Wednesday, October 27

A place like no other

Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg

Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg

In Sarawak diversity is beauty and strength, not division, with freedom to practise own culture, religion

KUCHING: Sarawak is a place where people of various races are free to practise their culture, tradition and religion without hindrance.

In stressing this, Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said for Sarawakians, diversity is beauty and strength, and not division.

Citing the Chinese New Year celebration as an example, he pointed out that the festival has become part of Sarawakians’ cultural diversity much like other traditional festivals and religious celebrations in the state.

“The forefathers of our Chinese friends brought with them their culture and tradition from China a hundred over years ago. Of course Sarawakian Chinese a few generations after their forefathers do not look to mainland China anymore as their homeland. They do go back to China once in a while to visit relatives and friends but they will return to Sarawak after their holidays. Sarawak is their home and they are not ‘pendatang’,” he said in his Chinese New Year message yesterday.

Abang Johari also acknowledged that there was no denying that the Chinese community has always been an important part of the state’s political and economic life.

“The Chinese business acumen, their vision and industriousness have positioned the community to be in the forefront of business, trade and industry in the state. The businesses and industries have provided thousands of jobs for our people and bring revenue to the state through taxes.

“I would like to give the reassurance that the government will continue to adopt a policy that is friendly to the business community and investors as laid down by my predecessor,” he emphasised.

He expressed his gratitude to the Chinese community for having shown trust and willingness to work again with other communities in Sarawak’s power-sharing government.

“There’s no other way we could move forward except to work together for the benefit of the state and the people. Let us not forget that the Chinese community was among the first to come forward to support a coalition government based on the concept of power-sharing in 1970.

“Sarawak belongs to all of us and Sarawak is big enough for all of us. Each and every one of us has a duty towards the well-being and development of Sarawak.”

Sarawak has a small population, he said, but with its substantial amount of natural resources, the people must exploit this to their advantage wisely.

“It’s not impossible for us to build Sarawak into an industrialised state with tight-knit populations, high levels of environmental and biodiversity preservation and low levels of pollution which have become the hallmark of many developed countries in the West.

“We must take pride in our local ecology and work hard to protect it and let me reiterate that we must make Sarawak’s natural environment as pristine as we can.”

In his message, which was also his first since being appointed as chief minister, Abang Johari also took the opportunity to reminisce his predecessor the late Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem, who would have turned 73 today.

“We have been shocked by the sudden demise of my predecessor Allahyarham Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Adenan. Our thought and prayers are always with him and the family that he left behind.

“His passing is without doubt a great loss to Sarawak and even the nation. The immense outpouring of grief from Sarawakians from all walks of life and non-Sarawakians alike is a testimony of the tremendous respect and honour that the people of Sarawak are affording him for all that he had done for a better Sarawak in the short two years or so that he was chief minister. As an outstanding leader, he left a legacy that all Sarawakians are proud of and provided us the direction to follow in the years to come,” he said, expressing his sincere hope that in times of sadness, Adenan’s memory will always be Sarawakians’ and provide everyone with the inspiration to come out strong to continue his legacy for the betterment of Sarawak.

He also assured that he will continue with Adenan’s multi-racialism approach and also the policies that he had laid down.

For this Chinese New Year, Abang Johari hoped to see the Chinese community take time off to indulge in the simpler and down-to-earth things in life like enjoying their favourite food or drinks, the joy of reuniting with family members and having a pleasant time in the company of friends.

He said the faster pace of life and the pursuit of modernity have somehow lessened our interaction which was not at all conducive to nurturing a cohesive and harmonious society.

“Not all of these are lost though as we still cherish our closeness especially during festive occasions where we often make it a point to visit our friends. We must continue this tradition of exchanging visits to enhance our level of civic engagement that is vital for a harmonious Sarawak. Make it also a time for us to connect with one another and bring cheer to people who have less than us and those who are unfortunate in one way or another.

“As we join our Chinese friends to celebrate the New Year, I invite all of you, members of the older generations in particular, to look back at the past where our multi-racial society was more closely knit in the ways we conduct our everyday lives. We played, went to picnic, frequented the same coffee shops and had fun together, not caring very much whether one is Malay, Chinese, Dayak or Orang Ulu.”

He also stated that ushering in the Lunar New Year is a time of joy and celebrations for Chinese friends according to the tradition handed down to them by their ancestors.

“The Lunar New Year is a much-awaited occasion every year and well before the actual day, one cannot but feel and notice the anticipation in the air. In this time of joy and celebration I am calling on all Sarawakians to make time to visit one another in the spirit of our unique open-house tradition. Intermingling would allow us to interact meaningfully and be able to understand each other better. We cannot nurture and strengthen the bond of friendship among us without a good knowledge of our friends’ culture, tradition and religious beliefs.

“I wish all our Chinese friends a happy New Year and may the Year of the Rooster bring many good things and prosperity to all of you.”