KOTA KINABALU: Upko vice president Datuk Ewon Benedict believes that non-native Bumiputeras also have a right to appoint their own community leaders, similar to that of the Chinese community which have their own community head system known as the ‘Kapitan’ system.
However, the non-native Bumiputeras, such as the Bugis and Java communities, must not term their community heads as Native Chiefs and Native Chiefs Representatives, he said.
He added that this was because many people are of the opinion that the Bugis and Java people are not natives of Sabah and are instead the indigenous community from neigbouring countries.
He opined that the Bugis and Java communities could instead use the term ‘Bugis Community Head’ and ‘Java Community Head’ for their community leaders and abstain from using the term ‘native chief’ and ‘native chief representative’.
Ewon, who is also Rural Development Minister agreed that these communities have the right to manage their own heritage and culture by appointing their own cultural heads.
“But they must not be considered as natives of Sabah,” he strongly stressed.
He also said that he appreciated the uniqueness of the Sabahan communities which began prior to the establishment of the Malaysia Federation.
He also felt that the Interpretation Ordinance (Natives Definition) Sabah is a special social contract that must be defended as it provides the legal definition of the term ‘Sabah Natives’.
Additionally, he also felt that the State natives have full rights to administer/manage their own heritage and culture, including affairs that are related to the natives’ court.
Ewon said that the matter is likely to be discussed further in Wednesday’s cabinet meeting and that he will partake in the discussion.
He added that his stance is based on the Sabah 2008 Ethnic Study committee report and that he hoped the people of Sabah will continue to live harmoniously together as Sabahans, although they have different classifications such as natives, non-natives Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputeras.