BROADER IDENTITIES IN THE SABAHAN ETHNIC LANDSCAPE: "INDIGENOUS" AND "SABAHAN".
With more than 100 ethnic including sub-ethnic groups and a rate of intermarriage said to be four times the national average (Pue & Sulaiman 2013), a distinctive multicultural society has emerged in Sabah. In the fluid ethnic landscape of Sabah, the admixture of identities and the resulting high level of cultural and religious tolerance are often cited as what epitomize Sabahan identity and being Sabahan. However, illegal immigrants (also called Pendatang Tanpa Izin (PT1) in the census)--now the largest grouping of any kind in Sabah--are not fully accepted as "Sabahan" by other Sabahans, although they have become part and parcel of the local-migrant Sabahan population. For Indigenous groups (hereafter called "North Bornean Indigenous groups"), the matter of who can truly be called a "Sabahan" is pressing and doubly so given that indigenous identity is undermined by state laws that allow both Indigenous groups and non-Indigenous groups (auchthonous groups to the region, primarily referring to the Malays and Muslim groups from the Philippines and Indonesia) to claim rights under the "Sabah Native" and bumiputera (overall status as Natives in Malaysia) provisions. The situation of North Bornean Indigenes in this instance raises the question of whether they will seek to promote their broader identity as "Sabahan" at the expense of their indigeneity.
In this paper, I will discuss responses towards the changing Sabahan ethnic landscape using the case of Sabahan Kadazans, who are comprised of mixed identities mainly of Indigenous and Chinese descent. While anti-PTI and anti-Malayanization sentiments abound and can prevent a more inclusive Sabahan identity from forming, they also stop Kadazans from becoming fully subsumed under the more dominant Malay grouping. However, a 'softly' (1) approach among Kadazans, different from their leaders, is apparent and this, too, is helping to establish Indigenous presence in Sabah, while mitigating Indigenes' desire to retain both forms of broader identities as Indigenous and Sabahan. I begin this paper with a description of the overall ethnic landscape in Sabah and discuss the shifting notions of indigeneity and Sabahan identity in relation to the PTIs, a group that is heavily associated with Malay identity. The purpose of this paper is to show that roader identities are influential in informing ethnic identity among Sabahans today. (2)
Sabah's Ethnic Situation
Sabah joined the Malaysian confederacy in 1963; the same year it gained independence from the British, who colonized Sabah or then North Borneo beginning in the 1880s. Prior to British rule, Sabah was under the influence of the Brunei and Sulu sultanates (the latter centered in the Sulu Archipelago of the Philippines) in the 17th and 18th century, respectively. Owing to this history, people from Sulu called Tausug or Suluk, locally, consider Sabah as being part of their homeland. (3) Sabah is also home to other migrants who came through past British recruitment of laborers, such as Cocos Islanders, Filipinos (from northern Luzon), Javanese and Bugis from Sulawesi (Human Relations Area Files 1956; Ito 2002; Ito 2004). Under the British, 56 per cent of those employed in rubber estates and timber industries were from Indigenous populations, while 26.5 per cent were Chinese, 7.5 per cent were Javanese and 10 per cent came from other ethnic groups (Human Relations Area Files, 1956: 166). The colonial government also recruited Sikhs from India to form the constabulary (Singh 2000: 158-9), and their descendants have heavily intermarried with other Sabahan groups. Today, there is a sizeable Korean community in Sabah with Korean expatriates working in the booming engineering, oil (petroleum) and natural gas sectors. (4) Migrants to Sabah continue to come predominantly from Asian countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Japan. There are also Anglo-Europeans residing in Sabah and who have married locals; some are descendants of former colonial officers.
Intermarriage is commonplace in Sabah. For instance, among the indigenous Paitan group of the central northeastern parts of Sabah, Muslims, who are descendants of intermarriage between the Paitan and Suluk, self-identify as "Sungai," rather than Paitan (Singh 2000: 15-6). Similarly, the Idaan grouping in Lahad Datu town and district on the east coast of Sabah identify mainly as Begak, if they are Muslim, or, if they are non-Muslim, as Idaan (Harrisson & Harrisson 1971; Gourdswaard 2005.) Meanwhile, there are many groups that intermarry with the Chinese. The latter came to Sabah in relatively large numbers during the sultanate and colonial period. The best-known example of intermarriage between the Chinese and the Indigenes are the Sino-Kadazans from the west coast. Chinese presence in Sabah has been dated back to the spice trade era: an old Chinese settlement in the Kinabatangan area (east-central Sabah) was excavated along with Chinese ceramics from the Sung dynasty (960-1280) (Rutter 1929: 8; Human Relations Area Files 1956).
From an anthropological point of view, Sabahans can be divided into three different groups based on their indigenous belonging to the island of Borneo, specifically North Borneo. Appell and Harrison (1969) stated that only groups of Bornean stock are 'Indigenous' and, in the census, this typically refers to groups belonging under Other Indigenous, Kadazandusun and Murut. Groups which originate from elsewhere in the wider Malay Archipelago, such as the Bajau and Malay groups, are viewed as separate from the the Indigenous groups (Appell & Harrison 1969). The Bajau grouping in Sabah is divided culturally and linguistically into two major groups, that is, West Coast Bajau and East Coast Bajau, with the latter being more closely related to Southern and Central Sama in the southern Philippines than to West Coast Bajau (Sather 1997). Similarly, the Malay grouping in the Sabahan census typically refers to groups like the Bugis from Indonesia; the Malays from the Malaysian Peninsula; and Malays or "Brunei" from the adjacent country of Brunei. In the census, non-Bornean groups such as the Chinese, Indian and those that come under "Other" represent another population type in Sabah.
However, Sabah's plethora of groups from various cultural and religious backgrounds is not listed explicitly in the census. Instead, in the 2010 population census (see Table I), there are nine broad groupings that represent the Sabahan population, which act as broad categorical descriptors of groups that the government views as being culturally related. For instance, when used in the Sabahan and Malaysian censuses, "Bajau" refers to a large category of Philippine-origin groups, which includes Bajau, Suluk (or Tausug), Iranun and other groups. Mixed-ethnic groups, on the other hand, are not represented in the census: as the state expects Malaysians to identify with one single ethnic identity. At the time of birth, inter-ethnic couples would have registered their newborns following the ethnicity of either parent. Thus, members of groups such as the Sino-Kadazan may call themselves "Sino-Kadazan" or "Sino" (local abbreviation), but come to figure officially as being either 'Chinese' or 'Kadazan' in the census, because in their identity documents, such as in their birth certificate and Malaysian Identity Card, this is the ethnic identity that is stated. However, the category of "Other" is ambiguous as to the kinds of ethnic groups that can figure under this category. Prior to 2010, Indians in Sabah were listed as "Other" in the census.
Further, while Sabahan groups may refer to their categorical identities per the census, the reader should note that they often reconfigure themselves differently on the ground owing to political, religious or cultural sentiment. For instance, while the groupings of "Other Indigenous," "Kadazandusun," and "Murut" are separate in the census, a list produced by the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) states that there are 40 groups, including Kadazan, Dusun, Murut and other Indigenous groups that are recognized as being "Kadazandusun." (5) Meanwhile descendants of Kadazandusun and Bajau people, for instance, may officially be either "Kadazandusun" or "Bajau," but affiliate more with one or the other, whether politically or culturally. Similarly, Kadazandusuns who are Muslims or convert to Islam may tend to use the "Malay" ethnic label, as this is indicative of Muslim identity, but those who are more politically inclined towards being Kadazandusun typically seek to mute their religious identity. Kadazandusun is the canonical grouping for those North Bornean Indigenous groups that were traditionally pagan in the past. Many of the members within these groups, however, have become Christians since missionizing occurred during British colonial rule, with some converting to Islam in both the past and present.
