KOTA KINABALU - Photographs of Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wearing a headgear and sash with the words "Huguan Siou" have generated a storm among Sabahans.
To them, the move to bestow the title, which means Paramount Leader of the Kadazandusuns, is an affront to the community.
The photographs were originally posted on the Facebook account of Ranau PKR chief Jonathan Yasin.
Yasin said the headgear and sash were presented to Anwar during his visit to Kampung Paginatan over the weekend.
It was merely a symbolic gesture by former native chief Paulus Kimpuang, he said.
"Who am I to stop any Kadazan or Dusun individual from appointing anyone Huguan Siou Malaysia?" Jonathan said in a reply to comments posted on his Facebook page.
Anwar, however, denied that he was bestowed the honour.
"It's not true. I am not aware of it. There was never a public announcement about it," Anwar said when approached in Miri where he attended a talk.
Political leaders and Kadazandusun elders have accused the PKR leader of belittling their community.
"This is nothing less than an insult to us," said Kota Kinabalu district chief William Majimbun said.
He said the Kadazandusun community had selected Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan as their Huguan Siou or revered leader since 1984.
"As far as we are concerned, there is only one Huguan Siou. Anyone else claiming the title insults the Kadazandusuns," Majimbun said.
Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) deputy president Dr Othman Menuddin said the conferring of the title could only be performed by a bobolian (traditional Kadazandusun priest).
"The person who is picked has to possess certain traits such as patience and fearlessness, display exemplary leadership skills and have a belief in divine powers," he said.