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Descendants reject 'Rumah Besar Sedomon' as heritage

That is why stakeholder analysis

Published on 18 August 2011

Author(s): Daily Express

Type:  News

Descendants of former State native leader OKK Sedomon OKK Gunsanad on Wednesday said they have rejected the State Government's proposal to turn their ancestral home in Bingkor, "Rumah Besar Sedomon", into a cultural heritage of the State.

Led by Nilakrisna James, Sedomon's granddaughter, they said it was wrong for the Government not to consult the landowners.

Nilakrisna said she received a letter from the Director of the Sabah Museum Department on July 22 stating the Government's interest to turn the Rumah Besar Sedomon into a cultural heritage.

She, however, said the family or rather 17 descendants of her grandfather did not agree to the proposal.

"My grandfather had wanted the house to remain a pusaka (heritage) for his descendants and it is our wish the house continues to be our communal home," she said in a press conference at TNGC Clubhouse.

She said there is a special condition in the land title where the Rumah Besar is located, that is the "land cannot be transferred to aliens."

Rumah Besar Sedomon.jpg
Rumah Besar Sedomon

The pusaka (heritage) inheritance provision states that the landowners could only effectively pass their title to a direct bloodline of Sedomon, she said.

The title, she said, was issued to Sedomon on May 10, 1940 for a period of 999 years after the completion of the house.

"Upon Sedomon's death, the land was declared by the Registrar to vest upon Sedomon's 10 children and bypassed his wives, whom at that time, were considered 'alien' to the bloodline and therefore not entitled to inherit the land," she said.

Despite no one staying in the big house, she said family members have been using it regularly for celebrations such as weddings, Kaamatan Festival and also for funeral ceremony.

To this, Nilakrisna said the law was not created to arbitrarily bypass the terms and conditions of land titles and deprive private owners of their right to use, to have and to hold their property and homes in peace without government interference and intervention.

She said if the Government used the Cultural Heritage (Conservation) Enactment 1997 to bypass specific terms and conditions and allowed the "alien" Council under the enactment to simply bulldoze its way into private properties on the pretext that their homes looked architecturally historical, then owners in this State might as well demolish and build their homes every 10 years or design space age homes.

She said they have a right to live in their homes and all present owners should have the priority to decide how they wish to maintain, decorate, renovate and develop their own homes and land.

Moreover, she said, the Rumah Besar Sedomon is not the only old home in Sabah that survived the war and nor is it architecturally unique.

There are houses with similar design such as in Tuaran, she said.

"Since 1963 until today, neither the State Government nor the Federal Government nor any of the State leaders, past or present, has bothered to fight for the Sedomon name to have any historical relevance in the history books, the museums or anywhere else," she said.

Sedomon's name, she said, has almost been obliterated.

"He was never important enough to this country to even be accorded any State award, let alone the title 'Datuk', which many have wrongly been reported in the media," she said.

The booklet "OKK Sedomon Bin OKK Gunsanad and His Rumah Besar" she co-wrote with Sedomon's ninth daughter, in June 1997, is the only one dedicated by way of a biography.

Therefore, the sudden interest in the Rumah Besar and the lucrative 12 acres in Bingkor clearly has nothing to do with Sedomon's incredible leadership or the ordinary architecture, and any excuse by the Council to that effect would just be an act of hypocrisy, she said.

She said in the next 928 years, the land property shall be vested in Sedomon's bloodline and not be vested in or controlled by or monitored by alien persons, alien companies, alien councils or alien committees or anything alien from anywhere.

It is unconscionable that an Act passed in 1997 should undo the noble intentions of the North Borneo Government under the British for Sedomon, who was awarded the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the British Empire.

"If the people in this country choose to ignore his illustrious life, I am sure Sedomon would not be bothered.

"But he would have vomited blood if he knew that his direct descendants will be in any way challenged or limited in the way they choose to live in his house or his land by the decision of aliens in an alien Council appointed by the State Government," she said.

To this, she said the State Government should respect and prioritise the decisions and rights of private landowners.

There are many hundred-year-old houses in Britain and Australia and the governments there, she said, do not interfere with private ownership that makes private investors confident that buying an ancient home is a good investment.

The Government should look into how Britain does it with the National Trust, which is not run by the government of Britain.

She also expressed the family's apology to the Prime Minister and his family for a report that quoted her uncle, Justine Sedomon, which has not been authorised by any other members of the Sedomon family.

The opinions and statements made in the report, she said, belong exclusively to Justine Sedomon and do not reflect the family's views.

Also present at the press conference were Sedomon's four daughters, Doreen, Irene, Susie and June, who also represented their children, and his granddaughter, Nelly Sedomon, who represented both her father, Peter Sedomon, and Sedomon's eldest daughter, Catherine Sedomon.

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