Friday, August 25, 2006


Allan Dumbong
Below is an opinion published in daily Express on Sunday 20/8/2006. It basically discussed about the origin of the Kadazandusuns of Sabah. I don't say that I agree or disagree with the writer. However, I take this discussion positively as it discussed about the need to have more research and archeological exploration of the heritage of Borneons. I invite readers to read the following opinion again, and, urge them to go beyond political polemics, but to go deeper into the anthropological dimension of the issue.

Ample proof Dusuns and Muruts original settlers

I WRITE in response to "Accept We're Rojak But Work Together" by Majapahit Era (Forum 13.08.06). I feel I am not in confirmation with him as to who were the original indigenous inhabitants of Sabah, which the writer claimed were the Muruts.
To answer this, I first pose the question of how animals such as the Orang Utans, elephants, rhinoceros, leopards, and others, which cannot fly, happened to be here when all along we have been completely surrounded by deep waters.
I would have agreed if you had mentioned that the Negritos were the first humans on Borneo, but eventually became extinct due to unforeseen circumstances. But Charles Hose and William McDougall the authors of The Pagan Tribes of Borneo, had this to say;
"Its highly probable that at a remote period Negritos lived in Borneo; but at the present time there exist no Negrito community and no distinct traces of the race, whether in the form of fossil remains or of physical characters of the present population,"
Further and far from what we might wish in our present day Borneo, the Majapahit Era had been a dark period in the history of South-east Asia, where no human rights existed as far as North Borneo was concerned. It was reported in Pagan Tribes of Borneo that:
"The northern end of Borneo had long been a hunting-ground for slaves for the nobles of Brunei and Sulu, whose Sultans claimed but did not exercise the right to rule over it."
The poor people were then enslaved, terrorised, plundered and even killed at their whims and fancy.
Charles Hose and William McDougall in the last part of the 20th century, that during their stay in Sarawak as Civil Officers for 24 years made intensive studies on the people of Borneo, which was before then called Pulau Klematan.
They categorised the inhabitants of Borneo (excluding the Malay groups), into six principal groups: (1) Sea Dayaks or Ibans, (2) the Kayans, (3) Kenyahs, (4) Klemantans, (5) Muruts, (6) Punans.
Under each grouping were sub-groups and the authors, thus, classed the Muruts:-
"Besides those who call themselves Muruts, we class under the same general name several tribes which we regard as closely allied to them; namely, the Adangs in the head of the Limbang; the Kalabits about the head of the Baram; the Sabans and Kerayans at the head of the Kerayan river; the Libuns; the Lepu Asings at the head of the Bahau; Tagals and Dusuns in the most northerly part; the Trings of the Barau and Balungan rivers on the east."
The people of Sabah were then generally grouped under "Murut" for their purpose of study, which consisted of Muruts, Dusuns and Tagals as it was recorded. However, some of the Dusuns had earlier contact with Chinese immigrants in agricultural implements as written:
"The plough is unknown save to the Dusuns, a branch of the Murut people in North Borneo, who have learnt its use from Chinese immigrants. The Kalabits and some of the coastwise Klemantans who live in alluvial areas have learnt, probably through intercourse with the Philippine Islanders or the inhabitants of Indo-China, to prepare the land for the padi seed by leading buffaloes to and fro across it while it lies covered with water."
The Dusun people practised the same culture with their Murut counterparts, and similarly only dressed in loincloths and most of the man brandished tatus (tattoes) on their arms and bodies.
"(B) Dusun - The men only tatu (tattoo). The design is simple, consisting of a band, two inches broad, curving from each shoulder and meeting its fellow on the abdomen, thence each band diverges to the hip and there ends; from the shoulder each band runs down the upper arm on its exterior aspect; the flexor surface of the forearm is decorated with short transverse stripes, and, according to one authority, each stripe marks an enemy slain [7, p. 90]. This form of tatu is found chiefly amongst the Idaan group of Dusuns; according to Whitehead [11, p. 106] the Dusuns living on the slopes of Mount Kina Balu tatu no more than the parallel transverse stripes on the forearm, but in this case no reference is made to the significance of the stripes as a head-tally. The Dusun women apparently do not tatu."
The authors seemed also to suggest that the Muruts and Tagals of North Borneo were immigrants from the Philippines.
"In the Philippine Islands a system of agriculture similar to that of the Muruts is widely practised; and some of the tribes, though their culture has been largely influenced by Spanish civilisation, seem to be of the same stock as the Muruts; thus the Tagals of Borneo are not improbably a section of the people known as Tagalas in the Philippines, and the Bisayas of Borneo probably bear the same relation to the Visayas of the Philippines."
Even then at the present day, there were also close similarities even with the people of Borneo and the people of the Amazon basins. Even, however hard we think otherwise I will always say that the Muruts and the Dusuns had all along been the inhabitant of Sabah for thousands of years.
Unlike the others who were advanced in boat-making, the Dusuns and Muruts were lacking in such technology, which could bring them to far away places. There was only one probability that they and the others in Borneo, along with the Orang Utans, elephants and other animals had their original places inundated by rising tides, marooned and cut off from the mainland, similarly with what had happened to the inhabitants of the many island nations around us several thousand years ago.
Thus, it appears that before the arrival of the Europeans, the Muruts and Dusuns had been living together in Sabah with identical cultures and livelihoods. How they come about on the island of Borneo are for us to ponder. There had been trials and tribulations, and hardships to survive in the harsh tropical rainforest amongst the wild animals of Borneo without which survival of its people could not have been achieved. There are tales and folklores that tell us of our origins and that we are the people of the land.
As for the future of the original people of Sabah, it lies completely on their hands. It is not the elements, the rugged nature of the land, the wild creatures and the thick forest nor the sea that bother them now but the unforeseen circumstances.
It was always mentioned that the colonialists had created most of the problems that we face today. They had been here for nearly a century. They left behind the original people deprived of higher education when our counterparts in West Malaysia had colleges even in their early years of occupying that land.
That is why the natives in Sabah were illiterate. How can one expect the natives to excel in economy and administration then. Even after Malaysia was formed, the higher echelons in the public offices were taken by the educated ones, which for the most part were non-natives and non-Sabahans.
I have a few lingering memories of the colonial era. I had been already in primary school and remembered given a badge with the Queen's picture and the anthem we sang when raising the Union Jack.
At one time my father brought me along to Tanjung Aru Beach to witness the visit of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. The sea was lined with big and small ships decorated with small colourful flags around it. The crowd was huge and I could feel the heat of the pavement under the soles of my feet.
With the formation of Malaysia, there seemed to be a general feeling of satisfaction. It injected new spirit of revival to the young and old alike, but after 43 years of independence, I feel it has an unremunerated sense of well-being that does not fit to the aura of 1963.
The leaders left behind only taints of mismanagement and unhappiness with illegals at every corner.
Perhaps Majapahit Era have no other thing in mind, except the subjugation of someone else's pride, wanting to guard self-interests. We in Sabah should take pride in that a Human Rights Commission was incepted not too long ago in Malaysia, and it is high time that a situation such as ours should have permanent solution.
The facts are out there and the situation warrants the Human Rights Commission to present all its findings and recommendations to the Prime Minister. That is what a Commission is for.
Self-interests make the State and its people poor, especially the rural communities, as the saying goes "money is the root of all evil".
The People, KK

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