Sarawak Indians want Deepavali recognised as public holiday

Kho (5th left) taking a photo with the recipients of the Diwali food aids at Tan’s Wine and Liquor premises in Kuching today (Nov 7, 2020). Tan is seen on (4th left) Shankar on (1st left) and Kapitan Tan (seated).

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Nov 7: It is high time for the Sarawak state government to consider making Deepavali (Diwali) a public holiday for the Indian community in recognition of their vast contributions to the state’s development.

Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Central Women chief Kho Teck Wan said the Indian population may not be large but their contribution to the overall development of Sarawak has been immense.

“We would like to propose that Deepavali or Diwali be recognised as one of the public holidays in Sarawak. They have been requesting for it for a long. And looking at their contribution to Sarawak (they deserved it).

“And looking at all the other races in Sarawak, like the Dayaks have their festive holidays, the Chinese have their holidays, the Malay/Melanau have festive holidays.

“I think it’s high time. And we have Unifor (Unit for Other Religion), which recognises all races and religions. So on that basis, the Indians should be given a public holiday,” Kho told DayakDaily after presenting Diwali food aids to 40 recipients here today.

Kho added that in terms of politics, most of the Indians in Sarawak have been members of SUPP.

Senior lawyer, Shankar Ram Asnani concurred with Kho and said even though the Indian population in Sarawak is not large, the community has been part of Sarawak’s rich and colourful cultural heritage.

“With great respect, we already have too many holidays in Sarawak but for the recognition of the Indians in Sarawak from the times of the white Rajah until today, the Indians have contributed significantly. So it would really touch their hearts if you actually give them a holiday on Diwali,” he said.

Shankar is the third generation of local Indians from northern India (now Pakistan) whose grandparents had migrated to Sarawak.

“I’m a third generation local-born Indian. So my family and I are as Sarawakians as any other Sarawakians. And we have been very supportive of the government all these while,” he said.

Kamlesh Noraindas Asnani

Meanwhile, the secretary of the Maha Mariamman Temple Kamlesh Noraindas Asnani said Diwali which symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance”, is also a time to remember the less fortunate and to promote racial harmony.

“Even though we can’t celebrate Diwali as usual due to Covid-19 pandemic, we still distribute these goodies to our fellow Indians,” said Kamlesh.

The ceremony was organised by SUPP, Kapitan Tan Kang Yaw and Shankar

Also at the ceremony was political secretary to the Chief Minister Tan Khai. — DayakDaily