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Ancestors, parents and native status
Published on: Sunday, December 05, 2010
By: Tan Sri Herman Luping
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SINO natives or Sino Kadazans of Sabah are not classified as a race or a separate community in the population census for the State of Sabah. Kadazandusun are, however, classified as a distinct ethnic community of natives and Sino Kadazans are classified as Kadazan.

The legal and indigenous status of Sino-natives in Sabah is defined in Section 2 (The Interpretation and Definition of Native) Cap 64 Act.

This Act was introduced in 1952 by the Colonial Administration.

Section 2(1) (a)(b) describes the native of Sabah; and in Section 2 (1) (b) (1), Sino-natives of Sabah are described as "one at least of whose parents or ancestors is or was a native".

Section 3(1) provides the procedure to obtain the Surat Anak Negeri (Native Certificate) for "any person claiming to be a native may apply to a native court". And the Native courts are given wide powers to grant native status to a Sino-native person who qualifies.

The applicant is issued with a "Surat Anak Negeri" or Native certificate.

Once issued, the holder is deemed a native of Sabah and is entitled to the protection of the Native Court and all the privileges accorded to the natives of the country.

At the recently concluded Legislative Assembly meeting, the Minister of Local Government, Datuk Hajiji Mohd Noor, announced that the Assemblyman of Sri Tanjong, Jimmy Wong was found not qualified as a person to hold the Native Certificate.

He said the Officers Board Committee chaired by the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing had scrutinized the certificate issued to Wong and found that Wong is not qualified to own it.

The Minister also mentioned that the finding has been referred to the KK Native court for cancellation.

Jimmy questioned this finding and said he would seek redress in the civil court.

It is his legal right to do this. He also questioned why there was a contradiction in the Minister's statement when he said that the certificate was "genuine" and yet he was disqualified to hold it.

To me there is no contradiction. The certificate is genuine, meaning it is not a forgery, but Wong as the recipient of the certificate is not qualified to have it under the provision of the section quoted above.

That, I think, was what the Minister meant.

There was a spate of native certificates issued to persons who were not qualified to hold them in the past.

This was particularly so in the mid-1970s. They were issued to non-natives from other parts of Malaysia and also from Sabah. Their interest to get the native certificate was to enable them to buy native title lands which were sold cheaply than the Country Leases (CLs). Some of the native chiefs of the native courts in the country were corrupt and they issued "genuine" Native Certificates to persons who were clearly unqualified to hold them.

Not realising the illegality of these native certificates, district officers in other districts were duped to approve the sale and transfer of the native land titles to these persons. When these illegalities were discovered, the State Government stepped in and stopped the issuance of these native certificates.

The ban for the issuance of native certificates is still in force today.

Hajiji also announced that his Ministry is actively looking into the transfer of Native Titles to those who are not qualified and find out the legal solution how to recover the native lands sold to unqualified persons.

This is an urgent exercise and let us hope that Hajiji's Ministry could solve the problem.

Many if not all these native lands bought through the illegal issuance of native certificates have been converted to Country Leases and housing projects have been built on these erstwhile native title lands.

However, those who were issued with the native certificates and who did not qualify to have them could easily be identified and shown as "bogus" natives. None of these people could claim native status from the provision of the section mentioned above. They were motivated by greed to become rich over night.

They should be brought to court and punished for their acts.

The corrupt native chiefs, too, should also be punished.

Their action is an insult to the indigenous community and can also be described as an act of subversion, the act of a traitor to the country and people.

However, there are genuine persons who can clearly claim and are qualified to hold the native certificates. And there are many of these people - Sino natives or Sino-Kadazans.

They are found everywhere in Sabah, but a large concentration of the Sino-Kadazans are found in Penampang and Papar districts as well as in Kuala Penyu.

And the most famous person who is classified as a native is Tun Fuad Stephens.

His grandmother, a Kadazan, was from Limbahau, Papar.

