A Local Perspective on the Impact of Chinese Tourists in Kota Kinabalu

Words by Norman Harsono
Photos by Hamza Delbar and Hannah Reshma

Kota Kinabalu has witnessed a massive influx of mainland Chinese tourists over the past decade which correlates to China’s strengthening economy. Walking down the Heritage Walk, these tourists are generally distinguishable, other than by speaking mandarin, by a tendency to travel in tour groups and having a penchant for chic and urban fashion with brightly coloured accents. The city has adapted by providing mandarin translations for several street signs in tourist hotspots, many hotels and restaurants provide Chinese translations of their signs and brochures, and even GrabCar has adapted by introducing a special option of ‘GrabCar (Mandarin)’. But as with all forms of development, there is debate as to the impact these tourists have had in Kota Kinabalu.

Continue reading “A Local Perspective on the Impact of Chinese Tourists in Kota Kinabalu”


The Legal Difficulty of Sabahan Indigenous Groups to Claim Customary Territory

Words by Norman Harsono
Photos by Nanna Dybdal and Yeo Li-Sha

Many indigenous people in Sabah have lost their customary territory – land they’ve inhabited and utilised for generations – because they do not hold the necessary land titles. They lose their lands to corporate land grabs, state development, and population growth. This jeopardises the wellbeing if not survival of these indigenous groups as these lands are also their food source, water source, religious site, and cultural anchor.

Nasiri Sabiah has worked for the indigenous rights advocacy group, Partners of Community Organisation (PACOS), for ten years. He explains that what frequently happens is, as Sabah develops, indigenous groups may unexpectedly encounter a company or the government enter their customary land. Continue reading “The Legal Difficulty of Sabahan Indigenous Groups to Claim Customary Territory”

Kampung Kipouvo

Words by Norman Harsono
Photos by Norman Harsono

Hilda Pius is a woman of Dusun ethnicity, who works at Partners of Community Organisations Trust. It is an indigenous rights advocacy group, members of Kumpulan Wanita – a local women’s organisation, and a native of Kipouvo village.

She is living in Kampung Kipouvo and collecting stories about how the village got its name, a story passed down by word of mouth. The story goes that there once was a drought in the village that left many villagers sick. But then, one day, a woman went down to the river, cut down a wild banana tree and realised that the trunk contained drinkable water. She then instructed the villagers to cut down all the banana trees in the area and use the water, thereby saving the village. In the Kadazan language, ‘Ki’ means ‘there are’ and ‘Pouvo’ is the local name for such a tree. Hence, “kipouvo”, meaning “there are banana trees”, commemorating the trees that saved the villagers. Continue reading “Kampung Kipouvo”