Fight for rights of Sabah’s indigenous people will not stop, says Pairin

Huguan Siou Joseph Pairin Kitingan (5th left) together with other leaders at the Indigenous Walk event in Penampang, Sabah, today

KOTA KINABALU: Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) paramount leader or Huguan Siou Joseph Pairin Kitingan today urged Sabah’s indigenous people to continue to defend their native rights.

On his part, he said, together with other KDM leaders, he would continue to be the bridge between them and the relevant authorities to ensure their voices are heard.

“The fight for Indigenous peoples’ rights is a hot topic and will not stop. It is not right to say though that none of our problems have been resolved. Some of our issues have been attended to but there are still many problems which the people are not satisfied with.

“As long as these problems are not settled, we need to continue working to ensure we get what we want,” he said at the inaugural Indigenous Walk here today.

Kitingan, a former chief minister of Sabah, said the event was to highlight the indigenous peoples’ 12 demands and that memorandums would be presented to the Sabah State Legislative Assembly, the Parliament and the United Nations.

Joseph Pairin Kitingan.

The 12 demands are: protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, cleaning the electoral rolls, increasing security and border control, stopping any activity that gives documents to illegal immigrants, ensuring the native court is free from political influence, correcting Sabah’s historical narrative in the education system, leaving native customary rights lands as they are, stopping attacks on indigenous peoples’ rights activists and defenders, implementing Borneonisation, fairly distributing natural resources to the indigenous people, ensuring enough job opportunities for the indigenous people and ensuring the government has integrity and is free from corruption.

Kitingan said many indigenous peoples were still ignorant about their special rights as natives of this land, the real role of the Native Court or their rights to claim Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands.

“This could be due to the unclear and incorrect historical ‘facts’ taught to school children. Furthermore, the natives of Sabah find themselves thrown into a survival game because of the influx of migrants which resulted in a change of demography.

“Because our number is getting smaller compared with these migrants, our economic and political power has also decreased. This happened especially because these new residents were given citizenship, allegedly because it was their rights as human beings,” he said.

Sadly, Kitingan said, the younger indigenous people were eventually forced to leave their own land to secure better opportunities and jobs.

As a result, he said, the NCR lands which their ancestors used to occupy and work on were abandoned and this created opportunities for outsiders to grab the indigenous peoples’ rights.

“However, we are still thankful, and rightly feel proud that there are still many among the indigenous people who continue to fight to ensure these rights are not taken away from our future generations.

“There is still hope and I wish our voice today will wake the government of the day to consider our rights as natives of this land as they have promised,” he said.

Among those who attended the event were Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan, Kimanis MP Anifah Aman, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) secretary-general Jahid Jahim, PBS information chief Joniston Bangkuai, Sabah Reform Coalition president Wilfred Bumburing and representatives from various indigenous people groups.