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Coat of arms
From 1982-88, the coat of arms of Sabah was a kingfisher. During that period the Sabah state government chose to adopt a state coat of arms that resembled Sarawak's hornbill, in memory of the two Borneo states' common history as vassal states of Brunei in the pre-British times. Sabah adopted a kingfisher because its indigenous Bajau sea gypsies, who are politically powerful in the state administration, and another powerful indigenous group, the Bruneians from Brunei, identify with the bird to a great extent. Both Bajaus and Bruneians were traditionally fishermen, and amongst Borneo natives, birds are considered messengers of the gods. The omen bird for the fishermen is the kingfisher. The majority native tribe, the interior-dwelling Kadazans or Dusuns, identify with the kingfisher to a lesser extent, as the bird is commonly found amongst their main occupational group, the rice farmers.
The 1963-82 flag and crest were ditched in 1982 because they were blatantly copied from the political colours of the first ruling party of Sabah, the United Sabah National Organisation (USNO), which has since 1991, been dissolved and turned into Sabah's branch of the national-level ruling party UMNO (United Malay National Organisation). Nevertheless, Sabahans agreed to modify the colours of the original flag and crest when they readopted the 1963-82 designs of the flag and crest in 1988. The colours of the 1982-88 flag are used in the 1988 flag and crest. The Kadazans/Dusuns were especially angry with the 1982-88 flag and crest because they omitted Mount Kinabalu, their holy mountain and abode of ancestral spirits.
James Lamm, 26 August 2003
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