Dayak people known for their bravery in war and loyalty in time of peace


THE largest ethnic group in Sarawak is celebrating their annual harvest festival officially designated as Gawai Dayak Day.

The Dayak people are known for their great bravery in war, and their loyalty in peace time.

Like other ethnic groups In the country, they certainly have made significant contributions to the peace , security and prosperity of Sarawak in particular, and the country generally, from the days of the Brooke dynasty up to this very day.   In the cities and in the towns , in the villages the Dayak like the other ethnic groups have been running most of the shops, shopping malls, supermarkets and hotels and eateries of all descriptions, and clinics and hospitals.

The list continues.

During Gawai, all construction firms are not operating for at least a week .

There would have been fewer buildings anywhere if Dayaks were to withdraw from this sector!  The legendary Sarawak Rangers, The Border Scouts and The Iban Trackers had a special place in the history of this country for the outstanding role they played in maintaining law and order during the Brooke period, the British colonial administration, the Malayan Emergency, the Confrontation, and the unrest in the late sixties.

We should always remember with gratitude the part they played in the police and the armed forces in making the country safe for all of us.

We join them in their major celebration of the year in the true Sarawak tradition.

Steeped in centuries-old culture with its own symbolic routines and ceremonies, celebrating the harvest is the most important day in the calendar of our Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu and other smaller groups who make up about 45 per cent of our people.

Recognised as a public holiday since 1965, all of us have been able to join in their celebrations.   All part of Sarawak’s rich culture and showing the unity and strong bonds in our community.

Order and routine govern the celebrations, getting ready by cleaning and repairing the longhouses, preparing for the feast, one which we should all follow, miring (a ritual offering to ancestors, gods and spirits), makai di ruai (festival meal), and other forms of celebration.   At midnight a gong is struck, the tuai rumah calls on everyone to toast longevity, and the new year, 1st June, begins with festival greetings and forgiveness of wrongs and differences, a marvellous way to start their  New Year.

In one of our best traditions, the longhouses and the homes of our Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu are open to families, friends  and well wishers .

The guests are offered their well known drink, ‘tuak’, speeches are made, and guests are served Dayak delicacies.

With Gawai Dayak lasting about 30 days, Gawai Dayak has much in common with our other major festival days: Hari Raya, Chinese New Year , Deepavali and Sabah Harvest Festival.

Our diversity is our strength,  from which we must never allow anything to detract.

That is the task of all of us, without exception.

Today all ethnic groups must be united in our effort in building a truly multi ethnic, multi religious , multi lingual and multi cultural country where we can continue to live in peace and harmony.

Let’s build a country which we can all be justly proud of.