|Sabah (then North Borneo), the
second largest state in Malaysia, is located on the northern part of
Borneo Island, the world's third largest island. Sabah covers an area of
75,500 square kilometres with a coastline of 14,400 kilometres long
washed by the South China Sea in the west, the Sulu Sea in the north
east and Celebes Sea in the south east.
Sabah, known as the "Land Below The Wind" is rich not only in natural
beauty and resources, but also in the historical and cultural heritage
of its people.
|Flora and Fauna
Sabah is a mountainous country. Its mountainous area is
crisscrossed with rivers which run through the valley to fertile
land. In this State is located the majestic and highest mountain in
Borneo, Mount Kinabalu which is 4,101 metres high.
Sabah is a botanical paradise. The world's largest flower,
Rafflesia whose huge red bloom can grow up to a metre in diameter,
is found in Sabah. Many species of orchids, pitcher plants and
rhododendrons are endemic to Sabah.
Panoramic view of Mt. Kinabalu
|The lush greenery provides home for
wildlife such as the Sumatran Rhinoceros, Orang-Utan, Elephant,
Mousedeer, Monkey, Flying Squirrel, Barking deer and Birds.
Sabah is endowed with a heterogenous population where its people
are as diverse in their cultural background as they are
linguistically. Based on their languages, the indigenous population
is made up of some 50 ethnic groups and not less than 80 sub-groups,
namely, Ambai, Pingas, Alumbia, Rumanau, Baukan, Rungus, Bisaya,
Selungai, Bonggi, Sembakung, Bundu, Serudung, Dumpas, Sinambu, Dusun,
Sinandapak, Gana, Sinorupu, Garo, Sonsogon, Gonsomon, Sukang, Idahan,
Sukpan, Kadazan, Sundayo, Kalabakan, Sungai, Kavananan, Tagahas,
Kedayan, Tagalong, Kimaragang, Tagol, Kolobuan, Talantang, Kolod,
Tangara, Okolor, Tatana, Lingkabau, Tidung, Liwan, Timugon, Lobu,
Tinagas, Kwijau, Tindal, Lotud, Tobilung, Liba, Toliting, Lundayo,
Tombonuo, Makiang, Tuhawan, Malapi, Tutong, Begahak, Bajau, Minokok,
Balangingi/Balanguingui, Murut, Cocos, Naaboi, Iranuns, Nulu,
Cagayan, Paitan, Suluk, Paluan and Bruneis.
The KadazanDusun -
Contestants of the "Unduk Ngadau" (Beauty Queen contest), the
highlight of the Harvest Festival which are celebrated in May
The Rungus inhabit the northern part of Sabah,
Kudat district. Their costumes are predominantly dark or black in
colour and worn with beautiful ornaments, accessories and
The Bajaus in traditional costumes. On the west
coast of Sabah, they are farmers as well as fishermenm and are well
known for their expert horsemanship.
|They are traditional practising wet rice
or hill rice cultivation with some hunting and riverine fishing. On the
coastal area, they are traditional fishermen.
Some indigenous communities still practise the traditional way of
life as farmers and fishermen, though many are now involved in various
occupation such as white collar workers, that is, busnessmen, civil
servants and successful politicians.
The Chinese forms the largest non-indigenous group in Sabah. They
have settled in the state over the past century.
Headhunting was practised by the interior indigenous people of Sabah
such as the Murut and the Kadazandusun. However, this activity was not
practised rampantly as was among the Sawarakian tribes. It was held to
confer benefits both on the individual taker of the head and on the
community to which the taker belonged.
The taking of his first head denoted a youth's entry into manhood. It
proved him to be a tried warrior and he was then entitled to receive his
first tattoo marks. The possession of a head also enabled him to win the
favour of the young woman of his choice and to press a suit which would
have been less successful had he been unable to show any such material
proof of his prowess. Besides that, the souls of those whose heads had
been taken were believed to follow thier victors to the spirit world;
and naturally the greater number of heads a man obtains the greater
respect was he likely to win from his fellows both in this life and the
Under the British North Borneo Chartered Company, law was imposed by
the British on the headhunting activities. This caused a decline in
practising headhunting among the indigenous people of Sabah. Now, the
headhunting in Sabah was regarded as a nostalgia of the past.
|History of Sabah
|28,000 years ago, a lava flow from the
now extinct Mostyn volcano dammed the Tingkayu River, causing a lake to
form. Fine stone-age tools were found on the old lake bed, now covered
with oil palms, which is believed to be a stone-tool factory site. The
tools, said to be among the finest of its kind in Southeast Asia,
indicate the presence of settlers on the lake shores between 28,000 -
18,000 years ago.
|Based on archaeological findings, Sabah
was inhabited by man at least 28,000 - 18,000 years ago at the
Darvel Bay area in the east coast. These early communities lived in
caves in the east coast of Sabah, namely the Tingkayu area, the
Baturong cave, the Madai cave, the Tapadong cave and Gomantong cave.
The modern history of Sabah began with the barter trade relation;
ceramic wares from China were exchanged for spices and other jungle
produce with the local people. It was believed to have happened in
the 10th century during the Sung Dynasty.
Then, during the Ming Dinasty (14th century), it was believed
that one expedition led by Ong Sum Ping sailed out to North Borneo
via the Sulu Sea. This expedition sailed upriver to what is now
known as Kinabatangan and made a settlement there.
