– by Karen Bong
KUCHING, Oct 11: In Sarawak, it is absolutely fine with everybody when a Malay or Dayak uses chopsticks to eat. It is also all right when a Chinese or a Dayak uses his or her hand to eat.
This is our culture and unique way of life that must be preserved and protected at all cost because this continued acceptance and understanding among Sarawakians will be the basis to move forward, said Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
“But it is so different on the other side (West Malaysia). If a Malay uses chopsticks, you are finished… (you are) not Malay anymore. But here, Malay using chopsticks is still a Malay, Johari is still Johari,” he told an amused crowd when officiating at the closing ceremony of the Chinese Cultural Symposium at Thian Court in Crown Square here today.
The chief minister said even doing a simple task like laundry can become a complicated one in the peninsula, where the different races have to use different washing machines.
“The Malays use a different machine, Chinese different machine but OMO (a brand of washing detergent) doesn’t know the different machines. We do not have that different attitude. There, everything (is) ‘kacau’ (disturbing), so much so that the leaders cannot focus (and) every day talk about races only,” he said.
He reiterated that Sarawak must be insulated against divisive influences such as this from outside, as moderation in everything is the key to a successful future.
“Sarawak is popular because of the strong unity of her people. Everything is commonly shared, and there are no problems with religion, race and even education,” he pointed out.
Using the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) as an example, Abang Johari said although the federal government had promised to recognise it, this promise had yet to be fulfilled.
He said the state did not want policies that are alien to the people.
“In Semenanjung, it is too extreme. We cannot allow such extreme elements to come here. We must be moderate. That’s why when we formed Malaysia, we have said that this is our culture, our rights, our language that we have to protect.
“(The late Pehin Sri) Adenan (Satem) emphasised this, and I will continue to re-emphasise and speak on our values,” he assured.
Abang Johari also gave an assurance that his administration could run the state well.
“We can run Sarawak, don’t worry. Now that many projects have been cancelled, nevermind. You cancel it, I know how to run it,” he commented.
He, thus, pointed out the importance of Sarawak’s special rights as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), without which outsiders would have come over and it would be a problem.
“For instance, lawyers from West Malaysia cannot practise here as well as medical practitioners and other professions too. If they want to practise here, they have to get a licence from Sarawak. Similarly for the oil and gas industry, if you want to come here to find oil, you must obtain a licence from Sarawak; if not you cannot have that oil.
“As such, we must restore the rights of Sarawak, which have been eroded. Our rights are still there. The most important thing is we must protect ourselves and be united. Only Sarawakians can look after Sarawak,” he added.
Abang Johari pledged to continue assisting and supporting the diverse community in Sarawak, regardless whether they are Iban, Bidayuh, Malay or Melanau for ‘we are one family’.
“I am the chief minister of the Chinese, of the Bidayuh, of the Orang Ulu, of the Malay/Melanau and others. A chief minister must be fair. Everybody is their own kind, so that’s why we must protect our culture and insulate them from divisive policies,” he emphasised.
The symposium was organised by the Federation of Chinese Associations of Kuching, Samarahan and Serian Divisions in preparation for the Sarawak Cultural Symposium, a major cultural event organised by the Sarawak government once every five years, next month.
Abang Johari said the symposium served as a meeting point for people of all cultures and races in Sarawak to share their views, which will become the basis for the government in forming policies.
“This symposium is for us to evaluate successes and make adjustments due to changing times and the new generations. It is a reminder for us on what we should do moving forward, even though there may be shortcomings due to changing times, we make changes,” he added.
A highlight of the gathering was the handing over of the Chinese Culture Symposium’s resolutions and memorandum to the chief minister.
Among those present were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah, Assistant Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin, federation president Dato Richard Wee, Temenggong Tan Joo Phoi as well as Chinese community leaders. — DayakDaily