Declare Gawai Dayak as national holiday, group urges

By Chew Lip Song

A GROUP of Dayak-based non-governmental organisations want the Federal government to declare Gawai Dayak and Kaamatan as a national public holiday.

It said in a statement that the festives which falls on June 1 are one of the biggest traditional and cultural celebrations in Sarawak and Sabah, and is a symbol of unity and harmony among multiracial Malaysians.

It added that even though Gawai Dayak and Kaamatan are already recognised as public holidays for the two states, gazetting it as a national public holiday will allow more Malaysians to learn about the celebrations.

The statement signed is 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.

“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,” the statement said, Borneo Post reported.

“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.

It was earlier reported that Gawai and Kaamatan were not included in Tourism Malaysia’s “Cuti Cuti Malaysia” programme for 2021 despite Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri hailing from Sarawak.

Karim had blamed the oversight on the lack of concern from past Tourism Ministers.

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