Sabah minister defends native rights for those with Chinese roots

Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick speaking to reporters in Kota Kinabalu.

KOTA KINABALU: There is no need for Sabah’s Sino Natives (those with Chinese roots) to apply for native status to enjoy the special rights of natives, said Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick.

He said Sino Natives have long lived alongside the local indigenous people and therefore should be allowed to retain their “Sino heritage.”

Benedick said they can challenge the present laws in court if they felt their rights as natives had been deprived and feared it will cause the loss of their cultural practices.

“The Sabah Sino-KDM association can get a court judgement if they feel the state government’s actions have affected them,” he said.

He felt that Sino Natives have lived the life of natives and practised the culture, language and customs along with their native relatives in the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut ethnic groups.

“For me, they don’t need to apply for the native status,” he said.

The Sino Natives should be allowed to retain their ethnic status of “Chinese” in their birth certificates as it showed they were part of the Peranakan community in Sabah, he said when met by reporters during the Koubasanan dan Raani Tavanus event in conjunction with the Sabah Sino Day last night.

The term Sino Natives refer to those with mixed Chinese-native parentage.

In 1981, Sabah froze the issuance of the Native Certificate in an effort to stop land in Sabah from falling into the hands of non-Sabahans.

The move directly affected Sino Natives as their Chinese roots did not allow them to enjoy native rights, such as handing down native land to their children.

Benedick said they can challenge this in court, including the law that states they can only retain their “Sino” heritage up to three generations.

He said they have to give the Sabah government time to resolve this matter as a bill to amend the Interpretation (Definition of Native) Ordinance, introduced 10 years ago, is still undergoing revision.

“Give the government time to resolve this issue. Be patient. At this point, the status quo remains,” said Benedick.

He said the amendment is now being looked into by the Sabah law and native affairs ministry. He was confident that native rights issues affecting the Sino Natives would be resolved in the near future.