KOTA KINABALU: Newly sworn-in International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking turned heads when he donned the traditional Kadazan headgear at today’s swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers.
However, he said the headgear was not a religious symbol and he merely wanted to show Malaysians that he was from Sabah.
“I wore the headgear or ‘siga’ to affirm that we are from Sabah and it has nothing to do with religion or anything. It also represents my ethnicity,” he told FMT in a telephone interview after the swearing-in ceremony.
“It (headgear) has to do with a lot of beautiful people of Sabah and it is also one of the many traditional headgears in the federation of Malaysia.”
The Penampang MP said he was grateful to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for giving him an important portfolio, adding he was raring to start work.
“I will be clocking-in tomorrow (and) I’ve been in touch with the ministry before this anyway. I’ll probably go into details once I get a full briefing,” Leiking said.
“I feel good we have a big role to play in this ministry. I will be representing Warisan in the Federal cabinet and we will try to do the best for the federation of Malaysia.”
Sabahans took to social media to express their happiness after seeing Leiking wearing the traditional headgear, a proud culture of the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) community, during the swearing-in ceremony shown live on television earlier today.
Sabah education and innovation assistant minister Jenifer Lasimbang was one of the well-wishers who congratulated Leiking in her native tongue, Kadazan.
“Kounsikaan doid diau (congratulations) YB Darell Leiking on your appointment as the minister of international trade and industry. Noikot vinasi (all the best),” said Lasimbang, who is also the Moyog assemblywoman.
Another social media user, Anthony Dylan, said: “Darell Leiking makes Sabahans proud with the headgear. Similarly what M Kulasegaran and Gobind (Singh Deo) did,” he said, referring to the two ministers who also wore their traditional headgear during the swearing-in ceremony in May.
Anna Mariana Lee Kimjun said she couldn’t help but feel emotional when she saw Leiking taking his oath while wearing the headgear.
“I can’t believe (it)… I’m crying (while) watching the ceremony,” she said.
Other than Leiking, Warisan’s permanent chairman VK Liew and Mohamadin Ketapi also took their oaths as the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and tourism and culture minister, respectively.
Warisan’s youth leaders Azis Jamman and Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis were also sworn in as the deputy home minister and energy, green technology, science, and climate change deputy minister, respectively.
Leiking, who had called for more representation from Borneo in the federal Cabinet, said he was glad Sabahans were given important positions.
“I am happy that we are given the trust (to lead) and so now, the focus is to build the nation,” he said.
Leiking said Azis would be able to look into the many immigration issues in Sabah, including illegal immigrants, while Munirah could look at energy woes, among others.
“If we are successful, then people will not look at us as Sabahans or Sarawakians but rather people who are capable of doing the job,” Leiking said.