The Rundum incident was more of a war than rebellion
Published on: Sunday, April 22, 2012
By: Mohd Jefri Radius
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THE role of the early Chinese immigrants towards the socio-economic development of several countries in the region, during the last century, was not surprising as they were better equipped in knowledge gleaned from several thousands years.Some historical events have not been brought to light due to our ignorance, negligence or complacency.

Relying on oral tradition, memories of the these events, be they good or bad, would soon be forgotten unless documented for the future generations to ponder.

An example is the story of Gunsanad Kina who lived in a small village called Kg Minansut within the fertile land of the Bingkor Zone closer to the Trans Pegalan Valley in the Interior Residency.

This Chinese who helped the locals in many ways is still spoken about by elderly folks around the village where he had become part of the community through the blessing of another Chinese known as Gong.

Former Berjaya Assemblyman for Bingkor and then Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister's Department, Datuk Ayub Aman , called him "San Tai Wong" which literarily means "king of the wild interior".

Gunsanad Kina was believed to be among the early Chinese traders who came to then North Borneo (now Sabah), to carry out trading in Kimanis, where the Chartered Company, had established a trading post, which was later closed as the returns on investment was not lucrative and did not meet the company's expectation.

Or there could be some other reasons leading to its closure.

"Gunsanad Kina was a smart and hard working young man with the sheer determination and vision to improve the livelihood of the local natives in the Interior Residency. For Instance in Kg Minansut, where he spent the rest of his life, Gunsanad Kina introduced the ploughing system, unknown to the local farmers, which used a wooden harrow designed to scratch the ground to a depth of about four inches in the process of breaking up the ground surface for ease of rice planting works and merely used one water buffalo to drag the harrow over a wide space of area within the paddy field. Unlike the time consuming traditional ploughing method, which engaged a herd of the animal comprising five or six in numbers, tied next to one another to perform a repetitive circular movement around a fixed spot to cover the whole area.

Normally one lot of paddy field covers three to five acres "

Apart from ploughing , other techniques that could be handled and operated manually relevant to the local rice planting and production activities namely marrowing, paddy grinding and husks separating were also introduced for the first time to the local farmers.

They were truly amazed upon seeing the system introduced by Gunsanad Kina and might have considered it as a new revolution in their rice planting methodology. In fact, it had been practised by most Chinese farmers in their country since thousands of years ago.

When asked about Gunsanad Kina's other significant contributions to the people in the Interior, apart from his role in giving more life to the local agricultural sector, Ayub said: "Gunsanad Kina played a role as mediator to several tribal clashes including during the Rundum Conflict"

Prior to the outbreak of the conflict, Gunsanad Kina was not spared from the competition of other native groups having interest in the trading of jungle products in the Interior even to the extent of facing some risky consequences.

Gunsanad's nephew, Mussad, who was killed by Ontoros' man named Antakin for having encroached intentionally into Ontoros' territory, was a case in point .

Antakin was described as " a slippery eel to catch " in the eyes of his rivals, who did not manage to kill him. He died by stepping on his own trap, which the Muruts called "Balatik" by mistake.

Gunsanad Kina was fast to think of an amicable solution to the problem by way of compromising with Ontoros without using any force to vent his anger in revenge for the murder of his man (Mussad), thereby avoiding clashes between the two competing folks in the business .

The meeting was successful as both parties agreed that Gunsanad Kina could only focus collecting jungle products within the upper region limit,while Ontoros managed the lower region of the Interior.

However, the Chartered Company was attracted to the prospects of doing similar trading in the Interior, thereby posing a stiff competition to the local groups who had been in the business for quite some time on small scale.

The Chartered Company started setting up two trading posts - one each in Rundum and Pensiangan, respectively, to carry out trading in commodities obtained from the Interior's forests such as rattan, resin, spices, bird nest, etc. They, too, began to collect taxes from the natives in the Interior.

The Muruts were provoked and opposed the Chartered Company's idea, which gradually led to the outbreak of what the earlier writer termed as "The Rundum Rebellion" in 1915.

