Mat Salleh was a Bajau leader who led a rebellion against British North Borneo Company administration in North Borneo. Under his leadership, the rebellion which lasted from 1894 to 1900 razed the British Administration Centre on Pulau Gaya and exercised control over Menggatal, Inanam, Ranau and Tambunan. The rebellion was by Bajaus, Dusuns and Muruts.
Antanum or Antanom (full name Ontoros Antonom) (1885–1915) was a famous and influential Murut warrior who led the chiefs and villagers from Keningau, Tenom, Pensiangan and Rundum to start the Rundum uprising against the British North Borneo Company but was killed during fighting with the company army in Sungai Selangit near Pensiangan.
Another notable Sabahan is Donald Stephens who helped form the state of Sabah under the UN appointed Cobbold commission. He was an initial opponent of Malaysia but later converted to the support of it. He was also the first Huguan Siou or paramount leader of the Kadazan-dusun and Murut people.
Tun Datu Mustapha was a Bajau-Kagayan-Suluk Muslim political leader in Sabah through the United Sabah National Organisation (USNO) party. He was a vocal supporter of Malaysia but fell out of favour with Malayan leaders despite forming UMNO branches in Sabah and deregistering USNO. Efforts to reregister USNO have not been allowed, unlike UMNO that was allowed to be reregistered under the same name.
Former Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan is the current Huguan Siou and the President of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS). Pairin, the longest serving chief minister of the state and one of the first Kadazandusun lawyers, was known for his defiance of the federal government in the 1980s and 1990s in promoting the rights of Sabah and speaking out against the illegal immigration problems. Sabah was at the time one of only two states with opposition governments in power, the other being Kelantan. PBS has since rejoined BN and Datuk Pairin is currently the Deputy Chief Minister of Sabah.
The 8th and current Attorney General of Malaysia, Abdul Gani Patail, comes from Sabah.
In 2006, Penampang-born Richard Malanjum was appointed Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak and became the first Kadazandusun to hold such a post.
Datuk Hj. Railey bin Hj. Jeffery was the first and well-known Cocos political leader. He was the Deputy Information Minister and the JKR Deputy Minister in the 1990s.
Penny Wong, born in Kota Kinabalu in 1968, moved to Australia at age 5. She became the first Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the current Minister for Finance and Deregulation in Australia.
Philip Lee Tau Sang (died 1959) was one of the most prominent Sabahan Chinese politicians in the 1950s. Of Hakka descent, he was greatly favoured by the British, whose colonisation Sabah was still under then, and was Member of the Advisory Council of North Borneo (1947–1950), Legislative Council of North Borneo (1950–1958) and Executive Council of North Borneo (1950–1953, 1956–1957). He has been posthumously honoured with a road named after him in the town of Tanjung Aru, near the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
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