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Kaamatan is for Unity for all
Published on: Sunday, May 21, 2017

By Tan Sri Datuk Herman Luping
THE headline in the newspaper on Wednesday 10 May (Daily Express) which says “Kaamatan Nothing To Do With Religion” is not only correct, but very apt.

As Huguan Siou of the Kadazandusun community Tan Sri Pairin expressed concern with the intention of people who want to use the cultural annual celebration of Kaamatan for their own agenda to promote themselves and/or their religion. As the Huguan Siou has correctly pointed out – Kaamatan has nothing to do with religion.

Kaamatan is our community’s effort to remind ourselves, in part, of our history as people of the land and as farmers.

As the Huguan Siou said “it seems has if someone was actually trying to make this event” He was worried that it was billed as a Kaamatan Islamic event. He states this was against the cultural traits of the Harvest Festival and said that the organisers of the event were simply ignorant of the noble intent of Kaamatan.

He also expressed his concern that the person who organised the Kaamatan in Papar had a deliberate agenda to change Kaamatan into something entirely different than it’s main objective. He has correctly stated that the Kaamatan festival is to enhance the understanding and friendship among people of different backgrounds, particularly as Malaysians. This year’s Kaamatan theme, chosen to emphasise what Kaamatan is all about, is “Kaamatan Foundation of Unity” and he called on all Sabahans to respect each other’s culture belief and customs.

The history of the Kaamatan beginning started in the 1950s when Tun Fuad Stephens, then Donald Stephens, was made the president of the Kadazan Cultural Association, as the KDCA was known at that time.

Datuk Richard Yapp, the Secretary General of the Association at that time painstakingly drafted the first constitution of the Kadazan Association and had it sent to the colonial government’s Department of Social Welfare to have it approved as a Cultural Association. For many years, these people were the leaders of the newly formed Kadazan Cultural association. The prominent leaders were SG Datuk Richard Yapp and Tun Fuad Stephens and for a brief period Lee Kim Cheong as president, Native Chief Ewan and Native Chief Tan Ping Hing.

In 1958 Stephens announced at a meeting of the Kadazan society in it’s then office in Kampung Tuavon that the government had approved the association. A couple of years later, in 1960, at the Annual Meeting of the Kadazan Association, Stephens announced the approval of the Kadazan Harvest Festival by the colonial government.

The event was planned to be held in conjunction with a new two-day public holiday and the month of May was chosen as the best time to represent all the Kadazandusun people who were mostly farmers.

At this time the Harvest would be mostly completed and the padi safely stored away.

It has been celebrated yearly by all the communities of Sabah since then. Until the Hongkod was built, Kaamatan was celebrated at St Michael’s School before shifting to the community centre in Penampang.

When the KDCA was headed by Pairin in the mid 1960s he, along with Datuk Sri Panglima Clarence Malakun, made the decision to build the Hongkod in Penampang. The Harvest Festival has been held at the cultural centre there ever since. In the early stages the number of members of the Kadazan association were mostly Ketua kampung (Orang Tua).

Prominently enacted during the Harvest festival was not just the Kadazan music of old such as the beating of the gongs and others but also the celebration of the choosing of the prettiest lady to commemorate the history and background of Huminodun, the only daughter of Kinoingan and Sumundu who was sacrificed to ensure that the people had food and water. She is an incredibly important figure to the KDM communities.

Every Kaamatan she is prayed to as her spirit has gone into the rice and is in every stalk.

We will be celebrating the Harvest Festival across the month and it will be culminating on the 31st.

This is to remind us that we are rice farmers and that she sacrificed herself so that we would have food to eat every year.

Someone will no doubt write about the early stages of the Kadazan Association and the people involved in it and it is right and proper that in this year’s celebration we remember the pioneers of the event.

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