Deep in our hearts, we all dream of a tropical haven. Pure, green, prestine. At the same time, unspoilt and untouched by the problems of modern life still. Welcome to Sabah, the land of eco-treasures. Where you can climb to the awesome peak of the highest mountain in the region. Play with the orang utan, "the wild man of Borneo", in the largest such sanctuary in the world. Admire the rafflesia, the largest flower in the world in rainforests that are millions of years old. Dive into some of the world's best underwater wonderlands. Where you also meet some of the friendliest, warmest people in the world. And join in their colourful festivals and traditions that will take you back centuries.
If you yearn for the exhilarating sense of adventure, Sabah is the perfect place for jungle trekking, cave exploration, white-water rafting, mountain climbing or deep sea diving. Your taste for exotic culture will be more than sated by the numerous ethnic customs and celebrations which include living in longhouses and the potent rice wine called "lihiing" or "hiing". You can of course just laze all day on a secluded beach or tee off in a championship golf course in any of the many world-renowned holiday resorts. So why dream of eco-treasures when you can experience the wonders of it all, in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.
Where To Find It
Sabah sits at the tip of Borneo, the world's third largest island. It's coastline of 1,440 km (900 miles), washed by the South China Sea on the West and the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea on the East, that encloses an inland area of 74,500 sq km. (29,399 sq miles). Lying just north of the equator, Sabah enjoys a sunny tropical climate where it's summer all year round. Daily temperatures range from 74 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 33 degrees Centrigrade) with cooler weather up in the mountains. A land blessed with nature's most beautiful treasures, Sabah is also known by the famed romantic name of "The Land Below The Wind"
How To Get There
Kota Kinabalu, the state capital, is the modern gateway to the rest of Sabah. Direct flights between KK (the name by which Kota Kinabalu is fondly called) and the regional capitals of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Kaoshiung, Hong Kong, Taipei, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Shanghai in China, Sydney, Manila, Manado & Balikpapan Indonesia, Brunei, make Sabah easily accessible to travellers everywhere.
Largely destroyed during the Second World War, KK has since developed into a thriving modern city. Places of interest include the State Museum, the State Mosque, the Gaya Street Fair held every Sunday morning and the "pasar malam" where you can polish up your bargaining skills. Nearby are the popular Tanjung Aru Beach, quaint water villages and idyllic off-shore islands. KK and its surroundings are well served by world class holiday resorts and hotels for a relaxing private retreat or large business conference.
The Carefree People
What kind of people live in the land of eco-treasures? All kinds, colours and creeds. The population of about 2 million comprises of over 30 different races speaking over 80 local dialects. The beautiful thing is all these diverse ethnic groups live together harmoniously while at the same time preserving their own culture, traditions, festivals and customs, to make Sabah a multiculturally exotic experience unlike any other.
The largest ethnic group, the Kadazans/Dusuns, make up about a third of the population. These are the prosperous agricultural rice producers of Sabah, although in recent times, many have found success in modern professions. The are well known for their unique customs that feature female priestesses called "bobohizan" presiding over still practised ancient rituals.
The Bajaus are skilled fishermen as well as good rice cultivators. They are also expert in rearing ponies and water bufalloes. Dubbed "The Cowboys of the East", they are renowned for their horsemanship. Catch them every Sunday and on festive occasions at the picturesque Kota Belud. 'Tamu" when they deck up in their resplendent traditional costumes riding brightly decorated ponies.
The Muruts reside mainly in the hinterland where many still live in traditional communal longhouses. Once feared for ther head hunting, the Muruts are great hunters with spears, blowpipes and poisoned darts. It is a rare treat to join one of the weddings, famous throughout the land for their elaborate displays of bridewealth, dancing and feasting.
Probably the most populat festival in Sabah is the "Pesta Kaamatan". This is a Harvest Festival of the Kadazans/Dusuns celebrated in May, featuring traditional dances including one of the high priestess bobohizan in search of rice spirits in a trance. Other festivals include Hari Raya, celebrated by the Muslim community and Chinese New Year celebrated by the Chinese.
History Of Sabah
Sabah or North Borneo was part of the Sultanate of Brunei around the early 16th century. This was during the period when the Sultanate's influence was at its peak. In 1658 the Sultanate of Brunei was purported to have given the north-east portion of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu as a "gift" in return for the latter's help in settling a civil war in the Brunei Sultanate. In 1761 an officer of the British East India Company, Alexander Dalrymple, concluded an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu to allow him to set up a trading post in the region. This together with other attempts to build a settlement and a military station centering around Pulau Balambangan proved to be a failure. There was minimal foreign interest in this region afterward and control over most parts of north Borneo seems to have remained under the Sultanate of Brunei.
In 1865 the American Consul of Brunei, Claude Lee Moses, obtained a 10-year lease over North Borneo from the Sultan of Brunei. Ownership was then passed to an American trading company owned by J.W. Torrey, T.B. Harris and some Chinese merchants. They set up a base and settlement in Kimanis but this too failed due to financial reasons. The rights of the trading company were then sold to Baron Von Overbeck, the Austrian Consul in Hong Kong, and he later obtained another 10-year renewal of the lease. The rights were subsequently transferred to Alfred Dent, whom in 1881 formed the British North Borneo Provisional Association Ltd.
