Sabah’s Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, said the position of Sabah natives must be viewed in proper perspective as they form the majority of the state’s population.

As such, he said that it was wrong to equate Sabah natives with the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia.

“The Sabah natives comprise of various ethnic groups and religions besides occupying premier positions in the state’s political hierarchy and civil service.

“Therefore the notion of requesting the Orang Asli Department to be extended to Sabah, as suggested by Rural and Regional Development Minister Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib does not arise,” he said here Monday.

Muhammad was quoted on Sunday as saying in Nabawan, about 140 kilometres from here, that his ministry might consider extending the role of the department concerned to Sabah if there was a request for it.

Pairin, who is also State Rural Development Minister, said Sabah natives, being the majority of the state’s rural population, were the main target group of the federal and state’s development programmes.

“What is needed is the doubling of efforts in achieving optimum level of infrastructure development and eradication of poverty.

“There are enough state and Federal departments and agencies in the state to achieve the target,” he said.

Pairin, who is Huguan Siou (Paramount leader for the Kadazandusun community), said the state government was confident that with appropriate federal financial allocation and empowerment of state departments and agencies, the goal of enhancing development in the rural areas, including total eradication of hardcore poverty, would be achieved by 2010.