I never said it, declares Sabah minister as ‘native’ row heats up

Sabah Minister Aidi Moktar has received brickbats over the alleged call to recognise the Bugis and Javanese community as natives.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Aidi Moktar has denied saying the state government will recognise the Bugis and Javanese as natives of the state.

Aidi, who is under fire for allegedly making the proposal, said it is up to the Sabah government to decide whether to accept these two communities as natives or not.

“I never said that the government will recognise the two ethnic groups.

“That will be left to the state government to discuss,” he said in a statement today to clarify a speech he made when handing over appointment letters to Tawau district native chiefs on Friday.

Aidi said he had told the gathering that there was a problem concerning Bugis and Javanese as they were not included in the native category.

He said this had forced the state government to suspend Bugis or Javanese as native chiefs.

“This is a legal issue that is being addressed by the ministry which does not alienate the non-natives,” he said.

Aidi explained that the appointment of non-natives as native chiefs had been suspended temporarily pending their confirmation as natives by the Native Court.

He said there were proposals for certain Bugis and Javanese community leaders to be native district chiefs, but it could not be done as they had to be included in the category.

He said the Native Court could approve their native status under Section 2D of the Native Interpretation Ordinance with special conditions attached.

“I told the people to wait until all the issues are resolved by the Native Court before the issue of district native chiefs from the Bugis and Javanese communities is resolved,” he said.

His statement drew brickbats from native and opposition leaders.

Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan said that under the Federal Constitution, a native is “a person who is a citizen, is the child or grandchild of a person of a race indigenous to Sabah, and was born (whether on or after Malaysia Day or not) either in Sabah or to a father domiciled in Sabah at the time of the birth”.

“The critical phrase in the definition is ‘a person of a race indigenous to Sabah’.

“Since the Bugis and Javanese are not indigenous to Sabah, they cannot be considered natives,” he said.

The proposal also left the Sabah Sino Kadazan Dusun Murut (Sino-KDM) Association fuming, especially because the Sino-KDM people have been waiting for years to get themselves recognised as natives of Sabah.

The ruling Warisan has, however, distanced itself from the statement, with the party’s secretary-general Loretto Padua saying Aidi was only giving his personal opinion.

Padua said that while Aidi was free to express his personal views, the issue was never discussed at the party level.