In the following year, the British North Borneo Company was formed and Kudat was made its capital. In 1883 the capital was moved to Sandakan to capitalise on its potential of vast timber resources. In 1888 North Borneo became a protectorate of Great Britain. Administration and control over North Borneo remained in the hands of the Company despite being a protectorate and they effectively ruled until 1942. Their rule had been generally peaceful except for some rebellions, including one led by the Suluk-Bajau leader Mat Salleh from 1894 to 1900, and another led by the Muruts which is known as the Rundum resistance in 1915.
Second World War And The Road To Independence
From 1942 to 1945 during the Second World War, Japanese forces occupied North Borneo. The Japanese forces landed in Labuan on January 1, 1942 and continued to invade the rest of North Borneo. Bombings by the allied forces devastated of most towns including Sandakan, which was totally razed to the ground. Resistance against Japanese occupation were concentrated on the west and north coast of North Borneo. The resistance in Jesselton was led by Albert Kwok and Jules Stephens of the Kinabalu Guerillas. Another resistance was led by Panglima Alli from Sulug Island, off the coast of Jesselton. In Kudat, there were also some resistance led by Tun Datu Mustapha. On October 10, 1943, the Kinabalu Guerrilas together with followers of Panglima Alli staged a surprise attack on the Japanese. The attack however was foiled. The 324 local residents who participated in the attacks, including Albert Kwok and Panglima Alli, were detained in Petagas and later executed on January 21, 1944. The site of the massacre is today known as the Petagas War Memorial.
When Japan surrendered at the end of the war, North Borneo was administered by the British Military Administration and in 1946 it became a British Crown Colony. Jesselton was chosen to replace Sandakan as the capital. The Crown continued to rule North Borneo until 1963. On August 31, 1963 North Borneo attained self-government. There was a call for complete independence on that date by it was denied by the British Governor whom remained in power until Malaysia Day. The intention had been to form Malaysia on August 31 but due to objection from the Philippines and Indonesia, the formation had to be postponed to September 16. On September 16, 1963, North Borneo together with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore formed the Federation of Malaysia and from then on, it became known as Sabah and declared independent from British sovereignty. To safeguard the interest of North Borneo in the new federation, a 20-point agreement was entered between the federal and the state government.
The lease started it all. The Sultanate of Sulu was granted the territory as a prize for helping the Sultan of Brunei against his enemies and from then on that part of Borneo is recognized as part of the Sultan of Sulu's sovereignty. In 1878, Baron Von Overbeck, an Austrian partner representing The British North Borneo Co. and his partner British Alfred Dent, leased the territory of Sabah. In return, the company will provide arms to the Sultan to resist the Spaniards and 5,000 Malaysian ringgits annual rental based on the Mexican dollars value at that time or its equivalent in gold. This lease have been continued until the independence and formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963 together with Singapore, Sarawak and Malaysia. As of 2004, the Malaysian Embassy to the Philippines had been paying cession/rental money amounting to US$1,500 per year (about 6,300 Malaysian Ringgits) to H.M. Sultan Muhammad Fuad A. Kiram I. of the Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah.
The lease agreement is definitely a proof otherwise there will be no basis for any agreement if such ownership was not established at all. The contract was between Sri Paduka Maulana Al Sultan Mohammad Jamalul Alam - representing the sultanate as owner and sovereign of Sabah on one hand, and that of Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, representing the British East India Co. (then became the North Borneo Co.), on the other as lessee of Sabah, was executed on January 22, 1878. The Lease prohibits the transfer of Sabah to any nation, company or individual without the consent of His Majesty’s Government (“Government of the Sultan of Sulu”). Although it is mentioned to be a permanent lease, it is contrary to the international law, which states that the terms for a lease contract could only be for 99 years, as in the case of Hong Kong and Macau when these were leased to Britain and Portugal respectively, by China and subsequently returned after the expiration of the lease. This would make the lease on Sabah overdue by 130 years.
In 1906 and 1920, the United States formally reminded the Great Britain that Sabah did not belong to them and was still part of the Sultanate of Sulu but the British Government ignored and did not listen to the reminder and still annexed the territory of North Borneo as a Crown Colony on July 10, 1946. This is in spite of the fact that the British Government was aware of tile decision made by the High Court of North Borneo on December 19, 1939 that the successor in sovereignty of the Sultan in the territory of Sabah are the Government of the Philippine Islands and not the Great Britain.
On September 12, 1962 during the Pres. Diosdado Macapagal's administration (the father of the present Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo), the territory of North Borneo, and the full sovereignty, title and dominion over the territory were ceded by then reigning sultan of Sulu, HM Sultan Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I, to the Republic of the Philippines. The cession effectively gave the Philippine government the full authority to pursue their claim in international courts. The Philippines broke diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the federation have included Sabah on 1963. It was revoked on 1989 because succeeding Philippine administrations have placed the claim in the back burner in the interest of pursuing cordial economic and security relations with Kuala Lumpur. To date, Malaysia continues to consistently reject Philippine calls to resolve the matter of Sabah's jurisdiction to the International Court of Justice.