Given the large body of migrants in Sabah after Independence, what has been missing from the census data is a category of "Sabah Inland Foreigner," which the Immigration authorities keep a count of but otherwise do not make known to the public. This category comprises migrants who possess valid but temporary paperwork (whether work visa-related or bridging visas for permanent residency; or citizenship application) that requires ongoing approvals from the Sabahan and federal governments (Ong et al 2014). The official census also does not indicate statelessness. At present, the Sabahan state recognizes only recently arrived Bajau Laut, who are seafarers along Sabah's east coast, as being stateless. Acciaioli, Brunt, & Clifton (2017) describe these Bajau Laut as "irregular migrants" in that they periodically pass back and forth across the international border between Sabah and the southern Philippines, their citizenship thus being otherwise undetermined. After independence, through the 1970s, Bajau Laut entering Sabah, rather than being classed as stateless, could, and often did, claim "refugee" status (see Sather 1997:87-9). Street children in Sabah are also sometimes classed as being stateless rather than illegal, but locals and local authorities are incline to regard these children as being part of the illegal immigrant population (Allerton 2017).
In the current Sabahan census, like the "Other" category, the category of illegal immigrants, or "Pendatang Tanpa Izin" (PTI), does not indicate the PTIs' ethnicity. Note that PTI is a legal definition of foreigners or migrants who, at the time of being apprehended by the authorities, did not possess proper identification documents such as Malaysian Identity Cards (hereafter "IC"); or could not produce valid visas or work permits. In the census, PTIs are currently the largest grouping in Sabah at close to 30% of the overall Sabahan population. Sabah currently has an estimated population of 3.89 million people (2018 estimate) (6) compared to 929,999 in 1960. (7) The exponential increase in the Sabahan population is often attributed to mass emigration from the Philippines and Indonesia, from where PTIs mainly come. In this respect, it is important to note that given massive numbers of PTIs in Sabah and the porosity of Sabah's borders, official statistics may only show the numbers of apprehended PTIs. Based on year 2000 statistics and research, the actual configuration of PTIs in a given scenario looks like the following: among migrants, 614,824 or 40 per cent were apprehended or processed PTIs, while 20 per cent were foreign nationals possessing a legitimate working visa. The remaining 40 per cent of migrants are unknown (unapprehended and thus unprocessed) PTIs, and this includes their dependents, that is, their children and elderly (Kassim, 2004: 6-7).
Name of group Number of Percentage population (+/-) PTI 889,779 27.7% Other 659,856 20.5% Indigenous Kadazandusun 568,575 17.7% Bajau 450,279 14% Chinese 295,674 9.2% Malay 184,197 5.7% Murut 102,393 3.2% Other 48,527 1.5% Indian 7.453 0.2%
PTIs' strategies for passing as Sabahan
As most PTIs come from the Philippines and Indonesia, PTIs share strong physical and cultural similarities to the local population, becoming 'invisible' among Sabahans. While many PTIs are susceptible to changing their identity to a localized one in order to mask their illegal entry into Sabah, it should be noted that PTIs can also identify as being members of the same ethnic group as Sabahan citizens, for instance, a Bugis PTI working in the oil palm sector can identify as 'Bugis' just as a Sabah Bugis taxi driver would. Similarly, while maritime borders are recent, groups like the Bajau have been moving between Sabah, the Philippines and Indonesia for centuries. Locals may thus face a challenge in distinguishing PTIs from locals, especially if the former have acquired the local language, culture and assumed localized identities and appearances. It is quite common, for instance, to hear locals lumping PTIs as either being "Filipino" (Pilipin, derogatory) or "Indonesian" (Indon).
It is important to note therefore that not all migrants in Sabah are deemed illegal by nature of their initial entry into Sabah. Earlier arriving migrants through British labor recruitment schemes typically sought Malaysian citizenship at the time of Independence, and are considered locals in society. While asylum seekers who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s fleeing civil war in the Philippines were subsequently absorbed into Sabahan society and became Malaysian citizens, so that they and their descendants are generally not considered as PTI. It was only when the term PTI first became prominent after 1989 that the local Sabahan public began to view some migrants as being PTIs, that is, when the Sabahan government began to distinguish economic from political refugees and heavily restrict immigration into Sabah. Note that the term PTI thus refer explicitly to individuals' illegal entry and status in Sabah and does not refer to individuals borne of Malaysians and/or foreigners, whose nationality remains unresolved owing to discrepancies in their paperwork.
PTIs have become the backbone of the Sabahan economy Sabah's dependence on foreign labor. Present Filipino and Chinese laborers from China work mainly in construction, while the palm oil and agricultural industries continue to attract Indonesian laborers. Sabah's acreage for plantations expanded by almost 50 times from 50,000 acres in 1963 to 2.3 million acres in 2002. It is estimated that at the present time, for palm oil plantations alone, at least 180,000 workers are needed on the basis of one worker per 13 acres of plantation. Given this, huge numbers of workers are needed, and the labor opportunity is a strong pull-factor for PTIs. The current ratio of local to foreign workers is 30:70, with only around 20 per cent of foreign workers (or one out of five) holding legal work permits. Migrant workers tend to perform the labor-intensive tasks of pruning and harvesting, while locals tend to shun this heavier manual work for tasks in the refinery or the lighter tasks of weeding and fertilizing. By employing PTIs, employers thus avoid having to pay for foreign workers' levies (Gatidis 2004). Elsewhere, locals also hire PTIs to perform menial jobs, such as cleaning and helping in restaurants; PTIs are also hired as domestic helpers and carers of their young children and the elderly.
However, it is the PTIs' "legal invisibility" where the IC--issued by the National Registration Department only to bona fide citizens--has been found in the hands of thousands of PTIs that causes local Sabahans' grave concern not only in terms of political stability and Sabah's sovereignty. PTI informants say that fake ICs are mainly sold on the black market but there are also locals who adopt PTIs in exchange for cash, and relatives of deceased Sabahans also sell the deceased's paperwork, including ICs, to PTIs on the black market. Birth certificates are also found issued to "citizens" by government officials, such as village heads, who may have forged these documents in exchange for money. Apart from ICs and birth certificates, there are other documents that are issued by Malaysian authorities that have been abused, such as the Kad Burung-Burung (literal translation: 'Bird Cards' owing to the logo resembling a bird) (8) and 'IMM13' (a social visit pass issued for Filipino refugees in Sabah in the 1970s and 1980s that provides the holder with work rights). (9) To date, "tens of thousands" of IMM13 holders are reported to have received permanent residency in Malaysia, although the identities of the holders are dubious (Chong 2009). (10) All these documents, and others not mention here therefore enable PTIs to move freely within Sabah without being detected by the authorities.
The current issues with identity theft and forgery involving PTIs have yet to be fully resolved. A "Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the PTIs in Sabah" initiated in 2012 reported that while "Projek 1C"--an alleged government program to provide free citizenship to illegal migrants--existed, it was due to corrupt government officials, who were involved in issuing the ICs to illegal immigrants (The 2014 RCI Report). The participation of political parties in offering free ICs in exchange for votes, as believed by many locals, was categorically denied by the RCI committee. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Malaysian government has tightened security measures around the IC by developing a bio-security feature comprising thumbprint identification and a microchip, which has proven effective. Authorities have caught some PTIs who carried ICs (whether stolen or fake) that did not contain the security device above. PTIs now realize that without such ICs, they are prevented from freely moving to other parts of Malaysia, as they are unable to pass the online security checking (passport reader) of the Immigration authorities at airports, for instance.
Locals now fear that the damage is irrevocable, even as the Malaysian and Sabahan governments are constantly criticized for their complicity in allowing the precarious PTI situation to prolong over the past decades. The rampant abuse of official identity documents has weakened the political stability of the Sabahan government with reports that PTIs are being recruited as "phantom voters," and allegedly paid off and/or given identity cards by crooked politicians during election periods--one of the alleged motivations for leaders disbursing IMM13 cards. (11) There is also fear that PTIs are linked to descendants of the former Sulu Sultanate, in the Philippines, who continue to claim Sabah as part of their territory. (12) In 2011, the "crowning" of a Sulu Sultan in Sabah by the name of Datuk Akjan, a Suluk/Tausug local, was reported and police were brought in to investigate, as the incident alarmed the public. (13) In 2013, Suluk terrorists carried out an attack on Sabah's east coast town of Lahad Datu, where more than 200 people were involved and deaths incurred on both sides with loss to military and civilian life. (14) Thus, Sabahan locals fear that there would be an ongoing uprising given the large Suluk population in Sabah, comprising both locals and migrants/PTIs. As the relevant authorities attempt to overcome their shortcomings, new measures are set in place, but a lack of concerted political will is apparent. Since the Suluk attack, the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) was established placing Sabah's borders in the north and east under military control. (15) The monitoring of PTI squatter colonies, illegal activities (vice; drug and cigarette smuggling) and enforcement of identity checking of foreigners (during roadblocks; raids at employers' establishment, such as restaurants and factories) has increased.
