The term Huguan Siou means the “paramount leader”, but when a person is bestowed the most coveted title in the Kadazandusun-Murut (KDM) community, it means a lot more than being brave – the person represents the whole of KDM community because Huguan Siou in itself is an institution and an office for the KDM, not merely a person.
In this sense, although it is not as elevated a status and prestige compared to that of a sultan or a king, a Huguan Siou should play similar role in protecting the interests of his people. A person bestowed such a title should be free from any political or religious influence, and also should be vocal enough to protect the interests and well-being of the community.
History of Huguan Siou
Armed with his ‘koboh’ and ‘tataba’, a Huguan Siou in the olden days would lead a fight to protect his people and village
According to Prof. Dr. Ranjit Singh in his book the “Making of Sabah” as quoted by Tan Sri Herman Luping, there are references as to how Kadazandusun villages were governed or ran in the old days – some two hundred years ago, to be exact.
This was before the coming of White Rule in Sabah. And during the reign of the two Sultanates of Brunei and Sulu, there existed then these four institutions, namely: (1) the Orang Tua institution, (2) the Village elders institution, (3) the Religious group (bobohizan) institution and a fourth added especially during the sultanate era and that was the Huguan Siou institution.
The four institutions then were the “protectors”, or the “guardians” of Adat.
According to Herman Luping, the fourth institution, the Huguan Siou was not usually involved in the deliberation on Adat breaches as this was more the work of the Orang Tua, but there were occasions when he was called to give advice or opinion on the matter. His main function was to protect the villages and villagers and in the days when the various tribes were fighting with each other, the Huguan Siou was there to lead the fight.
He was the acknowledged Huguan Siou because he possessed “koboh” or charm and was almost invincible in battle. The Tangah of Penampang for instance used to have regular fights with the Liwan of Tambunan.
The Huguan Siou became prominent in the Penampang district when Brunei overlords ruled the people of Penampang. The Putatan-Moyog river was the inheritance (tanah pusaka) of one of the relations of the Sultan. The last to hold the title of the Putatan-Moyog river was a Pengiran Abu Bakar. He signed a lease in perpetuity to the North Borneo Chartered Company government (Company government) when North Borneo itself was “ceded” to Baron Overbect an Austrian envoy in Hong Kong who in turn sold the same to the North Borneo Chartered Company.
But before the Putatan-Moyog river was sold to the Company government, the owner of the river, Pengiran Abu Bakar collected “buis” or taxes from the people who lived along the river and the valleys of Penampang. The “buis” collected was in the form of paddy or rice, chickens etc. And collection was once a year.
However, when the collection became too often and the people found it burdensome to pay the “buis”, they became angry and wanted to rebel.
The Battle of Kulintangan
In the Battle of Kulintangan, the Huguan Siou then, known as Bouvang, together with his fighters fought the Brunei overlords because of the heavy taxes imposed
The Brunei overlords also started to call them “dusun” in a derogatory manner. This term was not acceptable to them and they became more rebellious. There was a big “battle” known as the “battle at Kulintangan”, involving a few Kadazan fighters led by the then Huguan Siou who was also known as Bouvang. The Kadazan fighters won and according to the legend, they cut off the heads of the enemies and put them on spikes along the road “all the way to Kg Gunsing.”
But the wise Sultan in Brunei did not retaliate. Instead he sent an emissary to Penampang and the Orang tuas of some villages were selected and made Datuks. The latter then became officers of the Sultans.
This story by NC Tan Ping Hing appeared in one of the editions of the “Sabah Society Journal”.
That “Kulintangan incident” happened some two hundred years ago, long before the coming of White Rule in Sabah. And when the Company govern ment ruled Sabah, the four institutions mentioned above were abolished except the Orang Tua. The position of the Village Elders were taken over by the creation of Native Chiefs and also the Native court where breaches of Adat was heard.
The Huguan Siou as an institution was long dormant. And it was not until 1959 when at the monthly meeting of the Society of Kadazans, Penampang, Tun Stephens who took over the presidency of the Society in 1958 (from Lee Kim Cheong) announced the long awaited news that the Colonial government had agreed to recognise the Kadazan Harvest Festival as an annual holiday. This was greeted with a thunderous applause.
Aki Michael Milip, one of the Society’s committee members as well as its elders, stood and said that it was time to revive the Huguan Siou institution.
He proposed that Stephens should be given that honour as he deserved it.
It was agreed with another thunderous applause. Later, when the United National Kadazan Organisation (UNKO) was formed, his position as the successor of the long dormant institution was confirmed and again in April 1964 when UNKO and Pasok Momogun ( of Datuk Sundang) were merged to form the United PasokMomogun Kadazan Organisation (UPKO) his position as the successor to the long dormant institution was reconfirmed.
The Current Huguan Siou Must vacate the Title
Pairin has become weak, decadent and has altogether ceased fighting for the rights of the KDM and must now vacate the post
The present Huguan Siou, Tan Sri Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan was conferred the position in 1984 by Bobolians. In the olden days, especially after he managed to unite the people in his fight against tyranny and injustice, he was seen as the most ideal persona for the Huguan Siou title. However, Pairin today is different from the old Pairin.
He has become weak, decadent and has altogether ceased fighting for the rights of the KDM. Many people are increasingly perceiving him as the puppet of his grand-masters from Malaya.
He never delivered his promise to sort out the illegal immigrant issues despite years of ‘fighting’ for it and despite the RCI report. He was silent when the native’s customary land was mercilessly grabbed by big companies from Malaya and Sabah. He never fought for the rights and well-being of the people in Penampang affected by the controversial Kaiduan dam.
He has hold his ministerial position for many years but Tambunan and Keningau see very little development they deserve – some villages still live without electricity, water and basic amenities. There is no working economy in the region apart from millennium-old agricultural industries.
BN government promised a KDM college before the 2013 GE, but it is yet to be materialised.
People change, and so do Pairin. He may find that his air-conditioned office and steady flow of cash are too indulging to risk. He probably fears that his retirement may not go as planned if he fight again. He probably has done fighting and in all fairness, he has contributed many remarkable feats before when he hold office.
However, if he has no further interest to protect the rights and future of the KDM people, he should vacate the title and give it to a more deserving person. There are many young KDM leaders that are more vocal and willing to strive on, fight and protect the KDM’s rights – they should be given the opportunity instead. There is no point clinging on the title if he doesn’t perform.
However, most importantly, the title Huguan Siou as an institution of the KDM people should not be affiliated or controlled by any political parties. Pairin is clearly the president of PBS, a gang of Umno who robbed this country of its bright future. The Huguan Siou post should be given to a young generation who would focus solely on the rights, culture, education and economy of the KDM people, unlike Pairin who has abused it for his political gain in his “Tataba Wave” pre-election campaign, not unlike the Ketuanan Melayu outcry by the Umno party.
For the sake of the KDM people, he should now cease from becoming the Huguan Siou and relinquish it to a more deserving leader.