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The Role of Governor D.J. Jardine in Improving the Welfare of the Indigenous People of Sabah, 1934–37

  • Sabihah Osman


Douglas J. Jardine was Governor of British North Borneo (Sabah) from August 1934 to May 1937. Despite his short period in office, Jardine succeeded in bringing about considerable improvement in the country. The most important feature of his administration was his personal interest in the welfare of the native population, particularly with regard to their administration, education and health.



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I am indebted to Associate Professor Dr. Pamela Sodhy for her kind assistance at every stage in the preparation of this article.

1 CO874/1066 File 1194 and K. G. Tregonning, A History of Modern Sabah 1881–1963 (Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya, 1965), p. 76.

2 Ibid., CO855/51, CO855/52 British North Borneo Herald (BNBH), June and July 1937.

3 The term refers to the following ethnic groups: Dusuns/Kadazans, Muruts, Bajaus, Brunei Malays, Balagninis, Bisayas, Idaans, Kedayans, Illanuns, Sulus and Sungeis. See North Borneo Census Report 1931, North Borneo Census Report 1960, Whelan, F. G., A History of Sabah (Singapore: Macmillan, 1970), Sullivan, Anwar and Regis, Patricia, “Demography”, in Sullivan, Anwar and Leong, Cecilia, Commemorative History of Sabah (Kota Kinabalu: Sabah State Government, 1981).

4 NBCA 735 Indirect Rule and the System of Administration of Natives of North Borneo.

5 NBCA 453 Native Administration ACT 2 of 1937.

7 NBCA 73E Native Chiefs’ Advisory Council Meetings, 1935.

9 Alatas, Syed Hussein, The Myth of the Lazy Native (London: Frank Cass, 1977), p. 16.

10 Ibid., p. 18.

11 Ibid., pp. 22 and 70.

12 Ibid., pp. 213–14.

13 Ibid., p. 44.

15 CO855/51 BNBH, 3 May 1937.

16 NBCA73E Native Chiefs’ Advisory Council Meetings, 1935.

17 D.S. Ranjit Singh, “The Evolution and Development of Indigenous Native Political Institutions and Authorities 1877–1946”, in Anwar Sullivan and Cecilia Leong, Commemorative History of Sabah, p. 110.

18 NBCA73, NCAC Meetings 1936–41.

19 Smith, C. R., Memoranda for the Governor, 8 December 1934, in Tregonning, Sabah, p. 124.

20 Ibid., p. 125.

21 Ibid. Unlike the Malay Land Reservation Enactment of 1913 in Malaya, the acts and laws proclaimed in Sabah pertaining to native rights to land were not rigid. There was still room for transfers of land between natives and foreigners. For example, the North Borneo land proclamation of 1889 stated that “before any title-deed to land could be issued to a European the chiefs had to be informed of the area under consideration, and the headman or chief had to be shown the surveying marks erected for their information. The District Officer was not to leave it to the chiefs to bring forward any claims; he himself was to make careful inquiries aimed at protecting native rights.” This clearly indicates that land could still be acquired by foreigners.

22 NBCA 73 NCAC Meetings 1936.

23 Ibid., NCAC Meetings 1936.

24 Governor Jardine's Address to the Administrative Officer's Conference 27 October 1935 in NBCA 735 Indirect Rule.

25 CO855/51 BNBH, 3 May 1937.

26 Tregonning, Sabah, p. 127.

27 Ibid., p. 128.

28 CO855/51 BNBH.

29 CO874/840 North Borneo Education Annual Report 1936–40.

30 North Borneo Administration Report 1934–1939. Education Annual Report 1938.

31 Governor to Inspector of Schools, 17 August 1935 in Tregonning, Sabah, p. 179.

32 NBCA 790 Governor to President, 27 November 1935.

35 Governor to Government Secretary, 30 August 1936 cited in Tregonning, Sabah, p. 180.

36 North Borneo Administration Report, 1938, p. 24.

37 NBCA Governor to President, 29 October 1935 NCAC Meetings.

38 NBCA 73E NCAC Meetings 1935–36.

39 Annual Report on Education, FMS 1929, p. 7, cited in Loh, Philip, Seeds of Separatism: Educational Policy in Malaya 1874–1940 (Kuala Lumpur. Oxford University Press 1970), p. 30.

40 NBCA 73E NCAC Meetings 1935–36.

41 Loh, Seeds of Separatism, p. 89. Like Swettenham before him Winstedt was determined to avoid giving the Malay peasantry (in Malaya) any kind of education that would give rise to aspirations beyond the capacity of the Malay village to fulfil them.

42 NBCA 1373, Vernacular Education.

43 Appell, G.N., “Social and Medical Anthropology of Sabah: Retrospect and Prospect”, in Sabah Society Journal III, No. 1 (April 1966/1967): 273.

44 State of North Borneo Administration Report 1934, p. 1.

45 Tregonning, Sabah, p. 164.

46 Appell, “Social and Medical Anthropology of Sabah”, p. 275.

47 Tregonning, Sabah, p. 170.

48 Appell, “Social and Medical Anthropology of Sabah”, p. 275.

49 Ibid., p. 270.

50 Ibid., pp. 276–70.

51 The anthropologist, G.N. Appell, who has made a detailed and comprehensive study of the problem of depopulation among the Muruts, disagrees with the findings of Polunin and his associates because of insufficient proof that the anaerobic cocci were the organisms responsible for the post-pregnancy symptoms of infection. According to Appell, Polunin also ignored the factors of process — the changes in the socio-cultural systems of the Murut population or in their environment. Polunin and his associate did not systematically relate depopulation to these factors. Another criticism by Appell is that Polunin and his associates have ignored socio-cultural reality, for they have ignored the existence of Murut tribal groups with their differing socio-cultural systems and have not used these as a basis for their research. As a result of this oversight, they have failed to determine whether the Murut females they examined did in fact come from groups which were not reproducing themselves. Appell notes that because Polunin and associates have not related their data to specific socio-cultural systems which they have determined to be infertile, their conclusions have been invalidated by the results of the 1960 census. Appell also points out that the Murut populations were, ironically increasing rapidly at the time of Polunin's work, even though they may have had a high carrier rate of anaerobic cocci. Ibid., pp. 270–82.

52 D.S. Ranjit Singh, “The Emergence of an Organised Native Elite in Sabah under the Chartered Company”, typescript p. 45. This essay won the first prize in an essay competition on Sabah history which was organized in 1981 by the Sabah Government.

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The Role of Governor D.J. Jardine in Improving the Welfare of the Indigenous People of Sabah, 1934–37

  • Sabihah Osman


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