KENINGAU: The book ‘Keningau Heritage and Legacy in the Interior Residency’ written by a local from Keningau, Abednigo Chow Yau Shung was launched by former Senator Ida Undan Dumpangol at a hotel here yesterday.
More than 200 people, including Bingkor assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, District Chief OKK Mohd Amir Datuk Arif and Keningau Chinese Chamber of Commerce chairman Raymond Koh attended the event.
Ida said the people here are very privileged to enjoy the peace, prosperity, economic stability and freedom that they cherish very much, thanks to their forebears and local leaders.
“We should not forget our liberators and protectors from Australia and all Allied Forces who came to our aid during those dark times,” she said.
According to her, the first European to visit Keningau in 1882 was Francis Xavier Witti and with this first contact, the small population of Keningau was exposed to a culture and lifestyle so different from theirs.
Sadly however, Witti did not survive long after he met the Muruts of the interior. Nonetheless, this did not deter other future explorers from venturing deep into the interior until Keningau was officially administered in 1893 with the setting up of a government station headed by J. Edward G. Wheatley as the first District Officer and magistrate for Keningau.
“Throughout those years, the British Chartered Company Administration introduced laws, technology and education to our forebears without affecting the local native customs. Although the journey was not an easy one, the small station in Keningau prevailed and modest revenue was contributed to the British Chartered Company Administration.
“Later in the 1920’s, Keningau received its ‘town status’ and started to expand with the influx of people,” she said.
Ida said that the Second World War and often brutal Japanese occupation brought much hardship to the people and many in Keningau suffered at the hands of the Japanese soldiers and their superiors.
She said it was not until the Australian and Allied armies arrived to liberate and free them from the Japanese and the shackles of honor that they now fully appreciate their sacrifices.
According to her, after the Japanese surrendered, North Borneo was administered by the British military and on July 18, 1946 it became a British Crown Colony.
“After the war, our country was devastated, reverting to its pre-1881 days. Our forebears had to pick up the pieces together, rebuild and repair damaged infrastructures. The war galvanized everyone regardless of their background to pursue the common goal of rebuilding a nation.
“So Native Chiefs and Chinese Kapitans worked together alongside the British to ensure the local Keningau community would thrive and progress towards a resilient society,” she said.
On August 31, 1963, she said North Borneo attained self-government. The Cobbold Commission was set up in 1962 to determine whether the people of Sabah and Sarawak favoured the proposed union of the Federation of Malaysia, and found that the union was generally favoured by the people.
“I also add at this point that the late Raiting Sunggak from Keningau was also a part of the Cobbold Commission team in her role as a local translator. Sunggak was the first Murut lady to be given a government scholarship to study English in the United Kingdom,” she said.
Ida added the Malaysia Federation was proclaimed at midnight on September 15, 1963 with North Borneo renamed Sabah.
She said Indonesia and the Philippines were opposed to the formation of the new Malaysian Federation and the conflict resulted in the undeclared war that is now known as the Indonesian Confrontation.
“Once again, our Australian brothers came to our aid and protected us from harm when they were stationed right here in Keningau and when the undeclared war ended in 1966, local leaders worked tirelessly during the post-independence years building the nation for the past five decades.
“The journey was never easy and there were numerous obstacles along the way. Ultimately, the country achieved the coveted status of being one of the fast developing nations in the South East Asian region,” said Ida.
On the book, she said it would no doubt serve as a good reference and education for the people and a good reminder of their roots and where it all began.
“My message to the people, especially the younger generation, is to continue to cherish our heritage and legacy that our ancestors worked so hard to build. Our older generation have played their roles and created history.
“Now we will pass the torch to the younger ones to carry on the journey and add to the amazing history of our Keningau district,” she said.