Maori hoping for recognition they deserve

Abdul Kadir (left) presenting a gift to Flavell.

KOTA KINABALU: Just like the various small ethnic groups in Sabah, the Maori community in New Zealand hopes to make a name for themselves in hopes of getting the recognition that they deserve.

“Fifteen years ago, during a rugby event in New Zealand, a singer sang the national anthem in the Maori language, which caused a huge uproar in the country.

“However, now, you can see that some people in New Zealand are starting to sing the national anthem in the Maori language.

“We are a small population but we are growing, we are getting there, and we have come a long way,” said New Zealand Minister for Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell.

Flavell took note of the vast similarities shared between Sabah and New Zealand, whereby he specifically mentioned that both states were blessed with sacred mountains (Mount Taranaki and Mount Kinabalu).

He said just like the Kadazan Dusuns in Sabah, the Maori people identify themselves with their mountain.

Flavell, who was giving a talk at UiTM Sabah yesterday,  also shed  light on tourists disrespecting the sacred monuments of a country.

Just like the naked tourists incident on Mount Kinabalu two years ago, the Maori people had also shared the same fate as their beloved image of Mount Taranaki was tarnished when a Playboy model conducted a naked photo shoot on the top of the said mountain.

“You can always chase people away but there will be other people doing it (disrespecting sacred mountains).

“There are no international rules on this. This issue touches on intellectual property. It is very hard to make it unlawful,” said Flavell, in explaining the burden of preventing such indecent acts.

Commenting on some of the other similarities between Sabah and New Zealand, Flavell said the Maori people might even originate from Sabah.

“We reckon that we might come from here (Sabah). Some suspect Taiwan but there is a possibility that we originated from the coast of Kota Kinabalu – we could be brothers and sisters,” said Flavell.

It is understood that there are even similarities in terms of the languages spoken in these two states. For instance, words like ‘ikan’, ‘telinga’ and ‘lima’ can also be found in the Maori language and they carry the same exact meaning as in Bahasa Malaysia.

Flavell went on to remind the students of UITM the importance of knowing one’s language.

He said language was a window to culture and that if one did not understand one’s language, one would not understand culture.

Yesterday’s talk was part of a Diplomat Lecture Series and it was dubbed  ‘Toitu: Strength, Empowerment and Prosperity for Indigenous Maori of Aotearoa-New Zealand’.

Among the objectives of the programme was to provide an opportunity for Sabahan students to interact with foreign diplomats such as the Ambassador and other foreign officials and to provide the students with opportunities in exploring new ideas.

Apart from that, the programme also aimed at positioning Sabah, through UiTM as a centre for intellectual discourse.

Currently, most intellectual discourses are concentrated in the  Klang Valley. Thus, by having a program like this would elevate Sabah’s position as a centre of academic excellence.

Also present in yesterday’s event was UiTM Associate Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Kadir Rosline and New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia Dr John Subritzky.

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