MIRI: Eight Dayak-based non-governmental organisations are in support of the statement by federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri for Gawai Dayak and Kaamatan to be declared as national public holiday.
They made their views known through a press statement signed by president of Dayak National Congress, Paul Raja; president of Persatuan Iban Sarawak (Pais), Samuel Suring; president of Persatuan Terabai Menua Sarawak, Wilfred Nissem; president of Persatuan Jaringan Tanah Hak Adat Bangsa Asal Sarawak (Tahabas), Romuald Siew; deputy president of Dayak Think Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS), Edward Awan; secretary general of Persatuan Balang Balai Nyabong (BBN), Dr John Brian; secretary of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) Miri, Rafael Dru and secretary of Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips), Michael M. Jok.
According to the statement, even though Gawai Dayak and Kaamatan are recognised public holidays for Sabah and Sarawak, it would be good to further highlight the celebrations to let other states in Malaysia know about the celebrations.
“We also have the same view with our Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, that the federal government lacked knowledge on the celebrations by the many ethnic groups in Sarawak.
“Therefore, we praise the action by both ministers (Nancy and Karim) as they were bold enough to raise important issues related to festive celebrations in Sarawak, particularly the Gawai Dayak,” said the statement.
According to the statement further, Gawai Dayak is one of the biggest traditional and cultural celebrations in Sarawak, and is a symbol of unity and harmony among multiracial Malaysians.
“There are several matters in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) which must be honoured by all parties. We must strengthen unity and the spirit of harmony among all races.
“The practice of tolerance among all races and people of different faith are vital in ensuring political stability, peace and harmony in Sarawak.
“Thus, we would like to urge the federal government under the leadership of our Prime Minister YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to declare June 1 as a nationwide public holiday and to gazette it under the federal government’s public holidays,” said the statement.
It pointed out that a national public holiday on June 1 will enable members of the Dayak community who work in West Malaysia and Sabah to celebrate the festive occasion while being away from home, without having to take leave.
“By celebrating the occasion at their workplace or home, they will also indirectly promote their tradition and culture to their non-Sarawakian friends and colleagues,” concluded the statement.