Kaamatan and the rule of the Adat (Customary laws and Traditional Practices)

1 The ADAT: Human & Divine Justice for the Kadazandusuns

The Adat is a complex mixture of indigenous peoples’ spiritual values, customs, traditions, practices and observances, developed and handed down to generations since time immemorial. It encompasses the way of life, basic values, belief system, culture, accepted code of conduct, manners and conventions according to which indigenous society is ordered, and are enforceable in the peoples’ courts of law.

Momolianism being regarded a divine set of rules of worship, behavior and mode of life, the resourceful Kadazandusuns have ingeniously fitted their religious values system into their social life and made it into laws known as Adat.

By way of the Adat system, supernatural and man-made forces are harmonized and harnessed positively by the cooperation of everyone in the community to maintain their health and wellbeing. Like an individual human being, the community possesses its own life whose health and wellbeing depends on the individual as well as collective righteous acts of its individual human components. Community life and health are adversely affected by wrongful and sinful individual and collective acts. Thus bestiality, incest, suicide, murder, vandalism and sacrilege upon holy sites or precincts by an individual or gang can make the entire community of the wrong doer weak, diseased and be cursed with natural disasters.

The Kadazandusun twin levels of Human and Divine Justice provides for the concept of justice wherein offenders of the Adats may outwit and escape human judgment and penalties, but will never escape the divine administered spiritual justice exacted upon the human souls.


2 Kaamatan and the rule of the Kadazandusun Adat

There are sections of the Adat (customary laws) and sets of Pantangs, Tagals and Pagals (traditional observances, practices and taboos) by which Kampong (village) chiefs and council of elders administered and guard the conduct of celebrating the Kaamatan Festival.

This was emphasized by the Koisaan Council of Elders resolutions on the subject matter of Kaamatan during the KDCA Kaamatan Festival Workshop (Hongkod Koisaan: September 23, 1997).

With regards to the general rules and conduct in organizing the Kaamatan Festival, the Koisaan Council of Elders viewed that the organizers and celebrants must be co-responsible in safeguarding the sanctity, dignity, integrity and decorum of the Kaamatan Festival against the following offences in the eyes of the Kadazandusun adapt Native Courts (Native customary laws) Rules 1995:


Section 4:Causing hurt

Section 5:Threatening

Section 6:Provocation

Section 7:Instilling fear


In respect of safeguarding the modesty of Kaamatan Unduk Ngadau contestants:

Section 21:Enticement of another person’s daughter / fiancé / wife


Section 33:Indecent assault

Section 34:Indecent exposure

Section 35:Indecent intent, word, sound or gesture

Section 36:Slanderous remark or gesture

Section 37:Spreading rumour

Section 38:Disruption of functions

Section 40:Adulteration of water sources

Section 45:Throwing objects at a house (Kaamatan venues)

Section 46:Swearing and cursing

Section 52:Disturbance to customary signification of property (KaamatanFestival celebrations, such as Toguruon, gongs, jars…)


3 Kaamatan Festival related Pantangs

1. Tapai or liquor drinking competitions are not to be part of all Kaamatan festival programs;

2. Pondan (Transvertites) shows are not to be part of the Kaamatan festival programs;

3. Swim suits and hot pants are not to be part of the Kaamatan Unduk Ngadau attire during contests;

4. Mock up wedding and bersanding displays are not to be part of the Kaamatan festival programs;

5. Live paddy plants, are not to be used as part of decorative or ornamental plants for KaamatanFestival;

6. Do not force other’s to drink or eat what they dislike or are not used to;

7. Do not waste food & beverage or any other servings during Kaamatan festival;

8. Do not take seats that are not allocated to you;

9. Do not get drunk and lose control of your senses during Kaamatan festival celebrations;

10. Do not complain or shout about if the organizers food and drinks are not enough for all celebrants, but seek guidance where you can eat and drink;

11. Do not make unnecessary conversation or other forms of noises during solemn parts of the Kaamatan Festival programs such as launching ceremony, speech deliverances and Magavau;

12. Live paddy plants, especially those with ears/fruit grains ears, can be used for ceremonial aspects of Kaamatan festival such as symbolic mongomot launching, Magavau, Toguruon ensembles, but these paddies must be guarded against being wasted about and being trodden disrespectfully;

13. In the light of multi-cultural and multi-religious considerations, all food and beverage must be respectfully and clearly indicated as HALAL or NON-HALAL;

14. Programs of Kaamatan festivals should strive as much as possible to be inclusive and participative for all ages, color, creed, gender and cultural traditions;

15. Politics and politicians of political parties are not to interfere, influence or determine the course and programs of Kaamatan festivals for political gains or mileage;

16. Designated MOC approved prizes sponsorship may be solicited from willing/consenting sponsors, but public soliciting of cash donations, especially from non-Kadazandusunor non-natives, to generally finance Kaamatanfestivals should be discouraged at all levels;

17. In case of death within the venue or vicinity of the venue when the Kaamatan festival programs have already started, the First Aid and Emergency committee must attend to the emergency situation and the Kaamatan festival celebration can then proceed, except when, and if the venue is the residence of the bereaved family. For this reason, as from precedence, Kaamatan festivals are encouraged to be held in community halls, such as Balai Rayas, or temporary made public assembly halls or tents.

NB: Along with social change, development and transformation of human values, the general rules and guidelines to safeguard the sanctity and integrity of Kaamatan may be revised to be made relevant to the situation of the times, but never to sacrifice the sacredness, morality and decency of Kaamatan.

The KDCA through its Koisaan Council of Elders shall be the authority to approve changes and addition to or deletion from the current general rules and guidelines for the Kaamatan festival organization.


© KDCA/KCE/DBT/23091997