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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, May 30: Community leaders in villages and longhouses have been urged to play active role as frontliners to ensure that their community complied with the guidelines and standard operating procedure (SOP) issued for the Gawai Dayak festive celebration.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas made this call to all Temenggong, Pemanca, Penghulu, Tuai Rumah as well as chiefs of respective Village Security and Development Committees.
Noting that this year’s Hari Gawai will be very different for the Dayak community as many would not be able to “pulai menoa” (return to longhouses and villages) for the occasion, he emphasised that this sacrifice is important to protect loved ones especially “aki” and “ini” (grandparents) and those with health conditions.
“With the ongoing Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), in which the ban on inter-state and inter-district travel is still in force until June 9, penalty awaits those who dare to breach it.
“The Gawai Dayak celebration is here again but we will not be able to celebrate it the way we are very familiar with. It will be a different, in fact subdued and cautious celebration, this time.
“The reason is obvious. We are in the midst of fighting the Covid-19 which is a serious threat to human the world over. The pandemic is greatly impacting us now so we should never let our guard down as we celebrate,” he reminded in his Hari Gawai message today.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), he highlighted that around 63 per cent of Covid-19 patients who had died were aged 60 years and above and some 80.7 per cent of them had history of diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart problem and other ailments.
“Another high risk group is the children aged 12 years and below as well as infants,” he added.
Noting that the majority of longhouse inhabitants are now the senior citizens who are most vulnerable, Uggah emphasised: “For the sake of our aged parents, our ‘aki’ and ‘ini’ (grandparents), aunties and uncles and nephews and nieces, it is best that we do not go home.”
As people can be infected but remain asymptomatic and thus could spread the virus to others unknowingly, he said that this will have devastating consequences in the rural areas and may create a Gawai cluster.
“MOH is concerned about the possibility of a spike in Covid-19 cases in the post festive period,” he added.
Uggah, who is the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman, applauded the decision by many longhouses which have prohibited non residents or outsiders from visiting them during the Gawai.
He reminded that celebrants are not allowed to hold open house and “ngabang” (Gawai visiting), avoid activity which can attract big crowd and must continue to practice social distancing, personal hygiene, frequent cleaning or sanitising of homes and equipment, and have thermometer ready.
“While Miring is allowed, it must comply with the SOP. Also, wear a face mask if feeling unwell or when in close contact with others. I would like to also advise that they use disposable paper cups instead of sharing glasses.
“I would also strongly urge that if anyone suddenly comes down with high fever, coughing and breathing difficulty to seek medical attention at once,” he added.
Uggah also apologised for the inevitable restrictions imposed by the government on Hari Gawai and Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.
“These were and are necessary to stop the transmission. We must stand united as one in this war as Covid-19 is not only extremely contagious but dangerous as well. I must thank everyone for their co-operation and understanding so far. I hope all will continue to do so.
“On this note, my family and I would like to wish all Dayaks a very happy and safe celebration.
“Aku besampi ke semua gaya guru, gerai nyamai, lantang senang nguan menoa,” he said in extending his Gawai wishes. -DayakDaily