Natives should blame their leaders
Published on: Monday, February 11, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Tan Sri Harris Salleh (pic) said Sabah’s natives should face the bitter reality that it is their own political leaders, both past and present, who are to blame for their present predicament as they had been made use of by them all along.

He also waded into the current controversy regarding the Bugis and Jawa communities, by offering his view that going by the colonial interpretation on the definition of native, they have a basis to claim that they are also natives of Sabah.

“It is time for the natives to realise that they cannot depend on privileges to improve their economic life and that their political leaders failed to protect their economic interests but at the same time, keep telling them they are privileged persons.

“These same native political leaders have deserted them and used them (natives) for their self-enrichment,” he said. “Which explains why in Sabah today 99 per cent of the rich natives are either politicians or politically-linked.” 

“They have become rich at the expense of the poor natives,” he said in a statement.

The former Chief Minister led the Berjaya Government from 1976 till 1985, billed as the most progressive period in the State’s development, and which saw a record number of Kadazan Dusun Murut and other indigenous people holding top positions both in the State Government and in Government-Linked Companies.

He said instead of kicking up a fuss over the proposal to grant native status to the Bugis and Jawa communities, Sabah’s natives should ask themselves and their political leaders how come the migrant communities can do much better than them.

He said the migrant communities have demonstrated that they do not need any special privileges to earn a better living in Sabah.

However, he said, the natives would remain poor if they do not accept the fact that they have been conditioned to be such by their own leaders, both past and present.

“They (natives) should ask how those who migrated to Sabah and their descendants are better off than them (natives) now.

“They came here empty handed yet they managed to prosper with absolutely no privileges,” he said.

They (natives) can be better off only by becoming more independent, willing to work harder and save their income so that they can afford to accumulate assets and build a solid capital for themselves and their future generations.

There has been a severe backlash to a proposal by Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Datuk Aidi Moktar that the Warisan State Government would review the law in order to consider whether or not the Bugis and Jawa communities in the state could be classified as natives.

Native political leaders were against it, since both communities originated from Indonesia and, therefore, have no legal basis to claim native status.

Harris said the reason they were against the proposal was to cover up their weak and selfish political leadership as well as to divert the natives’ attention from their poverty.

“These native political leaders must understand that the aim of British colonial masters to give native status to the local people was to differentiate them from immigrants. More importantly, the British administrators thought that the natives needed protection. In other words, they were weaker than the immigrants. 

“It was also the British way to divide and rule. They said the natives were special. The native political leaders have done nothing to change the British way and have, thus, kept the majority of the natives poor. 

“Unless the native political leaders have the political courage and vision to change their mindset, they will remain poor. It is a grave disadvantage to be burdened with the native status. This is the reality.

“Most of them have been indoctrinated with the belief that being Sabah natives, they enjoy certain sacred privileges. Do they know exactly what their privileges are? The obvious one is NT land titles. 

“Apart from NT ownership, what privileges can the natives expect? Maybe a job in the State civil service. Can the native political leaders give any other major privileges? 

“If these are the only so-called privileges, why are they so heated up? The answer is to whip up emotions to maintain their political support, “claimed Harris.

According to him, the natives used to own more land than any other races in Sabah in the form of NTs. 

“Through successive generations of subdivision, these NTs have become too small for traditional form of agriculture. 

“Many have sold out to non-natives. NTs in or near KK and other towns have been converted and sold to non-natives for development. The natives get only a fraction of financial benefits from these developments. Even the financial institutions do not want to accept NTs as collateral or security for loans.

“(Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad had a pragmatic view of Bumiputra privileges for Malays which is applicable to natives in Sabah. 

“He had said in 2013 that the Malay Muslims know ‘doa’ (prayers) by heart, asking God for assistance and mercy in the expectation that food and other essentials will come into their house. The native political leaders are doing exactly the same thing he did.” 

Harris said that native political leaders may also claim that they are entitled to preference when it comes to government contracts. 

“But just who are getting these contracts? It is not ordinary natives. Only the few with strong political connections get these contracts which are in turn sub-contracted out to non-natives for quick money,” he said.

He said a case in point are the huge Petronas contracts to Sabah, which for decades reportedly went to only one group that was linked to a certain Sabahan politician.

He said the native political leaders want to maintain the delusive myth of native privileges so that they can continue to exploit them like the feudal lords in middle-age England. 

“Keep the natives poor, make them dependent of them so that they can dish ou

t some goodies before each election. Then forget about them until the next election. 

“This is just like giving them opium to blind them about their poverty, their lack of government facilities, their lack of economic advancement and their poor standard of living,” said Harris.

He challenged that if his claims are a lie, the political leaders must answer as to why the natives in the rural and coastal areas are still the poorest in Sabah in spite of the so-called privileges accorded to them.

A good example, he said, is Tambunan and Keningau where, after 50 years of independence, one sees so little of economic development. 

“How many of the natives there are in the middle class? The reason is very clear. The natives there have been doped by emotional rhetoric and drunk with expectation that everything will be okay because of their native privileges.

“If the privileges for the natives are true and genuine, most of them would be in the middle class by now. They have land, civil service jobs, political power and many so-called privileges. By now they should be controlling the economy of Sabah. 

“They should be owners of most businesses. Sadly, this is not the case. The reality is that the natives are still stuck in the kampongs (villages). Most of them are still without power and water. Many have no roads. This is because the native political leaders have imprisoned the natives in the delusion of false privileges. 

“Only a few natives who have ‘special political connections’ have become rich or in the middle class. They have got rich not because of native privileges but because of political connections to get contracts, alienation of vast tracks of land, both of which, they sell to non-natives and non-Sabahans for quick money,” he said.

According to Harris, the whole argument about who the real natives in Sabah was also pointless for many of them also originated from other places, just like the Bugis and Jawa people.

“Who are the natives of Sabah? Based on historical records, perhaps only Muruts who came from Kalimantan Borneo are the true natives of Sabah. The rest are immigrants. The Kadazan/Dusun reportedly came from Indo China and Taiwan, the Bruneis from Brunei and the Bugis and Bajaus are from the Malay Archipelago. 

“Records have it that the whole area of Malay Archipelago was once ruled by Majapahit. In recent history, Sabah was ruled by the Sultans of Brunei and Suluk. Based on Historical records there is no real native in Sabah unlike in Malaya which has orang ‘Sakai’ or orang ‘Asli’. 

“Therefore based on the Federal Constitution and the law of Sabah, the Bugis and Javanese are natives of Sabah. Those who question these legal standings are just being emotional and ignorant of fact and history,” he said.

He added that from the legal point of view, the native status definition is found in the Interpretation (Definition of Natives) Ordinance which was established by the Colonial Government over a hundred years ago. 

“It reads as follows (Extract from the Interpretation (Definition of Native) Ordinance 1952, as amended by the Interpretation (Definition of Native) (Amendment) Ordinance, 1958– (d) any person who ordinary resident in the Colony, is a member of the indigenous to Indonesia, indigenous of islands in the Philippines Archipelago of the Federation of Malaya or the Colony of Singapore, has lived and been a member of a native community for continuous period of five years immediately preceding the date of his claim to be a native has borne a good character throughout that period and whose stay in the Colony is not limited under any of the provisions of the Immigration Ordinance. 

“Therefore, based on this Interpretation (Definition of Natives) Ordinance, the Bugis and Jawa are natives of Sabah,” Harris claimed.


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