Today, given the ongoing intermarriages among groups in Sabah, it is not uncommon for PTIs to intermarry with other PTIs, and also with locals. The blurred lines between ethnic groups, locals or migrants, pose another concern for local groups. These fear that PTIs are gaining access into rights and privileges reserved for Sabah Natives, who also carry distinction as Malaysian Natives in the term bumiputera. This is especially true when PTIs carry ICs that state their identities as being one of the local Native Groups. Typically, government officers only require one to show his/her IC and deducing from the details shown, such as, name, ethnic grouping and/or religion, one is able to open, for instance, an Amanah Saham Berhad (Limited Shares Trust) account that the Malaysian government created just for bumiputera shareholders. One can also apply for jobs in the public sector and scholarships intended for Sabah Natives and bumiputeras.
Shifts in the notion of indigeneity: 'Indigenous' or 'autochthonous'?
It is important to recognize that while bumiputera refers specifically to affirmative action favoring Natives in Malaysia currently, and this includes Sabahan Natives, historically the term was first associated with Peninsula Malays during British rule in the Malay Peninsula, where at the same time, the authorities used an Orang Asli (meaning 'Aboriginal People') category to refer to a collective of 18 Aboriginal groups. However, as Malaysian authorities use bumiputera presently to connote "Indigenous," the indigenous notion attached to Peninsula Malay groups through bumiputera juxtapose sharply against the indigeneity of Orang Asli groups. For according to the widely accepted definitions of Indigenous peoples, Malays would not qualify as such, although they are definitely among the autochthonous peoples of the region. That is, while Indigenous groups typically refer to long residents in a polity that have minority status and have experienced some sort of marginalization or even oppression; autochthonous groups, including majority groups, may only claim precedence as the long-settled local people in a region.
The definition of "Sabah Native" also has a similar overlap in meanings between "indigenous" and "autochthonous." In 1962, the interim governments of the Sabah and Sarawak states had demanded that, as a condition of their joining Malaysia, the status of bumiputera in the Malayan states be extended to Sabah and Sarawak Natives. This became part of the Constitution, which states that in Sabah, bumiputera status may only be awarded to those having the position and privilege of Sabah Native, which is a state-level status "given to a citizen of Sabah who is a child of persons from any of the indigenous groups, but whose father's domicile must be in Sabah at the time of the child's birth" (The Malaysian Constitution, Article 161A 6 (b). (16) However, at the time that Sabah Natives were recognized as such by the British government, they comprised both groups Indigenous to Borneo (that is mainly "North Bornean Indigenes") as well as groups from the wider Malay-Indo-Philippine Archipelago residing in Sabah. The "Sabah Native" definition in its original iteration in the colonial period states that:
The 1952 'Definition of Native', Ordinance Cap 64 of the Sabah Laws states that 'Any person who is ordinarily resident in the colony, is a member of a people Indigenous to Indonesia, or the Sulu group of islands in the Philippines archipelago or the Federation of Malaya or colony of Singapore, has lived as and been a member of a Native community for a continuous period of five years immediately preceding the date of his claim to be a Native, has borne a good character throughout that period and whose stay in the colony is not limited under any of the provisions of the Immigration Ordinance. [Excerpt taken from "Special Position of the Indigenous Race," a paper prepared by the constitutional sub-committee of the Inter-Governmental Committee for Meetings prior to Independence in 1962 (see L.uping 1989: 26).]
Thus, in Sabah, during British rule, the status of Sabah Native was accorded to all ethnic groups, except for groups that do not come from the Malaysian-Indonesian-Philippine Archipelagos, such as the Chinese and the Indians. This meant that groups such as the Bajau and Brunei and Indigenous groups, such as the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut are recognized by the Sabah state government, and hence the Malaysian government, as being "Sabah Native" and bumiputera. This included individuals with mixed or Sino Native ancestry and their descendants who were recognized as "Sabah Native" by the past British government in Sabah. During the colonial period, the Sabah Native Courts awarded the Sijil Anak Negeri (SAN) (Certificate of Native) to Sino-Natives who can prove that a quarter of his/her bloodline comes from a Native antecedent (Leong 1981).
Current issues affecting Sabah Native recognition show that there is bias against mixed Natives. For instance, while Sino-Natives may be recognized at the local level, contemporary Sino-Natives face difficulty at the federal level, because if their ethnic label and surnames were Chinese, they would be seen outrightly as non-bumiputera. In the past, the SAN aforementioned was provided but this had to be abolished in the mid 1980s, after PTI and Chinese individuals were found in possession of the SAN for the purpose of purchasing Native Title (Native land). After the ban on the SAN certificate, Sino-Kadazans who want to maintain their Sabah Native status must use supporting documents from the Local Housing Ministry and the Sabah Native Affairs office to verify their provenance as original inhabitants of the areas from which their Sabah Native predecessors came from. This proved to be a difficult and cumbersome process and as a result, a trend started whereby Sino-Kadazans would petition the National Registration Department (hereafter 'the Registrar') to permanently remove the ethnic label from 'Chinese' from their ICs. Some additionally changed their names by dropping their Chinese surnames--an act called buang siang (throwing away the Chinese last name)--and by adopting a Kadazanized name or the Kadazan surname of one's grandparents (Kinajil in press).
Meanwhile, the Sabah state government created the Sino-Native category to accommodate mixed Native descendants, but an association called "Sino-Native KDM" (17) says that it is further "unconstitutional" to deprive Sino-Natives of their right to form their own ethnic grouping; many Sino-Native supporters find it important to form associations that protect the heritage and identity of their respective mixed groups, such as Sino-Kadazan, Sino-Bajau and so on. (18) Note that among Kadazans in Sabah, given that they are one of the most mixed groups in Sabah, partial ancestry, such as Indian, have followed Sino-Kadazans in petitioning the registrar for an ethnic label change, with similar success. Typically, registration officials would ask these Kadazans to choose between "Indian" and "Kadazan" as formal ethnic identities; those seeking bumiputera access will drop "Indian" for "Kadazan."
There is also now bias against extending the Sabah Native status to individuals with archipelagic origin (as opposed to Bomean origin), and this primarily concerns distribution of Native land. In one case, a Bajau group from Sabah's east coast town of Semporna claimed that Bugis had gained access to Native Title (NT) lands meant for Bajaus in the 1980s. The Bugis community in question responded that they were "Bugis Sabah," asserting that were awarded the SAN prior to the SAN system closing in 1982.' (19) The sales and purchases of Native lands are controversial: while the state allows Sabah Natives to sell and buy NT from other Sabah Natives, there have been cases of dubious NT land sales, which showed that trust deeds or nominees of non-Natives are profiting. This has involved public listed companies and cash-rich foreigners (such as, wealthy Chinese nationals). (20)
There are also concerns from other Sabah Natives that NT land is falling into the hands of PTIs, and that Sabah Natives are culpable in the matter. Reports show that Sabah Natives have been complicit in the abuse of NT (land) by renting premises on their NT to illegal immigrants for housing or business purposes. Some migrants, who conduct business on NT lands, have been illegally trading and/or become 'PTI' (illegal immigrant) when their trading licenses lapsed. These fail to produce working visas to the authorities, when these periodically conduct spot-checks on immigrant businesses to check for compliance.
