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Passing of the last Kadazan skull-keeper
Published on: Sunday, November 26, 2017

A significant part of Kadazan history ended a fortnight ago on Nov. 13 with the passing of Anthony Jomikik Lojuta at age 94.

For one thing, he was one of the biggest landowners in Kg Hungab, Penampang. In fact, most of the commercial developments that have sprouted up in various parts of Dongonggon township sit on what was once his land.

What is less known was that Jomikik, as he was popularly known, was the last remaining physical link to the Kadazan community's head-hunting past. Not that he was a head-hunter but that he inherited several skulls that are believed to be at least more than 300 years old or more.

He was interviewed by the Daily Express in 1994 when he was 70. The full interview has been reproduced in the following page for the sake of those who were not born then or were two young to understand the historical importance he played in the community's transition from its pagan past.

Although a Christian, he identified himself more as a pagan, partly due to his responsibility in caring for the spirits of the skulls, who he said he was able to communicate with in his own way.

Even at that time, he was concerned by what would happen to his charges once he was gone.

As expected, at the time of his passing after a long illness, none of his family members seemed interested in continuing the legacy of looking after the skulls as all of them were Christians.

The problem of looking after the skulls has also become harder as there are hardly any Bobohizan (priestesses) around to continue the ceremonies.

The late Jomikik also requested for his funeral ceremony to be conducted the pagan way like times past.

His body was carried out all the way by pall bearers (instead of using hearse) from his home to Basai burial ground.

It took them about 30 minutes of walking to reach the cemetery which involved crossing the dual carriageway near the international Trade and Convention Centre (ITCC).

"Money" for the dead was strewn all the way to the burial sites – practices that were last observed in the 1970s.

The burial ground was on a family graveyard at the foothills of one of the hills closest to Dongongon.

It is understood that that part of the vast undulating hill was sold to two others, including a former State Minister, on condition that it should remain undisturbed.

It was learnt that the late Jomikik was a nature lover and was upset when a portion of the same hill that he later willed to a family member ended up destroyed when sold to a Chinese, leaving scars that are visible today.

Jomikik also became famous in his village recently for successfully suing six defendants for the return of a piece of land worth RM1.6 million in 2015 at the High Court of Kota Kinabalu.

The defendants included Lands and Survey Department and one officer at the local branch here.

The first and second defendants who are brothers were ordered by the court to return the land title which they had defrauded by telling Jomikik that a certain judge wants to buy the land.

Instead they transferred it to themselves for only RM500,000. Jomikik was also awarded by the court costs of RM50,000.

The 3rd and 4th defendants were runners or messengers who were both ordered to pay compensation of RM5,000 each.

The Lands and Survey Department and the officer were jointly ordered to pay compensation of RM5,000.

However, it was learnt that although two years have passed since the verdict, the 3rd to the 6th defendants had yet to comply until the death of the plaintiff. - Lorena Binisol and Oswald Supi

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