Published on: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Penampang: Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) President Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said the term "new Bumiputera" for people from outside the country is inaccurate because foreigners cannot become Bumiputera.
"If they are from abroad then they are not Bumiputera," he said at the closing of the Seminar on Understanding on the Rights and Customs of Sabah Natives at Hongkod Koisaan, Saturday.
The seminar organised by KDCA in collaboration with the Sabah Native Affairs Office (Pahaens) was in conjunction with the KDCA's 12th Triennial Delegates Conference scheduled for today (Sunday).
Responding to an earlier question from a participant who asked if there is any guarantee that "new Bumiputeras" would not get native status in Sabah, Pairin said it was not necessary for anybody to give the guarantee because it is already in the law.
"If you are not Malaysian you are not Bumiputera," he said.
The term "new Bumiputera" is said to refer to foreigners who somehow have acquired the necessary documents, notably Mykad.
Some are known to have entered forest reserves to open up lands and claim Native Customary Rights.
The Huguan Siou who sat through the three-hour seminar also hoped that Pahaens would take note of the various issues raised by participants during the seminar.
In his opening speech earlier, Pairin said it was imperative that the Kadazandusun community understand the legislative system of the Native Court.
He said the Federal Constitution had assured that the Native Courts was the venue for natives to resolve problems, particularly those concerning customs.
He said the uniqueness of the Native Court's power that is only available in Sabah and Sarawak received attention from the Government when it made several decisions considered to be controversial such as the issuance of Native Certificates to doubtful recipients.
He said, perhaps, one of the weaknesses of the Native Court administration was in terms of the appointment of judges from the pool of Native Chiefs and District Chiefs in the State who may not be well versed with the role of the Native Court itself.
Realising these weaknesses and considering the importance of the Native Court institution as part of the judiciary machinery in Sabah, the State Government had done its planning to get RM60 million from the Federal Government to build the Native Court Institute Complex in the district and several Native Courts throughout Sabah, he said.
"Hopefully with the establishment of the institute, the Native Court administration system in Sabah will be bolstered with high credibility at par with the other courts as a respected judicial body," he said.
The speakers for the seminar were the Local Government and Housing Ministry's Legal Officer, Suman Yasambun who is also the KDCA Secretary General and Pahaens Officer, Azmi Salim.
Meanwhile, parents who are unhappy with the way their children get married by ignoring customs and just registering with the National Registration Department (NRD) may summon them to the Native Court.
KDCA Sec-Gen Suman Yasambun said it could be done if it was according to the relevant "adat" or customs.
Responding to a question from a participant on Understanding of the Rights and Customs of Sabah Natives at Hongkod Koisaan, he said customs still exist but some in the community tend to neglect these.
The participant had asked if the action of a man who married his daughter just by registering the marriage at the NRD is considered legal in Sabah's adat.
"To me I am willing biar mati anak jangan mati adat (let our children die than our customs)," said the participant.
Towards this end, Suman said the community could seek advice from the Native Court if they know the "adat".
He said these matters could be referred to the Native Court and if anyone is still dissatisfied with the court's decision they could bring it up to the Native Court of Appeal which would be presided by a High Court judge.
"So whatever decision will automatically become a native law," he pointed out.
Suman together with an officer from Sabah Native Affairs Office (Pahaens) Azmi Salim were the speakers at the seminar.
Meanwhile, Azmi said Pahaens was in the midst of preparing a standard Marriage Certificate and Divorce Certificate to be issued by all the Native Courts in Sabah.
The certificate was important because at the moment there is no documentation proof of a marriage solemnised by the Native Court, which is also known as "kahwin kampung".
Other issues raised during the question and answer session was the call for a holistic review on all political appointments of district chiefs, native chiefs, native chief representative and village heads who are not well versed with the community customs.
The participant, Jeoffrey Ekol who is also a KDCA central committee member said allowing those grassroots leaders to continue holding on to the post would only cause suffering to the community when they really need the service of the Native Court.
Other participants raised the issue of non-performing native chiefs.
Apin Atam from Kuala Penyu urged the administrative officers to go down the ground from time to time and check at the office of the district chiefs.
"Sometimes you cannot find anyone for one week É but when there is a course or seminar they will be invited. Are they really doing their job?" he asked.
A participant from Beaufort and another from Tawau urged the Government to look into providing a native chief for the Kadazandusun community.