed participation in government. Each of the Sabah parties had ambitions to become multi-racial, but on different presumptions. UPKO and UNKO competed over their different understandings of what indigenousness meant, while UPKO also competed with the Sabah Chinese Association (SCA), as SANAP had renamed itself under pressure from the Malayan Chinese Association, for the support of Chinese, many of whom had long and harmonious associations with KDs.

UPKO's vulnerability to Kuala Lumpur pressure was accentuated by the expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia in August 1965, and charges of disloyalty to Malaysia that were made against those who questioned the remaining balance of power. UPKO abandoned one position after another in an attempt to retain a place within the ruling Alliance: Stephens was forced out as Chief Minister in late 1964 by a combination of the other two parties; Stephens and the most effective of the younger Kadazan politicians, Peter Mojuntin, were forced to resign as President and Secretary of UPKO in 1965; Mustapha moved from the Governorship into politics about the same time, becoming Chairman of the Sabah Alliance and refusing to relinquish the post as previously agreed to let UPKO have a turn. The 1967 State election confirmed UPKO as the party of KDs, as it won -12 of the 14 seats with KD majorities. Nevertheless Mustapha, whose USNO had won 14 seats, formed a government with SCA support and refused to have anything to do with UPKO. Far from the KDs being the "definitive" people, they appeared to have lost even a minority voice in government.

In the depth of this crisis Donald Stephens startled most of his younger Kadazan lieutenants by seemingly accepting the argument of Mustapha that the bumiputras of Malaysia should unite behind Malay and Muslim leadership. In an emotional speech to the UPKO national council in December 1967 he moved that UPKO be dissolved and that all its members seek admission to Mustapha's USNO. "The Kadazans, in order to be saved, must lose our sense of racialism or rather tribalism and not only accept all bumiputras as one but we must also learn to feel one. Having persuaded his supporters to accept this act of political self-abnegation he himself retired from politics and later took up a position as Malaysian High Commissioner to Canberra. Given the view of Mustapha and many of his Kuala Lumpur supporters that bumiputra unity could only be secured on an Islamic basis, this same logic eventually led Stephens to embrace Islam in 1971. The KD's own leader had declared the whole adventure of Kadazan nationalism to be a mistake.

The decade which followed these decisions was a very dark one for any who believed in a separate identity for KDs or for Christians in Sabah. Sustained by control of the timber concessions which had always dominated Sabah's money politics, and backed by Kuala Lumpur, Mustapha moved to suppress the key markers of KD identity. His policy for national unity was "one language, one culture and one religion". Kadazan language was removed from all schools as they became part of the national system in the late 1960s, and the use of all languages other than Malay and English in radio broadcasts was forbidden from 1974. Islam was declared the state religion in 1973, in defiance of one of the major points of the original Malaysia agreement, and state authority was used in a variety of ways to encourage Sabahans to become Muslim. In 1970—72 the majority of foreign priests and missionary workers were expelled (41 in 1970 alone), and the first Malaysian Catholic Bishop of Kota Kinabalu, a Sarawak Chinese, was refused a residence permit.

Part Two: Kadazan Nationalism

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 was 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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