SIBU: The Sarawak government is providing an airfare subsidy totalling RM2 million for this year alone to assist Sarawakian students to return during festive seasons, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
He said the state government had responded to the requests by Sarawakian students studying in Peninsular Malaysia for assistance in order for them to come home during festive celebrations.
“Sarawak, one thing good about its culture is we have a lot of mixed marriages…so much so that over a period of time as a result of mixed marriages, we have what I call ‘hybrid’ Sarawakians…
“That is why when our students studying in universities in Peninsular Malaysia asked for assistance to celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Gawai Dayak, because they said the (air) fare is too expensive, but they can book their seats online in advance, so they got discount.
“They asked the state government to help them, RM600 per year for each student (of mixed marriages). I said okay, we give to you RM600, you can come back (to Sarawak). And we allowed them to have (the assistance on) two (different celebrations); RM300 (for one festive celebration), (and another) RM300 (for the other festival)
“The reason is that the father can be a Chinese and mother can be a Dayak. So, Chinese New Year, he can come (back) and Gawai also he can come (back). So, for both festivals, we can consider.
“And this year alone, we are giving subsidy (of) RM2 million to them based on their claim. And this is the way to live together…,” he said when officiating at the Federation of Seven Clan Associations’ gala dinner – Harmonious Night at a local hotel here last night.
The main sponsor for the event was Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing.
Also present were Abang Johari’s wife Datin Patinggi Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, Assistant Minister for Education, Science and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee, Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King, Sibu MP Oscar Ling, Pelawan assemblyman David Wong, Temenggong Dato Vincent Lau, Temenggong Datuk Wan Hamid Edruce and Temenggong Stanley Geramong.
Abang Johari also pointed out that Sarawak had the right ecosystems to move forward.
“We have that spirit to love Sarawak and when you have that spirit, there is a value – Sarawak has that value.
“It is our duty to protect that value in Sarawak and this protection is by all Sarawakians, including the Federation of Seven Clan Associations,” he said.
The Chief Minister also shared about a guest from Peninsular Malaysia, who were very impressed by the strong racial harmony and solidarity among Sarawakians of diverse background.
“This is lady is a high-ranking lady and she told me that should be the case in Peninsula. She said Peninsula should follow Sarawak as a model,” he added.
Abang Johari also praised the federation for their efforts in uniting all the seven clans under one roof.
“Indeed, this is the effort that we have to nurture in order to forge an understanding and unity among our diverse races and cultures,” he highlighted.
He also spoke on the importance for Sarawakians to support him to negotiate for the return of state’s rights.
Towards this end, he recalled that the Federation of Seven Clan Associations had come to meet him to request for some assistance.
“I think they asked for RM500,000 – boleh lah (can), boleh lah (can),” he said to the applause of the crowd.
On the federation’s request for land for cemetery site, he said this would be looked into.
Meanwhile, the organising chairman Ying Tieng Chai in his speech, explained that the federation had become a structural system that brought together associations of different dialects, namely the Sibu Foochow Association, Sibu Chiang Chuan Association, Sibu Hakka Association, Sibu Hainan Association, Sibu Hin Hua Pou Sen Association, Sibu Teochew Association and Sibu Kwong Wai Siew Association.
The federation president Yap Hoi Liong assured of working closely with United Chinese Association (UCA) Sibu.