Perhaps, it is timely to do some rectification on the wrong choice of certain words being used to write our early local history books.

Firstly, the word "Rebellion" may have been wrongly used. Why?

Only for one simple reason - judging from the fact that the Chartered Company never ruled neither had they become the ruler nor had any administrative jurisdiction over any territory in the Interior Residency, despite having made their presence within every nook and corner of the hinterland.

Hence, it could not impose any taxation exercise on the local natives.

The Muruts staged a conflict to defend and protect their customary rights from being further exploited by the advent of the Chartered Company in the Interior region, where this happening was misinterpreted as "rebellion"

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines the word "Rebel" as "to fight with violence against anyone in power, esp the Government. "Hence, it is totally incorrect to refer the domestic conflict as Rundum Rebellion" within the context of its meaning. The best alternative could be either one of these - The Rundum War, Conflict or Battle.

Secondly, the word "Antanom", that had been described as being the individual or person who led the war or battle in Rundum.

"Antanom" is a verb defining the word of action in the Murutic dialect which means "to plant" and it had been used in the wrong place to represent the name of an individual as "Antanom" with full command in the Rundum War.

The real individual or person , who had ever existed on this earth to spearhead the war was a Murut by the name of Ontoros.

He had successfully managed to gather support not merely from his local ethnical groups in the Interior.

His mission to defend and protect the rights of the Muruts, on the whole, had drawn the sympathy of several other Murut communities living along the common borderline of North Borneo and the Indonesian territorial province of East Kalimantan.

In the interview, Ayub was quoted as saying "Ontoros was the name given to this Murut leader by his father since birth. It was believed that Ontoros got another name or title as "Antanom" while the construction of their forts were in progress, whereby Ontoros vowed in his war slogan yelling in Murutic dialect" Lawanan Tokow Ulun Rah Noh, Antanom Tokow Rah Itu ! !" which literally "We will fight that Man and We will be Buried right here !" very much identical to the fighting spirits or vows made by many warriors yelling to the height of their voices " We Will Fight To The Last Drop of Our Blood ! ! " upon reaching the battle fields frontiers.

Hence, there is justification on the need to amend the two misleading words " Rebellion " and Antanom " deemed not relevant at all to the Rundum's social conflict that broke out in 1915 as published previously in The History of North Borneo, in view of the sensible arguments as highlighted by Ayub .

In reality, the Chartered Company did not win the war, but they had a Mastermind Strategist able to think of a way to cripple their enemies ' strength. The Murut leader Ontoros was invited by the Chartered Company on the pretext of a peace talk. Of course it was a trap and a tactical and manipulative strategy worked out to rope in the Murut leader once he turned up at the venue, thereby paralysing the fighting spirit of the remaining Muruts leaders namely Balayung and Tingkun who took part in the war along with Ontoros.

At the time of Ontoros' arrest or captivity, the status of the Chartered Company 's security defence was truly crucial and critical.

They were running out of ammunition and needed more supplies of the items and security personnel as well , before they could bring down the Murut fighting spirit together with their well organised jungle warfare and guerilla movement in the Interior.

The circumstance did not warrant the Chartered Company to continue with the war upon sensing that defeat was imminent. They left and abandoned the trading posts, thus putting an end to its mission and dream in its bid firstly, to gain supremacy over the predominantly occupied Murut area in the Interior.

Secondly, to deprive the locals of the trading monopoly.

In recognition of Gunsanad Kina's successive roles in holding peace talks among the disputing natives and managing to solve their heart feeling stigmas in the Interior, after the Rundum war and several other tribal clashes e.g clashes between the Dusunic Liwan (plain dusun) and Tagas (Hill Dusun) in Tambunan.

He was appointed by the Chartered Company as the local Paramount / Chief Advisor and Mediator to the company.

Hence, there is need to review the contents of any book written in the name of Sabah History to get the facts straight for public interest.

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