Magnificent archaeological artifacts from
A Vietnamese drum or known as "Dongson Drum"
which had existed between 2,500 - 2,00 years ago, decorated pottery
container and sherds which are found at the Bukit Timbang Dayang,
|The existence of the Chinese settlement
however remains a mystery as there has not yet been any archaeological
evidence to identify the settlement on the Kinabatangan. Nevertheless,
the name "Kinabatangan" was said to have connection with the existence
of this early settlement.
Towards the end of the 14th century, it was believed that Islam was
first introduced in Sabah. This is based on a Jawi manuscript in the
Idahan language dated 1408 A.D., which gives an account of an Idahan man
named Abdullah in Darvel Bay who embraced Islam.
In the early 16th century, Sabah came under the de'facto rule of
Brunei Sultanate. A century later, Sabah was ruled by two de'facto
powers; the Brunei sultanate in the west coast area and the Sulu
Sultanate in the east coast area.
Relations of Sabah with Britian begun in 1763 when the British East
India Company made a settlement on Balambangan Island and later on
Labuan Island in 1846.
The American Trading Company later made a settlement in Kimanis in
1865. In 1881, Sabah was administered by the British North Borneo
Chartered Company (BNBCC), a hierarchical system of administration.
Under the BNBCC, Sabah underwent numerous development. Overall the
administration was smooth and peaceful, though there existed some
opposition. Taxes introduced by the British on land, head and boat
caused anger among the local people. This led to the emergence of local
warriors who opposed the British. Among them were Mat Salleh, Mat Sator,
Syerif Osman, Antenom, Si Gunting, Pak Musa and others.
Hj. Saman and his men attacking the British at
Datu Paduka Mat Salleh was a prominent warrior in
a series of uprising against the British, 1894 - 1900.
|In the 1880s and 1900s, the opening up
of commercial estates was accelerated and assisted in uplifting the
socioeconomy of Sabah i.e. railway services.
On 1st January 1942, the Japanese army landed on Labuan Island. The
mission to capture Sabah was rapid. On 16th May 1946, Sabah was
completely under the Japanese rule. Sabah was divided into two
divisions, the West Coast including the interior and Kudat was named "Sheikai
Shiu" and the East Coast was called "Tokai Shiu".
The Japanese occupation was resisted by guerilla groups i.e. the
Kinabalu Guerrillas led by Albert Kwok at West Coast and another led by
Datu Mustapha at the northern part of Sabah. However, the Kinabalu
Guerrillas movement ended with the mass killing of Kwok and its members
in Petagas on 21st January 1944.
The liberation of Sabah began on 9th June 1945 when the 9th Australia
Imperial Force Division attacked the Japanese location on Labuan Island.
The war in Sabah ended with the official surrendering by Lieutenant
General Masao Baba on Labuan Island on 10th September 1945, Colonel
Elimus in Papar on 15th September 1945 and Major Akashi in Beaufort on
17th September 1945. This was the result of the combined bombing of the
Allied Forces (Australia, British, United States and New Zealand) which
in the process also devastated Sandakan, Jesselton and Labuan.
After the Second World War, Sabah was administered by the British
Military Administration until 15th July 1946 when civil rule was
Sabah was made a British Crown Colony as the British North Borneo
Chartered Company was not able to redevelop the devastated Sabah as the
result of the Second World War. The British Government reorganised and
redeveloped the administration system which was planned/implemented by
the British North Borneo Chartered Company. Jesselton was made the new
state capital as Sandakan was almost totally ruined by the War.
The wind of change began to be felt in many countries in Southeast
Asia after the war. The spirit of nationalism and the wish to be
independent became more conspicuous.
|The announcement by Tunku Abdul Rahman
Putra Al-Haj on 27th May 1961 on the possibility of creating a Malaysia
Federation which comprised Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Singapore
had greatly boosted the spirit and hope of the North Borneo people to
Various negotiations were held and oppositions were faced in the
process of Sabah being granted independence. Finally, the Malaysia
Federation was formed on 16th September 1963 without Brunei and North
Borneo was renamed Sabah. Spectacular and memorable events were held at
Jesselton Town Padang to mark this day. Before that day, North Borneo
was granted self rule by the British on 31st August 1963.
Through the Federation, Sabah had undergone rapid development in
Donald Stephens, Chief Minister of
Sabah, reading the proclaimation of Independe of Sabah through
Federation of Malaysia on 16th September 1963 at Padang Merdeka, Kota
Kinabalu. With him are Tun Mustapha bin Datu Harun, the Head of State of
Sabah and Tun Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaya, representing
the Federal Bovernment of Malaysia.
|Kota Kinabalu (then Jesselton) was the
third capital of Sabah after Kudat and Sandakan. The town of Jesselton,
named after the Vice Chairman of the Brtisih North Borneo Chartered
Company, Sir Charles Jessel. On 30th September 1967, Jesselton was given
its new name, Kota Kinabalu.
In Kota Kinabalu, there are three remaing pre-war structures - the
Old Post Office Building, the Atkinson Clock Tower and the Old Welfare
building. All three have been gazetted as historical buildings.
View of Kota Kinabalu, 1904
View of Kota Kinabalu, 1996