The Kadazan-Dusun-Murut (KDM) communities made history in the 2020 Sabah state general election as for the first time in the history of Sabah, they have two Deputy Chief Ministers – STAR president, Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan and PBS Vice-President Joachim Gunsalam.
But whether this is good only for Jeffrey and Joachim or also good for the million-strong KDM communities, only time will tell.
But it has not been a good start for the KDM communities.
This is why the DAP Assembly woman for Kepayan Jannie Lasimbang had cried foul over the dismissal of Sabah community leaders and said that the termination of the services of native chiefs will cripple the Native Court system.
The dismissal was based on a letter, signed by state secretary Safar Untong on Oct 2 and based on a state Cabinet decision the day before.
As a result, all community leaders, including community development chiefs, heads of village community management councils, district chiefs, native chiefs and village heads, have been relieved of their duties.
Jannie said: “This action to terminate all ketua adat (native chiefs) will cripple not only the Native Court system but also all communities in the rural areas.
“It has created unnecessary anxiety and will definitely inconvenience Orang Asal communities, especially those who need to conduct native marriage registrations, engagements, native court cases and arbitration at the village level.”
Lasimbang said it was irresponsible of the newly formed Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) government to interfere in the native court system.
She said any replacement of Orang Asal leaders should respect native law and go through consultation with the native affairs council and the state native affairs department.
This decision is highly questionable because the full Cabinet had not been sworn in at the time of termination and the portfolio responsible for native affairs had not been decided.
The big test whether two KDM Deputy Chief Ministers will benefit only Jeffrey and Joachim but not the KDM communities will be the Keningau Batu Sumpah issue.
This year’s Malaysia Day is unique for two reasons: firstly, Malaysia burst through the 10,000 Covid-19 cases on Malaysia Day as if announcing the advent of the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia; and secondly, the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin conspicuously absented himself from the commemorative event at Keningau Batu Sumpah to endorse the validity and legitimacy of Keningau Batu Sumpah.
Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin was instead in Sibu for another Malaysia Day event where he announced the formation of a Special Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 to discuss outstanding issues pertaining to MA63.
But for the first time in the history of Malaysia on the formation of important committees, the full membership composition was not announced and more than a month later today, the full committee has not been released. This only confirms that the announcement was more a P.R exercise, and that the Prime Minister himself was not serious about it.
Furthermore, Muhyiddin’s absence from the commemorative event at Keningau Batu Sumpah on Malaysia Day although billboards were erected at prominent places to announce the participation of the Prime Minister at the Keningau Batu Sumpah event raises questions about the seriousness of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) and GRS government to uphold the three Batu Sumpah pledges of “Ugama Bebas Dalam Sabah”, “Tanah Tanah dalam Sabah di kuasai oleh Kerajaan Sabah” and “Adat Istiadat anak rayat Sabah dihormatkan dan dipelihara oleh Kerajaan”.
Will the State Cabinet resolve to move a special motion at the first meeting of the new State Assembly to reaffirm the validity and legitimacy of Keningau Batu Sumpah, and even more important, ensure that there will be a motion in the Parliament budget meeting starting on Nov. 2 to endorse the validity and legitimacy of Keningau Batu Sumpah, and that it would be on the agenda of the Special Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963?
As Jeffrey received a memorandum to the Prime Minister on the Keningau Batu Sumpah by the KDM native chiefs at the commemorative event, has this memorandum on Keningau Batu Sumpah been discussed at the Cabinet before it was stricken and immobilized by the Covid-19 pandemic?
For close to half a century, the Keningau Batu Sumpah was largely forgotten whether by national or Sabah leaders, until I visited Keningau in March 2010 together with two DAP MPs, Teo Nie Ching and Lim Lip Eng and the then lone Sabah State Assemblyman Jimmy Wong.
Until then, I had never heard of the Keningau Batu Sumpah because no one ever raised it not even in Parliament by Sabah BN Members of Parliament.
The Keningau Batu Sumpah inscribed the historic guarantees given to Sabahans in the interior for Sabah’s joining in forming Malaysia in 1963 – about freedom of religion, that land will forever be a state matter and customary rights will forever be respected and safeguarded by the government.
After my March 2010 visit to the Keningau Batu Sumpah, it was clear that the solemn pledges laid out in the trinity of rights to Sabahans from the interior in exchange for the formation of Malaysia had not been honoured and fulfilled.
As a result, I became the first Member of Parliament to raise the Keningau Batu Sumpah issue in Parliament, and since then, DAP MPs from Sabah, particularly Jimmy Wong and the late Stephen Wong had consistently raised the issue in Parliament, to be followed by the present Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin and Sandakan MP Vivien Wong.
Sabah DAP also launched a Batu Sumpah Awareness campaign, and Czech writer Milan Kundera’s famous quote “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” was most apt to use during the Batu Sumpah Awareness Campaign.
If having two KDM Deputy Chief Ministers is not to be good for Dr. Jeffrey and Joachim alone but also good for the million-strong KDM communities, then the new Sabah State Assembly should pass a special motion to reaffirm the validity and legitimacy of Keningau Batu Sumpah, and even more important, ensure that a parliamentary motion will be adopted in the Parliament budget meeting starting on Nov. 2 to endorse the validity and legitimacy of Keningau Batu Sumpah, as well as to place it on the agenda of the Special Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963.