Shifts in the notion of indigeneity: 'Indigenous' vs. 'Native'
However, local Native groups particularly of North Bornean Indigenous origin have also expressed the concern that they are being marginalized as Sabah Natives and bwniputeras, if compared to those of Malay or Muslim background, who are perceive to ascend in society given their majority numbers. Although the situation proves complex, some leaders of non-Muslim Indigenous groups, particularly those from the Kadazandusun category, have sought to have "Sabah Native" redefined so that the term "Indigenous" may gain increasing significance. The Chief Justice of the Native High Court of Sabah and Sarawak, Richard Malanjum, for instance, believes that the term "Native," inherited from the colonial era, is derogatory, and needs to be dropped for "Indigenous." (21) Malanjum has also called for an audit of Native law in Malaysia against the UNDRIP (United Nations' Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People). (22) However, a redefinition of Sabah Native is contested by agencies such as Sabah's Local Government and Housing Ministry, which fears that a redefinition will complicate Native Title (NT) transfer to subsequent descendants. (23) The NT may not be transferred to individuals deemed by the state as non-Native (Chinese, Indian, or others) even if the transferer is a relative of the transferee.
The use of "Indigenous" to explain one's identity has been rising among non-Muslim Sabah Natives/bumiputeras over time at the behest of proactive leaders. For instance, "Indigenous" is tied strongly to indigenizing movements through the KDCA (Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association), which periodically hosts International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (started by the UN), and heavily attended by activists. Other NGOs and political parties championing Indigenous People's rights in Sabah and Malaysia are: UPKO (United Pasok Kadazandusun Organisation), currently the largest Kadazandusun political party in Sabah; (24) Partners of Community Organisations Sabah (PACOS); and Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) (The Indigenous People's Network of Malaysia), the umbrella network for Indigenous-focused NGOs in Malaysia that has many Sabahan leaders at the helm. (25)
Through such bodies, many Kadazandusun leaders seek to reindigenize as many of the traditionally pagan Indigenous groups in Sabah, who are now made up of members with indeterminate cultural backgrounds owing to intermarriage and religious conversion (Christian and Muslim, primarily). The purpose appears two-fold: by politically infusing Indigenous identities, more will become loyal to their identity as being "Indigenous" or "Orang Asal" and not just as Sabah Native or bumiputera. Thus, by standing together under the Indigenous banner, more opportunities to meet together can be generated and the occassions can be used to construct a shared culture.
The celebration of Kaamatan, a festival based on the tradition of rice harvesting among North Bornean Indigenous groups, is one such occasion where Kadazandusun, Murut, and other Indigenous groups may prioritize their North Bornean Indigenous identity. In the past, the colonial government used the Kaamatan to foster a sense of belonging to the British Empire. Presently, the Sabahan state sponsors Kaamatan events occurring extensively at the state, district, and village level, as the Kaamatan festival has become a mass tourism attraction. Therefore, during this celebration in the month of May each year, Indigenes involved mute their religious and multicultural backgrounds to allow their traditional beliefs to come to the surface, and aspects of their rice culture to be retold. Although two dominant Indigenous groups, the Kadazan and Dusun, become the primary focus during this event, other Indigenous groups are encouraged to participate, as these not only give the semblance that there are many Indigenous groups or communities that support Kadazans and Dusuns at the core, but the highly publicized event provide such groups with a platform to promote their individual cultures. For leaders, the combined efforts go towards building the solidarity of Indigenous groups.
Yet, it is not clear whether the notion of "Indigenous People" as a collective identity is truly widespread among Sabah's Indigenous groups. For while the Indigenous People or "Orang Asal" identity is said to be rising, the usefulness of an Indigenous People identity appears to be selective: it is demonstrated in land-grab issues, where Indigenes, particularly in rural areas, unite as a larger collective rather than in their individual ethnic groups in protest rallies. Among urbanized Indigenes, the term "Indigenous" is less salient, as informants feel that it refers mainly to marginalised Indigenous villagers in rural areas. When asked about Indigenous movements, there are some Indigenous informants whom given their cosmopolitan and multicultural identities are completely incognizant on what constitutes being Indigenes. Those who hold the belief that "Indigenous People" status should apply talk about indigeneity as being fully based on bloodline and go so far to say that claims to indigeneity should cease after three generations to prevent the definition of "Indigenous People" from being misconstrued by migrants, and to abolish the idea of perpetual Indigenous descent.
Some Indigenes however turn away from this definition because their families and communities are comprised of mixed ethnicities, with some having intermarried with migrants and PTIs. These also find it hard to lend their support for fear that promoting Indigenous identity can spark religious tension and division among their multicultural families and friends. Further, while some non-Muslim Indigenous informants are clearly disillusioned with the Sabah Native and bumiputera identities, this has not seen to a mass protest by and among them for the Sabah Native and/or the bumiputera concept to be abandoned, so that a new identification model "Indigenous People"; or "Orang Asal"; or "Indigenous" as identity can take place. Instead, what tend to fuel Indigenous sentiment are anti-PTI and anti-Malayanisation sentiments. (I will first discuss anti-PTI sentiment and the Sabahan identity).
'Sabahan' as an identity for all?
The Sabahan label has gained increasing use over time, and it can be said to stem from its popularity with mixed-ethnic Sabahans who defer to their sense of broader identity instead of their respective identity collages. Some informants say that 'Sabahan' is the very base for their varying identities. The term "Sabahan" elicit feelings of cultural harmony: informants talk about the marked camaraderie among the different groups in Sabah and how they take pride in their fluent use of Sabah Malay, a lingua franca that has become the primary language of inter-ethnic communication. The image of Sabahans as being diverse and heterogeneous but being remarkably at ease with one another at the same time is also often drawn upon. A popular image of Sabahanness is arguably the common sight in restaurants and eateries, where halal and non-halal food can be served in a single restaurant, and Muslim and Non-Muslim customers have no qualms about sharing the same table. On the other hand, like the term "Indigenous," "Sabahan" can be fraught with conflict involving the desire to keep PTIs out of Sabah.
Over time, many Kadazans and local Sabahans alike say that they often ponder on the pragmatic question as to whether it is really possible to truly separate PTIs from migrants; migrants from locals; and PTIs from locals given Sabah's extensive intermarriages. Many Kadazans cite their own Sino-Kadazan or mixed cultural background as an example of this, and argue how their foreign spouses, children and descendants also have rights to their futures in Sabah. This attitude lends well to how some others are taking a human right approach on the PTI matter. These consider how local employers manipulate PTIs and migrants by holding back wages, confiscating passports, and failing to renew workpasses, and some are genuinely moved and horrified by acts of abuse towards PTI workers.
A particular issue that has caught the attention and sympathy of local informants is the matter of "street children," a social phenomenon emergent in Sabah in the post-Independence years. Made up primarily of homeless PTI children, they are found predominantly in town areas where they roam city streets to survive. Some peddle smuggled cigarettes, selling them at intersections to drivers in their vehicles who stop at the traffic lights, and some of these children also become vulnerable to vice and crime. Allerton (2017) argues that the "street children" concept masks the true nature of the problem of statelessness among the street children, an issue that Allerton states is not treated as a genuine problem by the Sabahan government due to political and moral conflicts involving illicit documentation of PTIs and locals' ongoing resentment towards them.
One of the many signs that local Sabahans look for in migrants including PTIs to see if they are actively becoming Sabahan like them is to see if at the very least, they are acquiring the Sabah Malay language as the basic form of communication. For instance, migrant Bugis consciously hide their "Bugisness," because local Bugis find that their "[Malay] language is really Bugis" (kebugisan betul bahasanya), and decidedly foreign (Carruthers 2017:251). In their readiness and willingness to be absorbed into mainstream society, some legal migrants may also go so far as to cut ties with PTI friends in order to do the right thing by locals. For instance, Linah, a forty-something Indonesian housemaid from Bandung, will refrain from going out with PTI friends, in case enforcement officers inadvertently catch her. Linah fears the potential episode could bring disgrace to her employer of more than 15 years, not to mention termination of her services. As such, some Kadazans say that they are more accepting of PTIs, despite irregularities in their paperwork, if the latter follow local culture and do not engage in immoral, illicit, and/or criminal behavior, that is, activities that are deemed 'kurang ajar' (ill-bred).
Kadazan informants appear to be impressed by some of the migrants and PTIs whom they met who are courteous, smart and friendly, and especially those who are "Sinicizing" like them (given that most Kadazans have strong Chinese worldviews), or "westernizing," through speaking English, for intance. Older migrants and their descendants often court the admiration of locals, especially if they have become core members of Sabahan society, like lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, lecturers, business owners, philanthropists, politicians, leaders, and activists. As such, many Kadazans then tend to relax around first, second, and third generation-born migrants, and these tend to view that the only "real Sabahans" are those Sabahans who come from pre-lndependence communities, that is, groups that existed before 1963, before the arrival of large numbers of PTIs.
