MBKS mayor addresses Kuching White Cat statue outfit: No intention to disrespect Iban heritage

The iconic Kuching White Cat statue at Padungan was dressed up with Dayak design material ‘pua kumbu’. Photo credit: Wee Hong Seng/Facebook

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, May 31: The iconic Kuching White Cat statue at Padungan was dressed in a Dayak ‘pua kumbu’ but Kuching South City Council (MBKS) did not make any specific statement that it was a ‘sirat’ (loincloth) and ‘ketapu’ (headdress) as claimed, said MBKS mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng.

The mayor stated in a Facebook post that the council’s intention was never to disrespect or misappropriate the Iban community’s rich and vibrant heritage.


“Every year the Padungan White Cat will be adorned with attire representing different culture and religious festivals as a testament to celebrate diversity and unity in the community,” he said.

Wee went on to say that the council values the community members’ feedback and concerns.

“To ensure efficient and effective resolution to any issue, one can approach and contact the mayor personally. Making any public press statement is unnecessary as direct communication can provide a faster and more personal response.

“During the festive season, the council does not wish to create any sensitivity amongst its community and will take necessary action to take down the clothing on the White Cat.

“As we come together to celebrate the vibrant and joyous Gawai Dayak Festival, the mayor of the City of Kuching South, Dato Wee Hong Seng, wishes everyone a Happy Gawai Dayak, Gaya Guru Gerai Nyamai,” he added.

On May 30, Tun Jugah Foundation senior advisor and researcher Dr Peter Mulok Kedit issued a press statement in which he stated: “We thank MBKS for promoting Gawai Dayak Festival with the ‘dress up’ of the Cat statue, Padungan Road, with Iban attire – ‘sirat and ketapu’.

“Unfortunately, according to Ibran traditional belief, dressing a cat with ‘sirat’ and ‘ketapu’ is taboo according to most Iban customs.

“Tun Jugah Foundation came up with this statement because it is the Foundation’s duty to preserve and protect Iban cultural integrity.”

Meanwhile, Michael Kong, special assistant to Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen, said it was crucial for MBKS and other authorities to recognise the importance of cultural sensitivity and the need to consult relevant communities before undertaking such initiatives.

“Respecting the beliefs and customs of all communities is essential to avoid misunderstandings and unintentional insults,” he said in a press statement.

“I urge MBKS and all other governmental bodies to engage with and seek advice from cultural representatives such as Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (MAIS) before making decisions that affect their communities.

“This approach will not only prevent similar incidents in the future but also promote a more inclusive and respectful society,” he added. — DayakDaily