Sabah’s natives speak for 1Malaysia
Unity in diversity: Chief Minister Musa Aman (right) and his deputy Joseph Pairin Kitingan have a lot in common besides the same ancestry.Kadazandusuns and Muruts give substance to unity in diversity
Sabah’s 738,500 indigenous Kadazandusuns and Muruts make up less than 3% of Malaysia’s 28m multi-ethnic population which includes Malays, ethnic Chinese and Indians. But they are the largest native group of 40 ethnics who form a fifth of the north Borneo island state’s 3.5m people. Their yearly Kaamatan or harvest festival is the country’s showcase of unity in diversity that gives meaning to prime minister Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia.
The Kaamatan now takes its turn on the calendar of national “open houses” to foster unity among Malaysians by celebrating one another’s cultural and religious festivals such as Chinese New Year, Ramadan and Christmas.
A feeling of oneness comes naturally to the Kadazandusuns, Muruts and other Sabahans because intermarriages and social interactions have transcended all cultural and religious boundaries. Even Sabah chief minister Musa Aman, a Muslim, is descended from the Kadazandusuns who are mostly Roman Catholics.
Thus “cultural diversity, foundation of harmony” is most apt for this year’s month-long Kaamatan which culminated into two days of cultural carnival from May 30 at the Hongkod Koisaan hall of the Kadazandusun Cultural Association in Penampang, about 10km from Kota Kinabalu city centre.
Bullseye: Sabah is on target to bring wealth to the rural poor.It was more than a celebration of a bountiful rice harvest for the traditional farming natives. “It is also a time for thanksgiving to God,” said Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Huguan Siou (paramount leader) of the Kadazandusuns and Muruts.
Be thankful to Musa AmanMr Kitingan, who is deputy chief minister, told 30,000 revellers that Sabahans had every reason to thank their chief minister Musa Aman for the wealth that they were enjoying despite a global recession.
Mr Musa has bolstered the state economy through grit and innovation. While the nation suffered two quarters of negative growth last year, resource-rich Sabah chalked up growth of 4.5%. The state is cash-rich with 2 billion ringgit in reserves. Billions of ringgit of state and federal funds have been spent on infrastructure and state industries, spurring private business and creating thousands of jobs.
“Businesses are booming and more jobs are being created,” said Mr Kitingan who added that Mr Musa had set the stage for Sabahans to earn higher income under Mr Najib’s new economic model.
He said Mr Musa had also been working very hard to wipe out extreme poverty through various innovative economic and welfare programmes to raise incomes of native villagers. They have been given land to grow export crops such as oil palms and rubber, food crops such as rice and fruit, rear goats and cattle for meat and milk under agriculture schemes such as the mini-estates (Mesej) and “agropolitan”. They are given low-cost housing, microfinancing to set up cottage business and vocational skills training.
Recently, Mr Musa displayed a stroke of genius by giving thousands of very poor Kadazandusun and Murut villagers in Nabawan thousands of hectares of agriculture land under a communal title, the first in Malaysia, to grow oil palms in a scheme to be managed by the Sabah Land Development Board. This will give them a good income for many years, taking them out of poverty. They cannot sell the land but their heirs can inherit it for the length of its lease.
Mr Kitingan said that Mr Musa, as chairman of the state security council, had ensured that Sabahans could live, work and interact with one another in peace, harmony and unity which had become the cornerstone of Mr Najib’s 1Malaysia.
“Let us be thankful and mindful of the many blessings that we have received and for which we sometimes take for granted,” Mr Kitingan said, noting that Mr Musa had given an extra 128,000 ringgit to the Kaamatan organisers to pay for a bigger celebration this year.