Sabah population leapt in 1991 – Professor


KOTA KINABALU: A population census carried out in 1991 showed that Sabah’s demography had changed drastically with a huge increase in its population, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants were told.

Professor Ranjit Singh, the second witness called to give evidence on Monday, said the census reported the population of Sabah to be 1.7 million and out of this total, 423,000 were non-citizens.

“The change in Sabah’s demography was not because of the natural increase in the indigenous local communities or the Chinese population. Who these non-citizens were was not disclosed in the census,” he said.

To the question by RCI commissioner Tan Sri Herman Luping if the 423,000 non-citizens are transient visitors, Ranjit replied no.

“To my mind, these are not transient people residing in Sabah but are those who do not have citizenship which is why they are categorized as non-citizens,” he explained.

Ranjit, who has written publications about Sabah, said that in the 15th and 16th century, there were only four main communities in this area namely the Dusun, Kadayan, Melayu Brunei and Bisaya.

Documentations revealed that the Bajaus supplied the ‘manpower’ like sailors and were also active in slave raiding to meet the labour requirement for the enterprises in the area, he said, adding that Tempasuk and Marudu were places where they would conduct annual raids.

In the 18th century, new settlements emerged in Tunku, Sandakan and Semporna, among other places in the east coast resulting in changes to the demography when they began settling permanently there.

“They intermarried with the Dusuns there and this resulted in another race, the Orang Sungai, which is a mixture of Suluk, Bajau and Dusun. Soon there were eight main communities here, namely, the Melayu Brunei, Bisaya, Dusun, Iranun, Bajau, Orang Sungai, Murut and Suluk,” he said.

In 1881, the British Chartered Company brought in Chinese labourers from China and Hong Kong, he added.

According to Ranjit, in the 1891 census, the population of the then North Borneo was 67,000 people comprising 34,000 Dusuns, 11,000 Bajaus, 3,005 Bruneis, 3,700 Suluks, 7,000 Chinese, 6,000 others while there were no figures for the Muruts and Orang Sungais.

In the 1970 census, Sabah’s population was 651,000 with 183,000 Dusuns, 30,000 Muruts, 77,000 Bajaus, 28,000 Melayu Brunei, 10,000 Suluks, 17,000 Orang Sungais, 87,000 others and 138,000 Chinese.

“Now, this demographic change was basically due to the large Chinese migration to this country,” he said.