While informants say that they often find themselves probing others for identity information, they do this to feel certain that the migrants and PTIs they engage with can truly be considered as one of them. Questions such as, 'Where are you from: which village; area; district?' may have been used in the past for introduction sake, but the same questions, confessed informants, are now being asked so that they can internally dissect the identities of individuals against frames of local references and knowledge. That is, if it is really true that such and such a group had resided or originated in the area mentioned before Independence in 1963. Locals also say that learning about the family histories of others is an effective way to determine if interlocutors are really who they are--some are keen to see if they recognize names of people mentioned, and especially if they are related by blood or through marriage.
However, PTIs can come to be seen as possessing "alien" cultures predisposed to crime that are incompatible with local Sabahan culture (Chong 2009). Informants say that before PTIs came to Sabah, everything was peaceful, but when they begun arriving, all sorts of crime occurred: crimes typically associated with migrants include drug trafficking and peddling, murder, break-ins, car-jacking, kidnapping, cases of baby abandonment (Sabah is second highest state in Malaysia after Selangor (where the nation capital, Kuala Lumpur, is located)), (26) and other crimes related to migrants/PTIs that they hear about on the news. Informants also talk about the need to secure themselves from PTIs. Some feel unsafe in their homes and place iron grilles around their doors and windows; some avoid renting or buying a house in neighborhoods that are known to be PTI-friendly.
Fear for their safety causes some Indigenes to keep apart from strangers, as the sheer physical and cultural similarities between locals and migrants prevent locals from determining who are PTIs among them. In this regard, fearing that they and their children are taken as PTIs, concerns were given to dress and skintone. Jessica, a Kadazan mother of two teenage girls, says that she constantly worries that her children's indiscriminate choice of clothing ("cheap looking" and "revealing") can cause them to be mistaken for Filipino-PTI prostitutes working in seedy bars downtown. While some informants say that if they want to avoid being typecasted as Filipino or Indonesian maids or 'laborers' (kuli, Malayanized 'coolie'), they ought to stay out of the sun to keep their fairer skin tones.
Locals' response to PTI issues can be laden with suspicion and their worries are further fueled by the inconsistent policies of the authorities. For instance, in December 2018, the Malaysian government announced that education for undocumented children of migrants would be provided in public primary schools. (27) However, the Sabah state education ministry determined that only the undocumented children of citizens can be allowed to enter schools at this point, (28) in an apparent attempt to placate the worried local parents. Some informants said that they would have otherwise not allowed their children to go to school. (29)
Anti-PTI sentiment has sprung up in various campaigns throughout Sabah calling for the Sabahan identity to be legitimized as a formal identity. For instance, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has proposed a recall of all existing ICs and a reissuance to only those Sabahans whose identity had been verified. SAPP also called for the creation of a "Sabahan Identity Card" after gaining the support from "Solidariti Tanahairku" or STAR (Homeland Solidarity) and "Parti Cinta Sabah" or PCS (Love Sabah Party), aligning under the "Gabungan Sabah Charter" or United Sabah Alliance. Meanwhile, several NGOs in support of the idea of "Sabahan" as an identity, for instance, SORAK (Solidariti Rakyat Sabah), MOSIK (Momogun Movement for Self-Determination), United Borneo Front (UBF), Angkatan Perubahan Sabah or APS (Sabah Change Force) and Sunduvan (Soul), have begun independently creating "Sabah IC" cards for their members. (30) The Sabah government, however, has not given support for the proposed Sabah IC, and the move to separate citizens from PTIs and migrants is being criticized as encouraging political turmoil and anti-social cohesion (Carruthers, 2016).
Anti-Malaysia movements link closely to anti-PTI movements because of shared anti-government sentiment. One of the popular pro-sovereignty movements features a joint partnership between Sabahans and Sarawakians: SSKM or Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia (literal translation: 'Sabah Sarawak Leave Malaysia') (Minahan 2016) is affiliated to "Sabah Sarawak Union--United Kingdom" (SSUK), an NGO based in England under the leadership of Zurainee Tehek from Sarawak and Doris Jones, a Sabahan. (31)
Overall, as there is no clear pattern to determine who are Sabahans and who are not, and given the matter being subjective, so as to avoid getting caught up in the debate over "real Sabahans," some Sabahans would rather attempt a balance and say that if Sabahans with mixed migrant backgrounds could unequivocally qualify as "Sabahan" then one must accept a Sabahan world where locals and migrants are coalescing into one large community--becoming friend and family--without giving a care as to what the background of the other is really like. Sabahans in this instance thus base their reality of being and belonging as Sabahan on feelings of camaraderie and fellowship rather than blood or by actual formal membership.
However, a closer look at the shifting notions of indigeneity in Sabah shows that among Indigenes, there is a growing use of Sabahan imagery as Indigenous markers. In the song, "Original Sabahan," sung in Sabah Malay and Dusun, lyricists use the term 'Sabahan' in reference to symbols of Indigenous identity such as the Dusun language, Mount Kinabalu, and the Apin-Apin River. These are repeatedly praised in the song as being the iconic elements of those who are "Original Sabahan." The element of camaraderie and light-heartedness may tend to soften the import of the Indigenous-Sabahan notion, but this song, and judging by the immense popularity of it (more than 20 million views since it was published on Youtube in 2018) more than hints at the underlying desire of the Kadazandusuns to be seen and recognized as the predominant Indigenous peoples, as Sabah's First Nation. Everywhere, Indigenes and non-Indigenes alike enjoy the catchy tune of the song and by viewing the video and singing the song in concerts and the like, all are showing support for Sabahan Indigenes. This approach however can differ at the personal level, when Indigenes fear risking their family relationships and friendships over a promotion of their indigeneity, as explained in the next section of this paper.
Kadazan response to Malayanization
Among North Bornean Indigenes, that is, ethnic groups in Sabah with Bornean origins, it is important to remember that there have always been some Indigenes who became Muslims before Independence in 1963. For instance, there is a concentration of Kadazandusun Muslims in the district of Ranau, numbering today in the thousands, where Islamic missions existed prior to WW II (Joko et al. 2016). In Penampang. Kadazans historically intermarried with Bajaus and other Muslims in the area, albeit in smaller numbers. Based on self-reports and interviews, it can be said that there are at least one or two Muslims in every Kadazan family in Penampang today. In some Kadazan cases, there are more Muslims owing to intermarriage, but there are fewer of such families. Typically, Kadazans convert from Christianity to Islam to marry Muslim partners, who are otherwise prevented by the Shariah courts to marry a kafir (non-Muslim people/unbelievers, a term used chiefly by Muslims).
Islamic missions after Independence saw state-sponsored mass conversion among Indigenous pagan populations in the rural areas (Lim 2008). Lim states that in mass conversion ceremonies, hundreds and in one case up to 2000 individuals became Muslims in a single ceremony (Lim 2008: 111). The attendance of high-profile guests, such as the Malaysian Prime Minister, sultans of Malaysia and Brunei, and visiting dignitaries from Islamic countries, gave clout to these ceremonies. This effort resulted in a rise in the Muslim population from 37.4 per cent in 1960 to 51 percent in 1980. In 2010, Muslims comprised 65.5 per cent of the state population of 3.2 million people while Christian Sabahans represented 26.7 per cent in 2010 (Sabah Government Statistics, 2000 & 2010). (32) Thus, it can be argued that perhaps one of the reasons "Indigenous" identity is not as salient overall, or rather more salient among non-Muslim Indigenes, is because Indigenes are assimilating into the dominant Malay-Muslim society.
