Who’s a Sabah native? Decision still long way off, says deputy CM

Deputy Chief Minister Madius Tangau (centre) officiating the Symposium on the Origin of the Indigenous People of Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is not in a rush to amend the Interpretation (Definition of Native) Ordinance despite the issue being pushed by several groups for some time now.

Speaking to reporters after opening the Symposium on the Origin of the Indigenous People of Sabah at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah today, Deputy Chief Minister Madius Tangau said the state government prefers to gather comprehensive input from all groups before deciding on such a delicate matter.

“The symposium today is one such platform where we hope to gather information that would help us formulate the amendment to the ordinance,” he said.

He admitted that the amendment to the ordinance had been put on hold for far too long, but the state government is still not ready to table the proposed amendment in the coming sitting in November.

Tangau, who is also the industrial development minister, said the time may not be right to table the proposed amendment as the government lacks comprehensive information on the issue.

“The symposium today could provide us with better views, thanks to the scientific research done by academics. I think we need more studies before we can determine who are the real natives of Sabah and who are not.”

The question of “who are the natives” in Sabah had long been debated, especially because under the ordinance, only a few ethnic groups were mentioned while the largest groups, namely the Kadazandusun Murut and the Bajaus, were not specifically named.

Previous state governments had deferred amending the 1952 ordinance repeatedly for fear it could divide the multiracial Sabah society.

Earlier this year, Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Aidi Moktar came under fire for proposing that Bugis and Javanese people be made natives of Sabah.

While Bugis and Javanese were considered Bumiputeras under the Federal Constitution, it is generally viewed that Sabah natives were reserved for those indigenous to North Borneo.

Under the state law, Sabah natives have the right to native customary rights (NCR) land and enjoy the privilege of applying for native titled (NT) lands.