Middle Ages, a prevalent practice among prominent European families
was to engage artists and painters to highlight the exploits and
greatness of a family member and, by extension, extol the virtues
of said family.
continues to this day in Asia with the publication of The Keruak
Clan: Portrait Of A Bajau Patriot (Jeng Printedmater Editions/2004/108
pages/RM95). The central figure in the book is Tun Mohamad Said
Keruak, who was the head of state (Yang Di-Pertua Negeri) of Sabah
(in East Malaysia) from 1987 to 1994 and later one of the Governors
of Sabah. The other person highlighted in the coffee-table book
is Tun Mohamad Said's son, Salleh Said Keruak, who was Chief Minister
of the state from 1994-1996.
Born in 1926,
Tun Mohamad Said was from Kota Belud, a town about 48 kilometres
from the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, and an important Bajau community.
The Bajau is one of the three main indigenous groups in Sabah -
the other major groups are the Kadazan-Dusun and the Murut respectively.
The book, professionally
written by the Keruak family and friends, is divided into the following
sections: The History Of Sabah; The People And Culture Of Sabah;
The Bajau Of Kota Belud And The Keruak Clan; timelines of Tun Haji
Mohamad Said Keruak and Datuk Haji Salleh Said Keruak respectively
and a chronology of Leaders Of Sabah.
chapter gives an abbreviated history of Sabah; starting with the
kingdom of Brunei in the 16th century, the arrival of
the British in the 18th century, right up to World War
II, independence and the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Journalist
Mohd Fauzi Patel's Recalling The Day Sabah Joined Malaysia is included
in the book, the article's highlight being its anecdotal nature.
Meanwhile, The People And Culture Of Sabah gives a brief overview
of the customs, practices and livelihood of the different indigenous
of the book's PR-spiel can be found in the chapters on the Keruak
Clan and on Tun Haji Mohamad Said Keruak and Salleh Said Keruak
respectively. Interestingly, the book highlights a controversial
event that took place in 1994, at a time when Tun Mohamad Said Keruak
was the Yang Di-Petua Negeri. In highlighting this event, it also
shows up a deficiency in the book.
At the 1994
general elections, Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan's PBS (Parti
Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) party won a narrow 25-23 victory over the
Barisan Nasional (National Front, which is led by the United Malays
National Organisation, UMNO). But within two weeks, three PBS MPs
had changed sides to the BN, reportedly after receiving substantial
financial inducements. On March 14, Sabah was thrown into political
confusion with Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan announcing
the dissolution of the State Legislative Assembly and the Yang Di-Pertua
Negeri denying he had signed such an order. The resulting weeks
saw the collapse of the PBS government and, by May 4, the Barisan
Nasional was running Sabah.
While it may
not have been the book's aim to chronicle each and every major event,
it would have been to the book's credit that a more in-depth attempt
had been made to show Tun Mohamad Said's role in this instance.
Interviews with people close to Tun Mohamad Said on what the latter
felt and thought would have added a different dimension to the event,
apart from the (press) reports and releases that were reproduced.
Currently, the reader certainly does not feel the gravity of the
situation - the collapse of the state government - nor have any
inkling to the maneuverings and activities taking place behind-the-scene.
As the book
clearly shows, The Keruak Clan comes across best as a form of oral
history. Even the black-and-white pictures that adorn the book shares
that feeling - many of the pictures are from family albums, either
taken at family gatherings or specially-posed family photos.
But instead of oral history, which would have been highly personal
and more anecdotal, the book has a heavy reliance on secondary sources
such as news reports (the death of Tun Mohamad Said Keruak on November
18, 1995) and what reads like a press release (Datuk Haji Salleh
Tun Said Keruak's Tenure As Chief Minister).
will probably stock the book because it does offer a documented
account of a Bajau leader but serious Asia watchers would certainly
have preferred a more lucid account and one with more historical
pictures as well.
Keruak Clan: Portrait Of A Bajau Patriot is available at Select
Books (Tanglin Shopping Centre) at the recommended retail price