First of all, this letter is meant as a festschrift for Prof P Ramasamy's letter and an earlier news report about the Indian Malaysian community's progress. It is also a sincere opinion from a Kadazandusun, however amateurish, about the political and socio-economic conditions of the Kadazandusun. It is also timely in view of the 10th Kadazandusun Cultural Association's (KDCA) Triennial Delegate Conference.
The successful gathering of the Foochows in Sarawak recently should be taken as a valuable lesson to other communities in Malaysia. At the gathering, it was reported that almost 3,000 Foochows from Malaysia and China were present to show their sense of closeness and comradeship.
Such similar event is being conducted by the Kadazandusuns from Dec 2 to 5. But there is a stark difference between the Foochows and the Kadazandusuns: the Foochows have a long history of progress and modernity while the Kadazandusuns have been regarded as ‘a defranchised, poorest of the poor rural community ... (as a result of) ... political disunity, economic backwardness, poverty and cultural disintegration'. (The Borneo Post, Sept 21).
Another difference is that the Foochows share and bring to the world's attention their phenomenal successes in various aspects of development while the Kadazandusuns show their perennial problems of political disunity and socio-economic backwardness to all.
To compare the Foochows and Kadazandusuns might be unfair but there are a lot of things that the latter can learn from the former.
Kadazandusuns should be open to voice out their concerns and not be psychologically suppressed by political leaders whose main agendas have always been ‘progress and development' implemented in a narrow and rather irresponsible fashion.
Here, I would like to propose several suggestions to improve the current political and socio-economic conditions of the Kadazandusuns.
1. The Kadazandusuns need strong leadership
The Kadazandusun must realise that in order for them to move forward, there must be a strong leadership within their community. Choosing a strong leader might be tricky (as monetary benefits and all sort of patronages can play their role) but it is not impossible for the Kadazandusuns to do so.
A kind of paradigm shift is needed here: that the Kadazandusun must not choose leaders whose aim is only to give them all sort of physical development - development must transcend beyond what the eyes can see.
The Kadazandusun must realise that development does not necessarily mean better road conditions, better ‘balai raya' and better this and that. They should ask themselves about their social, spiritual and moral development?
Can the Kadazandusun leaders provide us with these spiritual and moral needs so that we can be spiritually strong and morally upright? The Kadazandusun must realise that spiritual and moral development are equally important as physical development.
The Kadazandusun must choose leaders with good spiritual and moral values that can bring various aspects of development to the community - leaders who put the people's needs as a priority and not theirs for survival.
Presently, the Kadazandusuns do not have strong leaders who can lead them (although some people like Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Maximus Ongkili, Bernard Dompok, Joseph Kurup, Jeffery Kitingan, to name a few others, are within this category of leaders).
With the exception of Joseph Pairin, Maximus Ongkili and the others, most of the Kadazandusun leaders nowadays do not have a strong political will to bring the Kadazandusun to greater heights.
The only will that they have is - in what I consider as a deliberate attempt - a will to survive politically and economically for their own benefits. In choosing for the right Huguan Siou (Paramount Leader), the Kadazandusun must consider the above factors.
The Kadazandusuns must decide - and it is to be done now - before unscrupulous Kadazandusun leaders mislead them once again.
2. Look for better ways to be strong economically
As a majority of the Kadazandusuns live in the rural areas, it is customary to associate them with rural development. As such, this issue has become the central and most common issue of development in Sabah.
While quite a lot of development can be seen taking place in the urban areas, the rural areas, unfortunately, are still facing underdevelopment. The Kadazandusun leaders must change or amend the existing policies to solve the problems of poverty and unemployment faced by the Kadazandusun and accelerate the construction of infrastructure-related development such as roads to remote areas, schools for rural children and training centres.
The challenge for the Kadazandusun leaders is therefore to bring development to rural areas and educate the rural people to maximise and make use of their potential in order to uplift their standard of living.
The Kadazandusun leaders, especially those who are state assemblymen and members of parliament, must make regular visits to their constituencies and voice out whatever problems that their constituents have complained about to either the state or federal cabinet.
In the same way, a systematic documentation of the Kadazandusun's socio-economic profile must be carried out by the relevant agencies, i.e., the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) to ensure proper development is distributed evenly among the less-developed rural areas.
As a minister in charge of rural development, it is time for Joseph Pairin to prove that he has something in his mind that is worth of implementing for the betterment of the Kadazandusuns' socio-economic condition.
3. Intellectuals' role as a watchdog to monitor progress
In every community, the role of intellectuals is vital, particularly in ensuring that elements of abuses and injustices do not take root. Kadazandusun intellectuals are everywhere - they work in corporate companies, in universities, in think-tank organisations and so on.