Culturally speaking, conflict within Kadazan families can occur when members convert and the following discussions often surface: one is prohibited from pork and alcohol consumption; males are subjected to circumcision; women must consent to their husbands marrying up to four wives at a time; one's conversion is seen as turning away from Jesus/Christian God. Typically, differences become resolved at the birth of children of Kadazan-Muslim unions (Sintang et al, 2011). However, for the majority of Christian Kadazans, Islamization is also viewed with considerable derision, as it divided the allegiance of the Kadazans. After 1963, the first Sabah state government saw Donald Stephens, a then non-Muslim Kadazan/Dusun-Japanese-British-Australian, became chief minister with Mustapha Harun, a Suluk and Muslim leader, as the Tuan Yang Terutama (TYT) or head of state. However, in 1971, Stephens converted to Islam and became the TYT in 1973. Stephens then disbanded the "United Pasok (33) Kadazan Organization (UPKO)" and joined USNO or"United Sabah National Organization (USNO)" under the leadership of Mustapha Harun. Non-Muslim Bumiputeras faced religious persecution after the conversions of Stephens and Ghani Gilong, a Dusun leader. For example, the visas of Catholic priests were cancelled and they were deported (in the past, most priests in Sabah were foreigners) (Rooney, 1981). Today, the subject of Muslim migrants and PTIs being used as phantom voters in elections causes many Kadazans to feel angry that Islamization continues to figure prominently in Sabahan politics.
What also causes non-Muslim Kadazans to reject Malayanization is seeing how given their sheer size, migrants' and PTIs' support for Malay-Muslim identity causes the Malay label and hence Malay symbolism to rise over other ethnic labels. Use of the term "Malay" as a political symbol by migrants and PTIs is not lost on the Kadazans, who claim that political Muslim parties, such as the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), are accepting Muslim migrants of differing ethnicities as "Malay" members with assurances of socio-economic assistance. As such, Kadazan informants tend to conflate local Muslim groups, who patronize UMNO, with Muslim migrants and PTIs although Bajaus may continue to adhere to the term "Bajau" to denote ethnic identity, but otherwise do not deny the strong Malayism among them (Saat 2008). Elsewhere, Kadazan informants note that the use of "Malay" as an identifier also occurs among Muslim Kadazans, and those who switch between "Kadazan" and "Malay" labels are frowned upon, as switching is seen as being disloyal to their Kadazan identity and breaking up Kadazan solidarity.
What further fuels non-Muslim Kadazans' views about Malayanization are anti-PTI sentiments, where non-Muslim Kadazans perceive that the Malay-dominated government is susceptible to PTI influence. For instance, mobile registration drives carried out by the federal registration department ensure that Sabahans possess basic identification in the form of a Malaysian IC. However, locals suspect this exercise to covertly legitimize PTIs, specifically Muslim PTIs. Informants who perceive this to be true tend to cite upcoming elections and such-and-such political party as needing PTIs to raise their votes. Other Kadazans worry that such registration drives are encouraging PTIs to come out of the woodwork and pose as locals, and hence become registered and eligible for an IC. Similarly, locals are alarmed when news coverage reports that hundreds and at times thousands of migrants show up at the mobile services of the Philippine embassy and Indonesian consulate. The sheer number of migrants confirms to locals that undocumented PTIs do exist.
However, one of the main complaints of non-Muslim Kadazans is their struggle to compete in the public sector given that Muslims dominate there, and this colors their worldview against Muslims. In the past, non-Muslim indigenes competed with local Muslims for work, but as Muslim supervisors also shortlist Muslim migrant applicants, non-Muslim indigenes must now compete with migrants. The motivation to employ staff of Filipino or Indonesian migrant backgrounds can stem from the supervisors' sympathy for those coming from "their grandfather's homeland." When this recruitment approach resulted in complaint, the director of the department would reject the shortlist to show that he/she is not playing favorites and thus prevent the issue of religion affecting work relations. However, this does not solve the problem of a lack of non-Muslim Indigenous participation in the workplace. Similarly, a non-Muslim Indigene employee may be the most likely candidate for promotion given work experience and qualification, but the position may go to a Muslim Indigene with less experience and/or qualification. Often disparities between non-Muslim and Muslim staff would go unchecked for long periods and the former feel powerless to improve their situation.
Many non-Muslim Kadazans now say that they are being oppressed--that the overt presence of Islam in everyday life prevents them from freedom of expression and of spirit--and point towards the increasing complaints from Muslim groups towards Christian practices over the years. Last year (2018) in Tawau, a predominantly Muslim town on the east coast of Sabah, the Member of Parliament, Christina Liew, organized a Christmas and New Year street festival. The branch of PAS (Parti Se Islam Malaysia) or "Malaysian Islamic Party" criticized Liew for organizing a public event that had overt Christian elements, such as a speech given by a bishop and Christmas carols being sung. (34)
There is a new tendency among Kadazans to be more vigilant and vocal against increasing Malayanization. In 2013, the Sabah state mufti (senior Muslim official (scholar and expert)) called for all Muslims in Sabah to formally adopt Malay as a singular identification label. (35) A video of the mufti's speech went viral on social media, and this saw a backlash from Kadazans who were cited in the mufti's speech as prime example of individuals of "an invented race." Angered, Kadazan elders from Penampang charged the mufti with eliciting shame and harm towards Kadazans in Sabah's Native Court. High-level Sabah officials had to step in and allay the public's fears over the matter and declared that the Sabah government respects the diversity of Sabah's Native groups, and described the call to become "Malay" as the personal view of the mufti. (36) Kadazan elders later won their suit against the mufti, who made a public apology and revealed that he, too, had a mixed cultural heritage.
In another example, Kadazans rejected attempts by Muslim Kadazans to fuse Malayanized elements into traditional culture. In May 2017, a Muslim-oriented Kaamatan attempted to synthesize Muslim elements--prayers in Arabic and an Islamic fashion show--into the Indigenous tradition. (37) Kadazan activists condemned this by saying that the program was out to "rape our culture, our customary practice [adat] and the essence of being Indigenous People [Orang Asal]." (38) Further, the name of the event as "Kaamatan Islamik" was also criticized as being an "oxymoron" given that the Kaamatan is based on paganistic rituals. The organizers then agreed to drop the term "Islamik" in the future after high-level officials from the state government intervened. (39)
Other incidents included protests towards building of mosques. (40) In 2013, some Kadazan opposition leaders questioned the state government's proposal to build a mosque in the main Penampang town of Donggongon, claiming that the planned location for the mosque was not sensitive to the surrounding predominantly Christian community. In a separate case, some Christian Kadazans protested against the building of a mosque beside the Penampang Police Department. Spokespersons for Muslim Kadazans assured that the building of mosques would not have an adverse impact, as the majority of people in Penampang were aware of keeping the peace, as they were related to one another. Meanwhile, the much-publicized verdict by the Malaysian courts to prohibit Christians from using the term "Allah" as a direct translation of "God" also saw resistance from Christians in Sabah and other regions in Malaysia. (41)
Strategies: Sabahanizing; sinicizing; reindigenizing vs. Malayanization
Recognizing that they must contend with an ethnic world where they are not the main actors, non-Muslim Kadazans draw upon the various elements that can counter the effect of Malayanization. For instance, many non-Muslims as well as Muslim Kadazans appear to rely on their Sabahanness to emphasise multicuturalism, especially when it comes to arguing against Peninsula Malay views. Muslim Kadazan informants say that they often find that Peninsular Malay views of their Muslim identity tend to veer on the negative. Zaidah, a Kadazan-Bajau in her 30s from Putatan, and a second generation Kadazan on her mother's side, says that the stringent Islamic views coming mainly from Peninsula Malays clash with relaxed Muslim Sabahan practices, especially in the practice of commensality with other ethnic groups. There is an impression that Sabahan Muslims could easily become apostate [murtad] in this way, but Zaidah vehemently disagrees and say that it is really up to one's own discipline to be a good Muslim--to refrain from consuming pork and drinking alcohol. In another example, Kadazans consider so-called multicultural concepts such as "1 Malaysia," which was one of the nation-building campaigns of the past Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, as irrelevant to Sabahans. These view the 1 Malaysia concept as inculcating a single national identity among West Malaysians, as there is significantly less mixing among ethnic groups there, as compared to Sabah.
Yet, some try a different strategy, that is, by passing themselves off as Muslims. Not being able to deny that by ascending in Sabahan society as a Muslim, it is easier to acquire bumiputera benefits, the promise of mobility does tempt some to pass themselves off as "Muslim." Some Christian Kadazan informants confided that they had in secret ticked "Islam" in the religion box in job and scholarship applications, and achieved good results (these typically got the job/scholarship). One or two informants developed Muslim personalities and kept their Christian identities a secret: as their first names resembled Malay ones, they were often perceived to be Muslim and thus became privy to the political discussions in Muslim circles. However, Muslim Kadazans tend to downplay the aspect of reward by citing that patron-client relationships are more important. So that, if one is not the favorite of one's boss in the workplace, there is less assurance of immediate success in terms of job promotions and renewed contracts.
In the ongoing Malayanization, many Kadazans are now leaning heavily into their Chinese influences. Intermarriages with the Chinese typically entail a departure from the Kadazan lifestyle to a world based on monetization of labor and goods, and the Kadazans' active resinicizing is due to the desire in doing business with the Chinese (Wong 2012). (42) Given their relative lack of success in the public sector, many non-Muslim Kadazans seek to participate in the private sector dominated by the Chinese. One of the ways in which non-Muslim Kadazan parents prepare their children for this is to acculturate their children through Chinese schools. These parents now want their children to learn the Mandarin language so that they will be welcomed in the business community in the future. (43) Chinese influence upon the Kadazans is profound: being called "2nd class citizens," and in some pro-Malay speeches as penumpang ('hitchiker'), in the Malay language, the Chinese are aware of their secondary position (Daniels 2004: 227-8), and keenly observe and state how ironically, the Kadazans have become "2nd class bumiputeras" next to Malays and Muslims. There is also a waning attitude among some Sino-Kadazans towards "bumiputera" identity. Instead of pursuing lengthy formal applications at the federal registrar's office, some Sino-Kadazans are now considering the emotional cost of letting go of one's siang (Chinese surname). Not only is it an anathema to their family, but as some of their Chinese relatives say, becoming bumiputera "won't really change anything" and Sino-Kadazans "don't need [to be] bumiputera" to get ahead in life.
However, it is not clear whether non-Muslim Kadazans wish to use their position as Indigenes, for instance by proclaiming that they are "Indigenous" against Malay identities so as to elicit aquiescence or deference from Malays, PTIs or Muslims to the symbolic power in "Indigenous." Instead, most non-Muslim Kadazans are arguably more concerned about preserving family ties and friendships, as seen in the following examples. Joe, a Kadazan informant in his 40s, says that while he is aware that his brother-in-law, Martin, was a "Sabah Native" like him, he often wonders how this could be since his predecessors were from Flores (Nusa Tenggara Timur, in Indonesia). Uncomfortable at the thought of introspecting Martin's identity further, Joe rationalizes that Martin's predecessors must also be Murut, since Martin comes from Tenom, where Murut people predominate.
In another case, Fanny, a 50-something-year old Kadazan, becomes upset by the level of suspicion her close Kadazan friends have towards the identity of another close friend, Dora, who is Suluk. A chat group (on a popular app called, Whatsapp) was created just to discuss whether Dora indeed came from a pre-Independence Suluk community, or whether her origins point her closer to PTI Suluks. Disgusted by the harsh words ("illegal," "poser," "faker") being used to describe Dora, Fanny left the chat group. Fanny later reveals that she does not consider herself "Indigenous," because the term makes her feel that she wants to be more authentic than anyone else in her family. Fanny's 6 siblings have all married outside of the Penampang Kadazan group--to Murut, Flores, Peninsula Chinese, Peninsula Malay, English, and to Papar Kadazan-Brunei.
Still, in other cases, informants appear clearly affected by the changes in the Sabahan ethnic landscape, and object to a cultural citizenship (Rosaldo 2003) that has Malay and Muslim identity at the center. That the Kadazans were no longer predominant in Penampang due to the vast number of migrants is another concern clearly expressed by Christian Kadazan informants. With PTIs forming the largest population in Sabah, and the third largest community after Kadazandusun and Chinese in Penampang, some Kadazans expressed fear that Muslim PTIs were now intermarrying with Kadazans at an alarming rate. Patricia, a Kadazan of mixed Indian and Chinese ancestry aged in her 50s, worried that Kadazans were de-ethnicizing to become part of the Bumiputera Malay, as the larger pool of potential marriage partners happens to be Muslim. Patricia said:
I tell you, people are not worried that their children are marrying Muslims, and '"Filipino [read: PTI] at that!" [Pilipin lagi tu!]... This lady [a neighbor] just let her daughter marry this guy. They even organized a huge wedding. 1 tell you honestly, they will regret it come the day when the whole of Penampang is only filled with "their kind" of people [Muslims and PTIs]. There will not be any Kadazan left. (44)
Meanwhile, identity as pribumi in Malay, which may be rendered in English as "indigenous" is reentering the sphere of Sabahan consciousness since its last usage in the 1980s, when it was more popular to call Sabah Native groups etnikpribumi ('Indigenous ethnic groups'). The Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia or "Malaysian United Indigenous Party," a new national political party, has since entered Sabahan politics, after its leader, current Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, announced that he would bring his party into Sabah to garner mass support from members of the now defunct UMNO. (45) While the party thus appeals mainly to Malays and Muslim Sabah Natives, it is also given the nickname 'Bersatu,' the fact that the party could well embolden Malays and Muslims with the identity of "pribumi," and court the attention of non-Muslim Indigenes, is important to follow in light of the shifting notions of indigeneity discussed here.
This raises several points to consider before this paper ends. On the one hand, there is a need to further explore the contestation of meanings in the broader Indigenous identity between elites and followers. For instance, when the Sabah state government began including the dances of migrant cultures in public gatherings and state-sponsored events, Kadazandusun groups began to protest that they eclipse the import of their traditional culture. During Kaamatan, the Kadazandusuns' traditional rice harvest celebration, some were surprised to find Kadazandusuns and leaders alike dancing poco-poco, (46) a line dance performed to the tune of dangdut-like music. (47) These find it disrecpectful that a migrant dance outshines the sumazau, the Kadazandusun traditional dance. (48) Yet, in another instance, the predominantly Kadazandusun audience applauds a Chinese lion dance troupe that combined lion dancing with the magunatip, a Murut dance featuring dancers skipping across heavy bamboo poles in motion, during Kaamatan. There were frequent comments about how the combination of cultures does exude the spirit of Sabahan, while those objectors typically justified the inclusion of the Chinese as being a normal thing, since this was the group with which many Kadazans had intermarried. The comments above belied the fact that many Kadazans and Kadazandusuns no longer planted rice or held to the traditional beliefs surrounding rice rituals and a shamanic culture.
A final point concerning traditional concepts of Indigenous identity among the North Bornean Indigenes is therefore crucial for future study. For among informants, many do not actually attend or want to visit state-run Kaamatan events because they are "touristy," with some preferring to spend the public holiday overseas. More so, there are many Kadazandusun communities who no longer engage with traditions and beliefs involving nature owing to Christian beliefs and modernity. Once a forest-based community, the villagers in Bundu Tuhan, in the district of Ranau on the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, used to adhere to traditional know-how in conserving nature by relating to spirit guardians in the forest, where the barking of a deer is taken as a signal that the forest work of tree-cutting, for instance, must cease (Yukin 2015). However, villagers's Christian beliefs prevent them from applying this view and they now adhere solely to rules written in a book developed by the community leaders for forest conservation. At minimum, most villagers respect the wishes of their elders to refrain from using certain areas in the forest. In this sense, a deeper study of North Bornean Indigenes' relationship to indigeneity through land, language, traditions, beliefs, and customary practices--Indigenous markers that are salient in other Indigenous communities throughout the world--is also needed in order to properly understand what Kadazan identity is like outside of the aspects of cosmopolitan views and identities often attached to the North Bornean Indigenes.
