The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Rethink rejection of ‘Momogun’
AS one who was Secretary General and later Deputy President of the United Sabah Dusun Association (USDA), I see with puzzlement and bemusement the USDA’s outright rejection of “Momogun” as a collective tag for the Sabah indigenous peoples.
Rather belatedly, it had taken the same path as the one taken by Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) and the Kadazan Society of Sabah (KSS).
USDA first indicated its objection to the collective name in July when its Secretary General, Bobbey Lewat, said that Momogun National Congress (MNC) was “rash to push for the term ‘Momogun’.”
He also said Sabah’s ethnic leaders had decided in 1961 that the term Kadazandusun be used to represent the state’s ethnic communities, which include Kadazan, Dusun, Rungus and Murut.
This is a serious error on three points. Murut was never linguistically part of the Kadazandusun grouping. Bobbey was also referring to the decision on our collective name made (without consensus) at the first UNKO Congress in 1961. The name chosen was not “Kadazandusun” but “Kadazan,” a name choice which caused a strong opposition and backlash from those who wanted to stick to “Dusun.”
This widespread anger led to the formation of the United Pasok Momogun Organization (Pasok Momogun) by G.S. Sundang and OKK Sedomon Gunsanad in Bingkor, Keningau the following year.
The name “Kadazandusun” was offficially agreed to in 1995 when USDA and the KDCA signed an agreement to accept the term as the name of the Pupils’ Own Language (POL) to be taught in schools.
As one of the signatories to this agreement (along with Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Benedict Topin, and the late Datuk Mark Koding), I wish to state for the record, again, that by signing the agreement, USDA did not agree to accept “Kadazandusun” as the name of the race, but only as a name of the POL.
This was despite the assumption by some parties that henceforth USDA and “Dusun” had ceased to exist! As such, I cannot understand why USDA is mixing up this historic agreement and the UNKO’s inaugural congress to justify its opposition to “Momogun.”
Obviously, the association needs to straighten out its ideology and knowledge of history!
As the Secretary General of USDA then, I looked upon myself as an “ultra-Dusunist” who would go on an emotional and animated tirade if anyone dared to make the slightest suggestion that I was something else other than a diehard and hardcore Dusun!
I even wrote a book to vent my frustrations on the issue. But decades later, time has changed and mellowed me to be more realistic.
I am no longer offended when identified with alternative names to “Dusun.” And long before “Momogun” was officially adopted by the Momogun National Congress (MNC) I had already used the name in my writings, especially in this column.
Having come from the fierce Dusun-or-die battleground, I can understand why USDA, along with “other [nine] ethnic KDM associations in Sabah wants to reject “Momogun”.
Similar to KDCA and the KSS, USDA, without stating it, is defensive of the Dusun identity, fearing perhaps that “Momogun” will replace it and possibly diminishing USDA’s standing as an association fighting for the preservation of the Dusun identity.
This seems clear from what the USDA President, Datuk Ewon Ebin said in his rationale for rejecting “Momogun.”
He said USDA was urging the Malaysian government to officially use the term ‘Dusun’ to refer to all the Dusunic speaking community in Sabah in all official forms and to immediately stop using the term ‘lain-lain.’
“I am of the opinion that inserting the various ethnic races in government official forms will not burden the government financially. In fact, this will enhance the capacity of the various government departments to identify the various races in Sabah.
“At the same time, this will also help to ensure that the various ethnic identities will be retained, maintained and recognized.
“The term ‘Dusun’ was first used by the Dusunic speaking communities in Sabah and used in earliest history books and other literatures to refer to the Dusunic communities.”
He also said that “There is no such word as ‘Momogun’ in the Constitution…”
But let USDA be reminded that “Momogun” or “Memagun” has been in use for more than a century in documents and reports, and the term, rooted in “pogun” (domicile) is very common in the community.
The earliest available document we have is the June 1884 issue of the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 160, in which “Momogun” is listed as a meaning of “native.” “Memagun” is also mentioned in p.64 of the 1884 book, The Tawaran and the Putatan Rivers .
Also, why on earth does USDA think that “KDM” is more right than “Momogun”? It knows very well that “KDM” is a very recent invention, which is not the name of a race and IT IS NOT IN THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION. It has now been extended into “KDMR” and possibly something longer in the future.
With its decision to reject “Momogun,” USDA is blind to, or purposely setting aside, other bigger realities facing the indigenous peoples of Sabah.
MNC’s intention is to unite all the indigenous groups into one identification in an unprecedented search for wider and stronger unity.
By using “Momogun” the “Dusun” identity will continue to “be retained, maintained and recognized” as what Datuk Ewon wants. The government forms can use Momogun with succeeding blank spaces to write “Dusun” or “Dusun Kimaragang”.
As I remember it, USDA’s constitution aims to unite with all indigenous groups in Sabah. So what better vehicle is there than “Momogun”?
If Datuk Ewon and his deputy, Datuk Kalakau Untol, believe that “Momogun” would dilute their political influences over the Dusun people, they have to remember that even “Dusun” or USDA and “Kadazan” or “Kadazandusun” have failed miserably to unite the people.
Other dusunic ethnic groups (the Rungus, Kimaragangs, Tatana, Lotud, the Paitanics, etc) have their own associations. Why not give “Momogun” the chance in uniting us?
In MNC, ethnic bias and cultural superiority complex – which are the principal motivations in the various indigenous NGOs, are NONEXISTENT, another factor which makes MNC is a better and more realistic advocate of unity.
In this late course in our history, when immigrants have become our fellow Sabahans and are increasing exponentially, thanks to continuous new arrivals and ‘overtime’ procreation, our socio-cultural parochialism, i.e. tenacity to small-group identities, is sorely useless, anachronistic and unrealistic.
This is no longer the 1960s. This is the 21st century, when myriad challenges are falling upon us with a plethora of bewildering complexities.
Soon, dusunism and kadazanism will lose their usefulness in the face of our defeat and humiliation in economics, education and politics. Even now immigrants are selling tamu goods much cheaper and yet making more money, with speedier supply and demand cycles than our clueless native tamu vendors.
Leaders of the various indigenous associations should now be sitting down, not to reject, but to unite and support MNC! They should wholeheartedly organize ways to cooperate in propelling MNC into a national and international NGO!
I would personally appeal to Tan Sri Wences Angang and his Persatuan Tatana Sabah, as well as leaders of the other eight indigenous NGOs, to extricate themselves from the shortsighted anti-MNC movement and decide instead to be part of the MNC movement.
Someone should call another meeting of native associations to make a counter decision by supporting MNC, citing a dire need for realistic approach to the threats against the indigenous peoples from various challenges in the new millennium.
MNC Vice President, Sylvester Disimon, has stated that “MNC would not be deterred and discouraged by baseless criticisms, verbal attacks and sabotage by politicians who now helm local ethnic NGOs.
He cited the case of the many indigenous peoples in Sarawak who have accepted “Dayak” as their common identity. The acceptance of “Dayak” has not in anyway overshadowed the identities of the Ibans, Bidayuhs, the Kelabits and so on.
No amount of rejection will stop the MNC from continuing to work for the progress of the Momoguns.
MNC is the new intellectual and corporate-cultured approach to our problems without being limited to narrow and often regressive cultural and social ideologies.
Time has moved on and the 1960s is but an antiquated and outmoded world long left behind now.