Unite efforts to preserve, develop Sarawak’s tourism products, urges Abdul Karim

Traditional Borneo beads and accessories. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, June 29: More effort is needed to develop and strengthen existing tourism products in Sarawak, says Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“What we need to do, besides having events, is to build up more tourism products. (For me), the other part is trying to educate successors — those in the ministry, those in the agencies and the public at large — about the importance of our heritage and culture,” Abdul Karim told DayakDaily in an exclusive interview at his office here recently.

In additional to appreciating Sarawak’s rich natural heritage, Abdul Karim also hoped that Sarawakians will be as passionate about preserving the state’s equally rich cultural heritage.

“When there is a wide spread of passion in our heritage and tourism products, then we are on the same ground. Even when I’m no longer in tourism and in politics, at least I have done something to preserve or ensure that the public at large, the things that we do now, continue.

“Our rich racial harmony that we have, I look at it as part of our heritage which we have been preserving and which we have been able to develop for many, many years. The Dayaks have been able to (live harmoniously alongside) the Chinese, the Malays. We have no problems actually. And we are tolerant as far as religion is concerned. I can see that.

“There are some longhouses where some of them (residents) have converted to Islam. They have households which are Muslim with the ‘kalimah’ on their door and they have households with (Christian) crosses there. You go to the Melanau area, you can see a cross at one side and there is ‘kalimah’ on the other side.

“You don’t see these kinds of things in other places in the world, not even in West Malaysia. This is something very much (unique to) us.

“You can see this among the Melanaus, they have the Likaus, the atheists and the Christians, they use ‘bin’ and ‘binti’, which tend to be more associated with Muslims (rather than non-Muslims). And when somebody dies, they use songkok to visit and they use ‘pakaian pelikat’ which are something we are very proud of. This is part of our culture and heritage which we must preserve,” he stressed.

Abdul Karim also expressed hope that the private sector, especially players in the tourism industry, will assist the government in preserving this rich cultural heritage.

“Of course there is nothing wrong with making as much profit as possible but you must also act responsibly towards the state and towards our culture and heritage,” he added, when elaborating on this.

On a related issue, Abdul Karim also hoped that the federal government will continue to assist Sarawak regardless of who is administering Putrajaya.

“This is where sometimes politics can frustrate you. When the state government and the federal government are not on the same wavelength, not in sync so to speak, it is quite difficult to do things.

“They will give (priority) to those friendly states that are in sync in them,” he opined.

However, he noted that even when Barisan Nasional was in power, it did not necessarily mean Sarawak always got everything it wanted.

“When you look back at when the state and the federal government were in sync at that time, a lot of things also can’t get through.

“So this is where the state government has got to relook (at it as) even though the federal government are together with us, there are certain things which we feel very passionate about, we need to sit down and tell the federal government we need this to be done.

“We cannot just say ‘okay’. For instance, when Sarawak is making a lot of noise, ‘So, since they are making a lot of noise and since they are asking for RM100 million, we give them RM10 million’,” added Abdul Karim. — DayakDaily