KOTA KINABALU: Photographs of Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wearing a headgear and sash with the words “Huguan Siou” have generated a storm among Sabahans.
To them, the move to bestow the title, which means Paramount Leader of the Kadazandusuns, is an affront to the community.
The photographs were originally posted on the Facebook account of Ranau PKR chief Jonathan Yasin.
Yasin said the headgear and sash were presented to Anwar during his visit to Kampung Paginatan over the weekend.
It was merely a symbolic gesture by former native chief Paulus Kimpuang, he said.
“Who am I to stop any Kadazan or Dusun individual from appointing anyone Huguan Siou Malaysia?” Jonathan said in a reply to comments posted on his Facebook page.
Anwar, however, denied that he was bestowed the honour.
“It's not true. I am not aware of it. There was never a public announcement about it,” Anwar said when approached in Miri where he attended a talk.
Political leaders and Kadazandusun elders have accused the PKR leader of belittling their community.
“This is nothing less than an insult to us,” said Kota Kinabalu district chief William Majimbun said.
He said the Kadazandusun community had selected Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan as their Huguan Siou or revered leader since 1984.
“As far as we are concerned, there is only one Huguan Siou. Anyone else claiming the title insults the Kadazandusuns,” Majimbun said.
Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) deputy president Dr Othman Menuddin said the conferring of the title could only be performed by a bobolian (traditional Kadazandusun priest).
“The person who is picked has to possess certain traits such as patience and fearlessness, display exemplary leadership skills and have a belief in divine powers,” he said.
He cited the first Huguan Siou, the late Tun Fuad Stephens, who was one of Sabah's founding fathers.
After Fuad's death in 1976, he said the post remained vacant when former Deputy Chief Minister, the late Datuk Dr James Ongkili, declined to accept the title and the Kadazandusun community eventually chose Pairin in 1984.
Dr Othman, a native of Ranau district where Anwar received the sash and headgear, said Huguan Siou referred to someone of royal standing in the community and that it was not just an honorary title.
Upko information chief Datuk Donald Mojuntin said the title was “indigenous” to the community.
“How can there be a Huguan Siou Malaysia? That would mean he is a paramount leader for the country. This is illogical,” said Mojuntin.
Kota Belud MP Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan described the incident as a major faux pas by PKR.
He said the title was “sacred” and the people in the state were careful not to politicise the position.
“Even if Anwar did not know that he was about to be bestowed' the title, what about Ranau PKR? The division chief should have been more sensitive about this title, which you do not simply bestow at a political ceramah,” he said.
Sabah Progressive Party deputy president Datuk Eric Majimbun said: “We do not know the intention of the person giving it to him but Anwar should not have accepted the sash.”