Kadazandusun intellectuals must come forward to address their people's problems and make suggestions to solve them. We should be thankful that in Malaysia, we have an array of intellectuals who have been risking their lives and that of their families' and at the same time shunning wealth and comfort because of their concern about the gradual decline of our society's good spiritual and moral values as a result of rapid modernisation in Malaysia.
Here, I should pay my due tribute to scholars such as Prof Jomo KS, Dr Syed Husin Ali, Prof Syed Hussien Al-Attas and other Malaysians - men, women, young and old - or their commitment in making Malaysia a better place to live.
In the same way, Kadazandusun intellectuals must come forward and speak on behalf of their community (if not through public speaking engagements, then contributing in the form of academic research is also welcome).
It is indeed saddening to see that only a few Kadazandusun intellectuals have the courage to apply their expertise to the betterment of their community's life. Some are too reluctant to contribute because of the fear of losing their wealth and position.
In one way or another, the Kadazandusuns need these intellectuals, no matter where they are right now.
4. Maintain good relations with federal leaders
The period of political isolation that Joseph Pairin had to endure when he was in the opposition has finally ended. The political situation at the federal level seems to be rosy for the Kadazandusuns, who have long been regarded as being against the federal government as a result of Dr Mahathir Mohamad-Joseph Pairin political tussle.
It is time for the Kadazandusun leaders to maintain good relations with federal leaders under the tutelage of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whose vision for the country is to create a civil society based upon the principles of good governance and transparency.
Kadazandusun leaders must be very careful, this time around, when trying to address constitutional matters of the people in Sabah. This must be done by taking into account similar concerns of other Malaysian communities whose constitutional rights have also been neglected.
Kadazandusun leaders must assist the federal leaders through various avenues to maintain national unity. The move by Maximus Ongkili to revive the long defunct ‘Ferri Malaysia' is indeed laudable.
The Kadazandusun must reject all forms of parochial and communal politics as Malaysia also belongs to other smaller and almost unknown communities, i.e., the Orang Asli and the Dayaks whose constitutional rights must also be upheld.
5. ‘Push' the Umno-led Sabah government for good governance and greater transparency
When I say ‘push', I do not mean to suggest that all Kadazandusuns revolt to topple Umno. It is all right to be critical and vocal when something wrong is done by those in the corridors of power.
The Sabah state legislative assembly is controlled by Umno members and this should not make the Kadazandusun leaders feel inferior or voiceless. They can play a role as a ‘shadow cabinet to ensure check and balance as well as good governance in the state cabinet.
They must also ensure that Umno's presence in Sabah is not meant to further the agenda and interests of some ultra-Malay politicians to ‘Malay-nise' and ‘Islam-ise' the people as feared by many quarters in Sabah.
As for those Kadazandusun leaders who have joined Umno to pursue their political struggle, they must ensure that Umno, as they claim, is a capable political party that can help the Kadazandusuns and Sabah to develop further.
Otherwise, their struggle will be misunderstood as being for personal benefit and not for the people.
6. Address the disunity issue and solve it - fast
For the Kadazandusuns to chart their future political and socio-economic direction, this issue has to be addressed urgently. Without unity and a strong spirit of togetherness, any effort to ensure the continued progress of the Kadazandusuns will remain futile.
Indeed, this disunity issue has been plaguing the Kadazandusun leaders all this while. The growing rhetorical consensus to unite the Kadazandusuns has failed to materialise or even seen as making any sound progress.
If anything, the only platform for unity for the Kadazandusuns, however superficial, is through cultural celebrations such as the Pesta Kaamatan. If the Kadazandusun leaders are really serious, they should go beyond unity in cultural terms.
The PBS (Parti Bersatu Sabah), Upko (United Pasok Kadazandusun-Murut Organisation) and PBRS (Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) have to set aside their political differences for the long-term benefit of the Kadazandusuns.
As Huguan Siou, Joseph Pairin must act as a mediator to unite all Kadazandusun leaders regardless of their political affiliations. Bernard Dompok and Joseph Kurup should also play a role as initiators to unite the Kadazandusun.
This disunity must not be dragged on until someone decides to have a meeting to address it. Joseph Pairin, Bernard Dompok and Joseph Kurup know this and the three of them should act now.
To sum up, I wish to bring to the attention of all Kadazandusuns this quote by the famous British politician, Winston Churchill:
‘Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.'
Source: malaysiakini (http://www3.malaysiakini.com/letters/31862)