KOTA KINABALU: Ethnic tolerance among Sabahans is very high but on the way down, Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s (UMS) social expert told the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants in Sabah.
Associate Prof Dr Kntayya A/L Mariapan from the School of Sociology UMS, said a study he conducted in 2007 to measure the level of acceptance between different races in Sabah showed that the people at grassroots level were very tolerant towards each other.
The study involving respondents mainly from the native Bajau, Suluk, Kadazandusun and Murut, tried to quantify the level of acceptance among the different ethnic groups.
Over 1,000 households from Sandakan, Keningau and Kota Kinabalu, were selected as respondents using the random sampling method in the research, which also used the focus group interview approach.
Testifying as an expert witness during the inquiry yesterday, Dr Kntayya explained a set of 16 questions covering social, political, economic as well as religious aspect were given to the respondents.
The questionnaire among others asked the respondents their level of willingness to marry someone from outside their own ethnic group, form a join business venture with partners from other races, join political parties whose members are predominantly from other races and so on.
He said analysis of the data gathered led him to conclude that the ethnic groups in Sabah involved had very high tolerance towards each other, scoring between 1 and 2 on the Bogardus social distance scale.
“This is very high, with 1 being the highest or very tolerant and five the lowest or no tolerance,” said Dr Kntayya who specializes in ethnic Malaysia relationship studies.
However, he clarified that the study only captured the ethnic tolerance at the particular time it was conducted and ethnic tolerance is not a static but a fluid entity that could change at any time.
He explained the level of tolerance or acceptance between ethnics could either improve or worsen depending on any given triggering factors, and based on his observation the ethnic tolerance in Sabah was going down rather than going up.