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Why the Lotuds are in decline

By Egon A. Ubit
I wish to express my worry about what’s happening in Tuaran. We cannot deny that the  district has developed quite a lot since independence in 1963. We have even seen how the district had produced a lot of leaders. It was the birthplace of the United Sabah Dusun Association (USDA) which had 80,000 members at one time. Tuaran was also the centre of the struggle of Pekemas with fearless and aggressive leaders like the late M. A. Rahman. Tuaran produced a charismatic leader in the person of OKK Indan Kari, who later became the governor of Sabah , then named Tun Hamdan Abdullah. We also had the famous Limbai Angkapon who would have been the Member of Parliament for Tuaran had he not died while campaigning, so giving victory by default to Buja Gumbilai in 1969.
The Lotud community was a respected group then. Even their native chiefs and village chiefs were respected. This is because the Lotuds had a long history of community pride and aggressiveness. In our culture, the highest leader was called Kobontugan (The Most Praised One), the leader who is learned in adat and philosophy of life in general, showed great leadership, adept at life skills, knowledgeable in the rituals and demonstrated bravery and strength in war. It was this heritage that motivated the Lotuds until the 1960s. But when independence came, politics came in and began to erase the old values. Now people are appointed because of the political loyalty, and not always because of their personal qualities. Today, sadly, there is no Kobontugan anymore. 
Today we can all notice that the Lotuds have been declining in many aspects. They have become victims of their own weaknesses, of competition and neglect from other groups. When one Lotud was a Member of Parliament, many people complained about the community being neglected him, with no Lotud getting any benefit. Now the Lotuds are a group without any leader. No YB, either assemblyman, MP or Senator. All we have is six Datuks who are now mostly retired or expired. And out of these six Datuks only two live in Tuaran!
The Lotuds too have no constituency like most other ethnic groups. The biggest group of Lotuds are those in the Tamparuli state constituency, but the lotuds are not the majority group in Tamparuli. In Tamparuli they are under an assemblyman who is not a Lotud and who is not even from Tamparuli but from Kiulu. In Sulaman the Lotud are under a Bajau YB. I heard that Upko had at one time proposed to the government to create a new Lotud-majority constituency called Marabahai, but until now we haven’t heard anymore about it. Because there is a plan to change the boundaries of the constituencies, I appeal that the proposed Marabahai constituency be created especially for the Lotuds. Raymond Tombung had written about this sad situation in his column sometime back, but no action had been taken to address it. We need to prepare a memorandum on it to be submitted to the government.
People say that if you want to see how high the thinking and spirit of a people is, count the number of writers it has, and see the quality of their work. I notice that in Tuaran there is only one active writer, Raymond himself. The other writer is Datuk Raya Erom but she has not written much lately, maybe because she is busy with  her work as a philantropist. Compare this to the large number of Kimaragang writers, such as Daniel Jebon Janaun, Janathan Kandok, Suzita Janaun, Rasimi Linggang, Norhamidah Jarimal, Justina Tuyundo, Rapiah Supu, Welin Ebal (who has written several novels) and several others! Twenty years ago the Kimaragangs and the Rungus were minority groups way below the Lotuds, but now they have overtaken us! The first Rungus telemovie was launched last Tuesday while we are still dreaming of the first Lotud movie!
The Lotud community, is having so many problems partly because it doesn’t have enough talents in many important areas, especially leadership. And this is very glaring today. Tuaran maybe the birthplace of USDA but it is also the graveyard of USDA! This famous and once respected association was already deregistered but was revived on appeal a few years ago. I heard it was revived on the condition that it must have a proper general meeting and its records be updated. Unfortunately, the current President, Datuk Kalakau Untol who took over from the late Datuk Mark Koding, never once organized a general meeting for 17 years now! Now the association is dying and is kept alive by simple annual returns year after year and the so-called supreme council members are all from Tuaran, except for the treasurer general who is from Penampang, all handpicked by Kalakau. Because they were handpicked and not voted into office, they are illegal leaders, and that means USDA is an illegal association! I really feel Kalakau should resign as USDA president and let someone more capable to lead this association.
And then last year a new Lotud Association, Persatuan Suang Lotud Sabah, was launched, but this one is already dying because it has no activity except during Pesta Kaamatans, and the founding president is lethargic. It doesn’t even meet once every three months as required by the ROS. To me it is a total embarrassment to the community.  But when we Lotud elders sit down for drinks we are in such high spirit talking about our people’s future, but when we are no longer drunk, we forget what we want, and we need another drink to get us into the spirit of talking and talking again. Maybe what we need is not more associations but more drinking sessions to progress!
The Lotuds are also cowards (guntalau) in many ways. In the old days they were ferocious warriors but today people are stepping over our heads and we just accept it. For example, why is the current Native Chief, Saniban Amphila, not promoted to be the District Chief although the DC post has been vacant for many years already? Why only the Bajau DC? And also, I want to ask the MP and the three ADUNs: Why are there only three or four Lotuds left working in the District Council while the rest of the 200-odd staff are Bajaus?  It is also the same case in the District Office. I heard in Tamparuli the Dusuns are also becoming outnumbered by non-Dusuns from Tenghilan. Why? And why are the Lotuds keeping quiet? To me it is not a matter of competition, but a matter of being fair. Where is 1Malaysia in Tuaran? But if the Lotuds don’t even dare speak up, maybe they deserve what they get, or don’t get.
We can’t deny that something needs to be done to address the sorry situation of this community because we have become so lazy, apathetic and cowardly. We need to find that fighting spirit which we once had. To me the solution is not money. All we need is a burning community spirit and strong leadership. If we can’t even find these two things in us, I am afraid we will be finished, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

1 comment:

  1. I am sure by now the Lotuds would have a group of graduates. They should pick up where past leaders have left. Please talk to them to encourage them to establish a Lotud association. Only by being united we can surge ahead. Alone it would be extremely difficult if not impossible. As long as we live we have to continue trying. Giving up means we are dead before our breathe leave us.

    Mohd Hamdan bin Adnan


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