'Dayak' more fitting term for Borneo natives, says Kitingan

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said the term “Dayak” is more fitted to identify the indigenous people in Borneo.Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said the term “Dayak” is more fitted to identify the indigenous people in Borneo.

KOTA KINABALU: After more than two decades, Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan (pic) is still adamant that the term “Dayak" is a more fitting representation of the natives in the Borneo island.

Responding to renewed calls by several politicians to broadly classify Sabahan natives as “momogun” to replace the “lain-lain” (others) section in official government forms, the Deputy Chief Minister explained that the term Dayak serves as a singular identification for Borneo's indigenous people.

Upko president Datuk Ewon Benedick made the 'momogun' proposal during the just concluded Sabah state assembly sitting, and was supported by Rungus Cultural Association president Jornah Mozihim, citing that it is a general term for the native Dusunic, Murutic and Paitanic ethnic groups in the state.

Kitingan said while some may prefer the term “momogun”, he would rather use “Dayak” as a reference that encompasses all and is widely accepted in neighbouring regions like Sarawak and Indonesia’s Kalimantan.

“The term Dayak is widely recognised in Sarawak and Kalimantan, having been used since the 1600s to describe the diverse indigenous groups of Borneo.

"So I would prefer promoting Dayak as Borneo’s identity. All are Dayaks...there are Dusun Dayaks, Murut Dayaks. This could serve as a collective identity for Borneo.

“Maybe we should go beyond “momogun”, because only then would we be seen as having significant numbers,” he said.

He said many tribes in Sarawak had initially opposed the term, but eventually embraced it when they realised that they could maintain their distinct identities.

“You will not lose your ethnic identities, but for a collective Borneo identity, you should refer to yourself as such (Dayak),” he said.

He noted that the cultures, traditions and languages of the Kadazandusun, Murut and Rungus people in Sabah exhibited similarities to their counterparts in Sarawak and Kalimantan.

“I visited a church in central Kalimantan and was surprised that they were reading a prayer in the Kadazan language. In fact, in many parts of Kalimantan, especially in the north, you will find people conversing in the Dusun or Murut languages,” he said.

Kitingan said he has been promoting the idea through the Borneo Dayak Forum (BDF), advocating for an overarching indigenous identity that encompasses all ethnicities, rather than opting for a name that competes with others.

Reflecting on his tenure as president of BDF, and later the Dayak International Organisation since 2010, Kitingan highlighted their registration with the United Nations, aiming to provide the Dayak community with a platform in the international arena and assert Borneo’s recognition as a "Dayak" nation.

“With membership spanning across the island, we have reached an agreement to establish a Dayak International Justice System.

"Our objective is for all indigenous laws of Borneo to form a unified network.

“As we secure certain rights through the United Nations, we could perhaps issue passports, allowing indigenous people of Borneo to travel freely within the provinces, and potentially developing our own currency,” said Kitingan.

He added that with the rich culture and resources in the Bornean island, it could be promoted further in the tourism industry to the organising of Borneo Cultural Festivals or Borneo Traditional Sports.

He added that to date, they only have some 4,000 registered members but believes that the numbers would be higher if direct membership to the respective associations are accounted for.

In 2016, 21 Kadazandusun Murut ethnic associations signed a declaration duringt the Momogun National Congress (MNC) to use the term "momogun' as a generic term for the Dusunic, Murutic and Paitanic ethnic groups in Sabah.

According to MNC founder Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, the term “momogun” was not coined by them but it had been used in the past

"I feel that if ‘momogun’ is used, the Dusunic, Paitanic and Murutic communities do not need to fear losing their identities as names like Kadazan, Dusun, Rungus, Murut, Lundayeh/Lundayuh, Tatana, Tobilung, Lotud, Liwan, Tindal, Sungai, Tombonuo, Bisaya, Orang Sungai/Sungoi and Begak, among others, will be maintained," he had said.

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Sabah , Dayak , Momogun , Jeffrey Kitingan , Language , Label


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