SOME of my ideas about ‘Sarawak Day’ appeared on thesundaypost of the 4th of this month.
I am assuming that the preparations for the celebration are well advanced by now and I have no inclination to mess up with arrangements.
I am looking forward to participating in the celebrations.
In 2016, the state government organised some celebratory activities and the people just participated out of free will or largely as spectators.
Today, let’s discuss some proposals on how best Sarawakians could take part in future celebrations. I hope that a couple of these ideas would be adopted by the organisers in connection with the 59th anniversary celebration.
Let’s pray that by July 2022, the dreadful Covid-19 would no longer threaten the lives of members of the community.
First and foremost, the commemoration of ‘The Day’ must be a statewide affair, led by the government of the day, and supported by the people of all creeds and political affiliations – one day free of partisan politicking (for a change!)
Secondly, the principle of moderation should be instilled in the minds of the people. There is no need to go overboard with lavish spending on the programmes and activities. The spirit of self-rule or freedom from colonialism is what celebrating July 22 is all about. I know this easier said than done, but we must try to develop that habit and see what happens.
District organizing committee
Each district would have an organising committee to plan and execute the types of activities relevant or peculiar to the local conditions and the capacity of the organisers at the district level.
Each year there is a theme for the celebration. Choose among these themes for each year’s functions: art and culture including music; agriculture and land development; clean environment and climate change; industrial and information technology (artificial Intelligence) development; personal integrity and good governance; political and religious freedom — just to name just a few.
Arts and crafts
Hold exhibitions and talks on the arts, crafts and music.
- Arts – many local artists are no longer with us, but their works are alive. To honour them, hold exhibitions and sales of their works. The works of Raphael Scott Ahbeng, Ramsay Ong, Michael Lim, Foo Syn Ngee, Sylvester Jussem and Yu Loon Ching are well known, but have you not seen works by Hasbie Sulaiman, Paul Anding, or Hamid Mersal?
Have you seen the unique drawings by ‘Mr Owat’ (Muyang Kemundang)?
There are many other talents out there. Take them out of the woodworks. Ask the school teachers and they will tell you who among their pupils are good at art. Get them participate in the celebration.
- Crafts – Showcase the skills of the Penans and other natives in basket-making. The so-called Penan baskets made of plastic are already on the market, but we want to encourage the use of authentic materials derived for the jungle (e.g. ‘bemban’ which is a type of bamboo, rattan or ‘mangkuang’ – the screwpine leaves used in mat-weaving) and the Penans themselves must be encouraged to participate in the exhibitions and workshops.
- Music – During the celebration, competitions should be held for the local composers of songs and music, be they traditional, modern or contemporary. These activities will encourage local talents to promote their works.
- Skills – Closely-related to culture are tangible manifestations of human skills. Encourage the learning of skills in carving, mat-making, basket-making, boat-making, ‘mandau’/’Ilang’(traditional knife/machete)-making, pottery, ‘pua kumbu’, ‘keringkam’, to mention a few. There are talents found in most districts. It’s high time that we showed interest in these skills that are of our own. Be proud of them.
- Jungle craft – At district level, trips to the jungle involving especially young people from the towns and cities would enable them to identify plants and other jungle products: which are of medicinal value; which plants and mushrooms that are edible, and which are poisonous; which trees are good for household use, and which ones to be preserved and protected. In short, the theme is ‘Jungle Craft’.
- Games – Other than modern sports, the organisers should look for players of the ‘gasing’ (spinning tops) and other games played by the children in the villages long before the day of football or soccer or badminton. Hold statewide competitions for them and award prizes to the winners and participants. Each district should send representatives to compete at state-level competitions. A challenge trophy to be won out right after three successful straight wins.
- Regatta – A regatta on Sarawak River would attract participating boat-racers from the outlying districts such as Lundu, Sebuyau and the villages across the Samarahan area. These would be regarded as division-based activities but in honour of Sarawak Day, consider them as a joint effort. The famous Baram Regatta may be held on this day (July 22), which should attract visitors from Brunei and the nearby districts. Visitors from across the Malaysia-Indonesia border would be most welcome. I don’t think they have seen a regatta on this side of the border.
- Music and dance – Hold festivals of music and dance. Participants from all communities, featuring works of budding composers and singers and dancers, should be the order of the day. Similar to the Rainforest World Music Festival held at Pantai Damai, but for Sarawak Day, it would be free of charge for the public. For this, rope in the local music houses and the professional singers to perform ex-gratia/free. Organise talks on copyrights law (violation and protection).
Roles of NGOs
In all these activities, the participation of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is important. The government may provide the necessary funds, but the organizing should be left to the NGOS to carry out.
On another year, think in terms of recognising the works of the charitable organisations such as the St John’s Ambulance, Red Cross, Cheshire Home, Blind Centre, and those reaching out to the handicapped, the poor.
Also, let’s do something useful for single mothers, and Sarawakians without Malaysian Identity cards.
The Boy Scouts and The Girl Guides are not to be forgotten in all these activities when celebrating every anniversary marking the grant of self-rule for Sarawak.