29 May, 2012

We can learn from the Sabah and Sarawak rice festivals.


As we approach the end of the month, I would like to give my best wishes to our countrymen from our easternmost states who celebrate the harvest festival. In Sabah, the Kadazandusun and their sub groups culminate their month long celebration of Tadau Kaamatan on the 30th and 31st of May, while the Dayak communities of Sarawak mark the renewal of their rice growing seasons on the 1st and 2nd of June with Gawai Dayak. As a multicultural nation of various ethnicities, I believe that we have much we can learn from our eastern brothers and sisters.

Before the harvest festivals came into their current state of being, different groups and villages observed harvest rituals at different times of the year, depending on the rice cultivation cycle. In the interests of allowing different ethnic groups and villages to celebrate together, indigenous and community leaders gathered together to agree on a joint date for celebration.

In Sabah, the harvest event came into its own in 1960, after first being incorporated into the annual Tamu Besar. In Sarawak, discussions between community leaders and the government resulted in the 1st of June being chosen as the official harvest festival. It was the common desire of the various groups in Sabah and Sarawak; from the Murut to the Orang Sungai and the Iban to the Bidayuh, to combine under the festivals of Kaamatan and Gawai that have led to the unity of numerous individual groups.

As Prime Minister, it touches me to know that Malaysians of the Borneo region can come together in fellowship and celebrate the coming of a new harvest despite the differences faced. I urge Malaysians of different ethinicities, whether Malay, Chinese, Indian or otherwise to learn from our humble brothers and sisters in the east. If we too can learn to accept and celebrate each other despite our differences, our nation can move forward with the united purpose of growing and prospering in peace and harmony.

To all Malaysians celebrating these festivals, Happy Celebrating Kaamatan Festival, kotobian tadau tagazo do Kaamatan and Happy Celebrating Gawai, gayu guru gerai nyamai.

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