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District and Town
Penampang town view.
Penampang town view.
Official seal of Penampang
Location in Sabah and Malaysia
Location in Sabah and Malaysia
Coordinates: 5°55′0″N 116°7′0″E / 5.91667°N 116.11667°E / 5.91667; 116.11667Coordinates: 5°55′0″N 116°7′0″E / 5.91667°N 116.11667°E / 5.91667; 116.11667
Country  Malaysia
State  Sabah
Division West Coast
 • District Officer Nicholas @ William Sampil
 • Total 463.47 km2 (178.948 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • Total 121,934
 • Density 260/km2 (680/sq mi)
Time zone MST (UTC+8)
 • Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC)

Penampang is a district within the West Coast Division of Sabah, Malaysia. It has virtually become a suburb of Kota Kinabalu which is Sabah's capital and is considered as part of Greater Kota Kinabalu area.[1] Its population was estimated to be around 121,934 in 2010,[2] with ethnic Kadazan as the majority. Donggongon is the main town in the district.


Datuk Peter Mojuntin statue

The name Penampang came from an old village within the district. The village's name in turn originates from a Kadazan word pampang meaning a big rock. This is because huge rocks were easily found within the vicinity of the village a long time ago.

The name Penampang in contemporary usage refers more often to the district, with the town of Donggongon as the main town within the district. Donggongon means 'shelter' or 'rest area' in the native Kadazan, referring to its historical role as a stop-over for people from the hills who journeyed down the coast for trade. Other towns or sub-districts within Penampang are Putatan and Lok Kawi.

Penampang as a name reference of this area is of a relatively new origin. Early British explorer, John Whitehead who had explored North Borneo in the 1880s referred to this district as Patatan[3] whereas Owen Rutter, a civil servant in North Borneo from 1910 to 1914 referred to this area as Putatan.[4]

Penampang District Council[edit]

Penampang District Council

Prior to the formation of Penampang District Council (PDC) in 1978, it was formerly known as Jesselton Rural District Council (JRDC). This auxiliary administrative body covered the whole of Penampang sub-district (including Putatan and Lok Kawi), Telipok town including areas up to Kampung Likas, Taman Foh Sang and Taman Stephen.[5]

The first head of JRDC was the District Officer of Jesselton, Mr. Blow D.S.O whereby the Chief Executive was the Assistant District Officer. The Councillors were all the District Chiefs namely: OKK Laiman Diki bin Siram, Majimbun Majangkim, Tan Pin Hing, Ewan Bin Empok and Ahsai bin Ghani; Chinese Kapitan: Foo Ah Kau (Penampang), Wong Nam Fatt (Telipok), Chin Nyuk (Menggatal), Chin Tsun Yin (Inanam) and Ng Swee Hock (Putatan); Property Owners: Mr. W. C. Collard (Lok Kawi Estate) and Julius Makajil (Penampang).

In 1966, the Local Government Ordinance 1961 was amended whereby Councilors are to be appointed by the Minister of Local Government Sabah. When the name Jesselton was changed to Kota Kinabalu, Jesselton Rural District Council (JRDC) was also changed to Kota Kinabalu Rural District Council (KKRDC). In 1978, Kota Kinabalu Town Board was upgraded to Kota Kinabalu Municipal Council hence Kota Kinabalu Rural District Council (KKRDC) became Penampang District Council (PDC).

Putatan was formerly a town within the district Penampang. With the rapid development of Kota Kinabalu, more and more families settled in the urban fringe areas, so that Putatan in March 1997 by the then Chief Minister of Sabah, Yong Teck Lee, first the status of a sub-district 5th grade (Daerah kecil, literally: little district ) was awarded and was finally collected independently on 1 March 2007 and in the status of a separate district.


There has been no popular demonyms to describe the people of Penampang although locally, "orang Penampang" is commonly used - Malay words for people of Penampang. The term "Penampangite" is very rarely used.

Ethnicity and Religion[edit]

According to the 2010 census, the population of Penampang was 121,934.[6] Of these, the Kadazandusun ethnic group formed the majority at 42,378 (34.8%) followed by Chinese ethnic group at 27,346 (22.4%), Bajau at 9,133 (7.5%), Malay at 5,803 (4.8%), and other Bumiputras at 12,666 (10.4%).