Summary and conclusion
This paper explored the Kadazans' engagement with the broader identities on offer to them currently, such as "Indigenous" and "Sabahan," and highlighted the intricacies of negotiating these identities given intermarriage and the influx of migrants, particularly illegal immigrants (Pendatang Tanpa Izin--PTI). We have seen how Kadazans attempt to place PTIs at the bottom of Sabahan society, and push back against the more dominant Malay and Muslim identity in their midst out of fear that Kadazans and non-Muslim Indigenes in general will become usurped by newer mainly Muslim communities, and completely subsumed under the Malay grouping. However, while anti-PTI and anti-Malayanization sentiments can cause tension among Kadazans, many Kadazans are instead choosing to highlight their identity as Sabahan for reasons that reflect their underlying desire to keep the peace with all ethnic groups. Further, some Kadazans although ambivalent about extending their identity as "Indigenous" are choosing to "softly" assert their sense of Indigenous belonging by calling to mind aspects and elements that are uniquely tied to the North Bornean Indigenes. Others, too, are beginning to recognize the special position of groups such as the Kadazans in Sabah through this strategy, and yet, there is still much more to learn and discover about how Indigenous identity is perceived among North Bornean Indigenes, particularly in relation to traditions and culture.
Given the above, while Indigenous identity and sentiment will remain key in how and whether Kadazans will continue to highlight their indigeneity whilst navigating and preserving inter-ethnic harmony, the main obstacle to this is likely to be the restructuring of a core ethnic identity as "Indigenous," or as something else, given that their leaders are actively seeking to do so in response to Malay hegemony. As the Indigenous movement in Sabah and Malaysia overall is now entering the spheres of Native law and national politics, it will be important to also study the impact of Native redefinition upon other groups in the region, particularly Orang Asli groups on the Malaysian Peninsula, Dayak groups in the neighboring state of Sarawak, and other Bornean groups. In such comparisons, the emotional cost of pursuing Indigenous Identity for the purpose of allievating social, economic, and political injustices ought to be weighed in relation to societal goals, such as, spreading goodwill and tolerance, and the desire for social cohesion.
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(1) This expression refers to the ubiquitious way in which locals often approach any challenge and that is to do so with quiet fortitude and determination, but also with care. One often hears the phrase 'slowly-slowly' or pelan-pelan (perlahan-lahan in standard Malay) being uttered in this context. Other expressions can help to ameliorate inter-personal and also ethnic tension such as, "Kita-kitajuga bah ni" to mean something like, "We are all in this together."
(2) This paper is drawn from the author's Ph.D. thesis on the Kadazans from Penampang, a plains and coastal area adjacent to the city of Kota Kinabalu, the Sabahan capital, see Tangit (2017), "Ethnic Labels and Identity among the Kadazans of Penampang, Sabah (Malaysian Borneo)." Here I would like to acknowledge with gratitude Dr. Greg Acciaioli's extensive comments on an earlier draft of this paper; any remaining shortcomings are mine alone.
(3) Note that Tausug--or tau (people) sug (of the current) is an autonym--the term these people use to refer to themselves (see Sather 2004: 1302); "Suluk' is a term used in Sabah and also by outsiders.
(4) See "Brisk business at Korea Fair," 2009.
(5) See "Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA), Table of 40 Kadazandusun groups".
(6) See Malaysian Department of Statistics. 2018.
(7) See "British North Borneo", 1961; see also "Malaysian Department of Statistics", 2000.
(8) See "Suluks had NRD [National Registration Department] receipts issued in Tawi-Tawi," 2013. Also see '"Kad Burung Burung' issued in Philippines--witness," 2013.
(9) See "Official blog of the Malaysian Attorney-General" for an explanation of the I MM 13 (in the Malay language).
(10) See "Sabah Immigration cripples document forgery syndicate," 2017.
(11) See "What now, migrated phantom voters?". 2008.
(12) See Human Area Files (1956) and Singh (2000).
(13) See "Kes 'sultan' Sulu: polis ambil kenyataan 18 orang [The case of the Sulu 'sultan': police take statements from 18 people]". 2011.
(14) Sabah can be seen to be very much part of the Philippine worldview: a Filipino government committee in charge of amending the Philippine constitution recently proposed that Sabah be the " 13th federal state" of the Philippines. See "Sabah as 13th Filipino state," 2018.
(15) See Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSSCOM). Official Website.
(16) See Federal Constitution (2011).
(17) "Sino-Native KDM" refers to "Sino-Native Kadazan Dusun Murut."
(18) See "Sinos seek official NRD recognition," 2011.
(19) See "Bugis NGO denies any role," 2013.
(20) See "Stop NT land deals via nominees," 2014.
(21) See "'Indigenous' or 'Native,* Sabah to decide," 2019.
(22) See "Audit law on Native rights: They must be in conformity with UN declaration, says CJ,"' 2019.
(23) See "Defining 'Native' to take time," 2011.
(24) See "UPKO sets up four branches in Perak." 2009.
(25) See the website of JOAS (Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia).
(26) See "Minister says 697 abandoned babies from 2010-2016."
(27) See "Stateless children can enrol in school," 2018.
(28) See "These kids can enroll in schools." 2019.
(29) See "Opening schools to stateless kids easier said than done says Sabah politician,", 2018.
(30) See SAPP website and SORAK facebook.
(31) See "Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia - Sabah Sarawak Union."
(32) The intensive Islamization of Sabah also saw a standardization of Islamic practices among local Muslim Bumiputera groups. The Majlis Ugama Islam Sabah or MUIS [Sabah Islam Affairs] was created in the 1970s and was given responsibility of selecting and authorizing Bajau Islamic teachers as uztaz and providing uzlaz training facilities for Muslim youth (Nagatsu 2003).
(33) The local term pasok refers to 'indigene.'
(34) See "Groups oppose Tawau Christmas and New Year celebrations," 2018.
(35) The Mufti, who is also head administrator of the Shariah (a body of Islamic laws) in Sabah, made this claim in his keynote speech titled "The Malay Agenda in the Leadership Crisis" at a religious symposium in Kuala Lumpur. See "MeMelayukan Suku Kaum Sabah [('Malay' anizing the Sabahan ethnic groups'])," 2013.
(36) See "Kadazan Society summons Mufti," 2013.
(37) See "Sabah festivity name change to reflect inclusiveness," 2017.
(38) See "Hotly debated in social media," 2017.
(39) See '"'Islamic' to be dropped from Kaamatan event," 2017.
(40) See "No different from Mazu issue, says MP," 2013; "No necessity to have a mosque in the middle of Christian dominated Penampang." 2015; "No reason to oppose P'pang mosque: YIS," 2015.
(41) The Catholic Church in Malaysia had appealed a 2007 directive from the Home Ministry of Malaysia, which sought to revoke the publishing permit of the Herald, a newspaper for Catholic churchgoers, due to use of the word "Allah' in its Malay-language edition. The use of the Malay language was intended for the strong Malay readership among Catholics in Sabah and Sarawak. In 2009, in a lower court, the Catholic Church won their case arguing that 'Allah" had been used for centuries--in Malay language Bibles and other literature in reference to "God" outside of Islam. However, an appeals court in October 2013 overturned the lower court's ruling and reinstated the ban. Muslim authorities argued that using 'Allah" in non-Muslim literature could confuse Muslims and entice them to commit apostasy. See "Malaysia's highest court backs a ban on "Allah' in Christian bibles," 2014.
(42) Sino-Kadazans can be seen to undergo a "resinicization" to ascend higher in society. This occurs also in other countries, such as Indonesia, where Chinese Indonesians are acquainting themselves with primordial Chineseness. learning Mandarin, for instance, to assure their economic opportunity (Hoon 2017).
(43) Transforming one's identity for the Kadazans includes learning to think like a Chinese and basically doing things "the Chinese way." Distinctions between Chinese-trained Kadazans and those unexposed to Chinese culture and educational practices show up in their differing values and work ethics. For instance, sinicized Kadazans are viewed as being stingy with their money, or time.
(44) Verbatim excerpt from informant interview.
(45) See "Dr. M: Bersatu is going to Sabah (Updated)," 2019.
(46) Poco-poco is also viewed as a form of senam robik or aerobic exercise, but has drawn some criticism from Muslim authorities that find it lewd and having roots in spirit worship. See "Poco-poco diharamkan di Perak. Malaysia," 2011.
(47) The poco-poco actually originates from Christian Ambon as a popular dance spread by the Indonesian military, pers. comm. with Dr. Greg Acciaioli of University of Western Australia (UWA) (March 2019).
(48) See "Poco-poco did not fit into event: Jornah." 2007.
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