Indeed, when the first political party was formed in Sabah in 1961, the United National Kadazan Organisation (Unko) a third of the office bearers were Sino-Kadazans, starting with Tun (then Datuk Donald) Fuad Stephens as the President, Lim Hong Ghee ( mother Kadazan from Kg Lungab, Penampang, the treasurer; Datuk Richard Yap (mother Kadazan) from Kg Dabak, Penampang as the first Secretary General, Datuk Amadeus Leong (mother Kadazan from Papar) and Ali Bandiong Lim (mother Bajau from Semporna) as committee members. And many more.

In fact, the late Datuk Peter Mojuntin's mother was herself a Sino-Kadazan (mother Kadazan, father, Chinese) as was my own mother, also a Sino-Kadazan as her father was a Chinese and her mother a Kadazan from Penampang Proper.

When Unko and Pasok Momogun merged in April 1964 to form the United Pasok Momogun Kadazan Organisation (Upko), nearly a third of the Supreme Council members were also Sino-Kadazan or Sino-natives.

Indeed, many have Chinese forbears.

Jimmy asked what was the KDCA stands on the issue of Sino-Kadazans or Sino-Natives.

I do not qualify to answer for the KDCA as I not one of the office bearers, but I think the answer is obvious: KDCA also welcomes Sino-Kadazans or Sino-Natives as one of them.

I am sure the constitution of the KDCA also mentions that Sino-Kadazans or Sino-Natives have a place in the organization. As I mentioned earlier, the erstwhile political party, Unko and later, Upko had a clause to allow Sino-natives or persons with Kadazan forbears to become full members.

Who can qualify to hold these native certificates?

The provision contained in the section quoted above is clear about who can qualify. Section 2, (1) (b) (1) describes that Sino-natives are "one at least of whose parents or ancestors is or was a native".

From this provision, the important words are "parents" and "ancestors".

Let us illustrate this provision as an example:

A Kadazan woman, named Tati Basalik married a Chinese person. Their children qualify to be issued with native certificates.

Tati is the first generation of Kadazan, also known as the first level Kadazan and the children are the second generation or second level.

One of Tati Basalik's children (named Sarah) is a female and herself married a Chinese person.

Sarah's children too can qualify as sino-natives.

Sarah's children are the grandchildren of Tati Basalik and they are the third generation of Kadazan or third level.

One of Sarah's children is a female, called Helen. She also married a pure Chinese.

From the definition of sino-natives provided in the above quoted section, Helen's children, too, qualify to hold the native certificates.

Helen's children are fourth generation Kadazan or fourth level.

They are the great great grandchildren of Tati Basalik.

There seems to be no cut off point for Tati Baslik's descendants who could qualify as sino-natives.

She has become the "ancestor" by definition.

The progression could continue "ad infinitum" , even down to her 10th generation or more.

Neither is there a residential qualification in the Act.

Tati Basalik's descendants can be born anywhere in the world, as long as they can identify their connection to Tati Basalik. There is also no language requirement for her descendants to be able to speak Kadazan. If there is a language requirement today, many, if not most of the present genuine young Kadazan would not qualify as they do not speak their mother tongue-Kadazan-anymore!

As the provision for the definition of sino-natives stands, Tati Basalik's descendants can claim native status because of the word "ancestor".

I believe residential and language requirements were needed originally but this provision was repealed or cancelled. In any case, we should welcome any one whose "parents or ancestors" are natives to have a native status too.

It is his right and not a privilege.

Perhaps we can borrow from the Maoris of New Zealands experience concerning qualification as a native Maori. In New Zealand, any Maori whose claim to being a Maori is just a tiny bit of Maori blood, can qualify as a Maori and hence native of New Zealand. It is his right to claim a Maori status or not.

We have not yet come to this, however. Except, it seems at present the law allows for an "ad infinitum" progression of claimants to qualify for a native status, once it is established that there is an ancestor some where and some time in his/her lineage, going back to the Nunuk Ragang days even, it seems!

However, there is a silver lining for all of us in the very near future.

The time may come when racial origins might not be important any more when the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib's latest suggestion for a direct membership to the BN party becomes a reality.

If this move is actually acted upon, it would probably allow for the creation of a new party for the people of Malaysia of all races and creed, and perhaps then our government can be truly described as a government " by the people, for the people".

Then there is no need for a sino-native certificate anymore!


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