The Kadazandusuns mainly practice Christianity, the majority of which are Roman Catholic. The Chinese mainly practice Buddhism or Christianity. Malays and Bajaus are Muslims.

Penampang was one of the important sites for Roman Catholic early mission in North Borneo. St. Joseph's Foreign Mission Society of Mill Hill, a Roman Catholic mission organization, began its early missionary works in Papar, Penampang and Sandakan in early 1880s. In 1927, Penampang became the centre of missionary activities in North Borneo and Labuan when Mgr. A. Wachter was appointed the Prefect Apostolic and subsequently made the Penampang mission as his headquarter.[7] The mission work was undoubtedly an important catalyst not only in religion dissemination among the native population of Penampang but also in providing education.


Jing Fu Temple, Donggongon, Penampang

The people of Penampang generally speak Malay language with distinctive Sabahan creole. The Sabahan dialect in Penampang is largely influenced by the native Kadazan language especially among the Kadazandusun people. Despite a significant drop in the numbers of native Kadazan speakers, there has been an effort to revive the usage of the language.[8] The Kadazandusun Language Foundation (KLF) was founded in 1997 aiming to promote, preserve and develop Kadazandusun language throughout Sabah. It is situated in Donggongon, Penampang.

Among the Chinese population, the Hakka (Simplified Chinese: 惠阳客家话; Traditional Chinese: 惠陽客家話) and Mandarin varieties are spoken with variable fluency with Cantonese among other speakers.

English is widely spoken in Penampang and especially among the younger generation.



Places of interest[edit]

Hongkod Koisaan (Unity Centre) of the Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA)

Penampang is generally considered as a stronghold of the Kadazandusun community and serves as a main centre for their political and cultural development. The Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA) community hall hosts many of Kadazandusun's traditional festivities, chief among them is the annual Kaamatan or 'harvest festival', their most important cultural event.

House of skulls in Monsopiad Cultural village, Penampang

The Monsopiad Cultural Village is in Penampang. Monsopiad was the name of a past warrior who was known for decapitating the heads of his enemy and hanging the skulls at the entrance of his home, to warn his enemies of his powers.

The Pogunon Community Museum, a part of Sabah museum institution is situated in Kg. Pogunon, Penampang. In 2000, during a construction of a local kindergarten, three jars and pieces from four jars were discovered including an intact jar from 16th century with human remains inside.[9]

Sabah Art Gallery (Balai Seni Lukis Sabah) is situated in Penampang. It houses over 3000 paintings, carvings, and sculptures. The building has a unique basket-shaped architecture with decorative cultural motif panels of the indigenous people of Sabah. It is also the first green building in Sabah and Borneo.

St. Michael's Church is a Roman Catholic church built from early 1930s until late 1940s. it is the second oldest stone church in Sabah.



  1. ^ "Greater Kota Kinabalu Healthcare Overview" (PDF). Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA). Retrieved 27 Oct 2014. 
  2. ^ "Total population by ethnic group, administrative district and state, Malaysia, 2010" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Malaysia. 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  3. ^ Whitehead, John (1893). Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. London: Gurney and Jackson. p. 25. 
  4. ^ Rutter, Owen (1922). British North Borneo: An Account of Its History, Resources and Native Tribes. Constable & Company Limited, London. pp. 21, 135, 339. 
  5. ^ "Brief History of Penampang District Council". Penampang District Council. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "Total population by ethnic group, administrative district and state, Malaysia, 2010" (PDF). Department of Statistics, Malaysia. 2010. Retrieved 26 Oct 2014. 
  7. ^ Poilis, Fr. William. "A Popular History of the Catholic Church in Sabah". 
  8. ^ Reid, Anthony (1997). "Endangered Identity: Kadazan or Dusun in Sabah". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 28. Retrieved 27 Oct 2014. 
  9. ^ "Pogunon Community Museum". Sabah Museum. Retrieved 26 October 2014. 

External links[edit]