Dayak groups call for Kaamatan, Gawai Dayak declared public holidays nationwide

A file photo of Wellie (left) and Paul.

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KUCHING, Jan 7: Dayak Think-Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS) and Dayak National Congress (DNC) have called for the Kaamatan Festival and Gawai Dayak to be declared public holidays throughout Malaysia to enhance awareness of the existence of the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak.

DTTAS founder and advisor Wellie Henry Majang and DNC president Paul Raja in a joint statement today, said many Malaysians, especially the people of Peninsular, are still not aware of the existence of the indigenous people in both States.

They said this is proven that in the preparation of the National Calendar, the festivals of government employees from Sabah and Sarawak are not considered.

“So we suggest that the Federal government take the initiative to address the lack of awareness about festivals belonging to the indigenous people in both States by declaring Kaamatan Festival and Gawai Dayak as public holidays for the whole of Malaysia.

“We hope that this action is taken by the Federal government, which will protect the interests of Sabah and Sarawak’s indigenous customs, cultures, and festivals,” they said.

Kaamatan Festival is celebrated on May 30 and 31 in Sabah, while Gawai Dayak is celebrated on June 1 and 2 in Sarawak.

Following this, Wellie and Paul suggested that the public holidays for Kaamatan Festival and Gawai Dayak throughout Malaysia are on May 31 and June 1.

Meanwhile, the additional holidays, namely May 30 for Kaamatan and June 2 for Gawai Dayak will still be used by Sabah and Sarawak.

“If approved, it should be gazetted for public holidays for the entire country starting this year,” they added.

At the same time, Wellie and Paul hoped the induction of Gawai Dayak as a public holiday for the whole of Malaysia would raise awareness to all Malaysians to respect the diversity of races in the country.

They believed that the act would also be a step towards respecting the rights of the people of Sabah and Sarawak, as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

They also mentioned that the right to celebrate festivals is enshrined in Article 153 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which is guaranteed ‘to be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to protect the special position of the Malays and Natives of any State of Sabah and Sarawak’. ― DayakDaily