KOTA KINABALU: State Law and Native Affairs Minister Datuk Aidi Moktar, who has come under fire for allegedly proposing that Bugis and Javanese people be made natives of Sabah, says the decision on the matter is up to the state government.
"I never said the government will recognise the two ethnic groups. Such things will be left to the state government to discuss," Aidi said after controversy arose following his remarks in Tawau on Friday (Feb 1) that the state government would study the possibility of including the Bugis and Javanese as natives of Sabah.
In a statement on Saturday (Feb 2) he claimed that he merely told the gathering that there was a problem concerning the Bugis and Javanese being made district native chiefs as they were not categorised as Sabah natives.
"This is a legal issue that is being addressed by ministry, which does not alienate the non-natives," Aidi said, adding that the appointment of non-natives as native chiefs had been suspended temporarily pending their confirmation as natives by the Native Court.
"I told the people to wait until all the issues had been resolved by the native court before the issue of district native chief from the Bugis and Javanese heads could be resolved," Aidi said.
Opposition leaders Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili and Parti Solidariti Tanahairku (Sabah STAR) president Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan all strongly voiced their disagreement against including the two ethnic groups as Sabah natives.
Hajiji, the former Sabah Umno chairman who led the party's exodus in December 2018 and is now an independent assemblyman, said such a decision would erode the rights of Sabah natives.
He claimed that the Bugis and Javanese were considered bumiputra under the Federal Constitution while Anak Negeri (state natives) were reserved for those indigenous to North Borneo (Sabah).
"But a Malaysian bumiputra does not necessarily qualify as a native of Sabah. Malays from peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak are not recognised as natives of Sabah unless one of their parents is a native of Sabah," he added.
Aidi's statement also drew immediate reaction from Warisan secretary general Loretto Padua, who said those were his personal view and the party had never consulted or discussed the matter.