We, Sarawakians, should not be petty

Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.

Mahatma Gandhi, Indian anti-colonial nationalist

Let me begin by referring to Dr Annuar Rapaee’s take on his presence at the Gawai Dayak gathering in Sibu where a purported raunchy dance show was staged.

The Deputy Minister for Education, Innovation and Talent Development explained that he has no role in the organising of the event but attended as a guest, together with leaders of PBB branches in and around Sibu.

Dr Annuar alleged that those linking him to the dance controversy did so purely on political grounds with the intention of assassinating his character.

Why did I start with Dr Annuar in this episode?

Because if anyone should complain about the so-called sexy dance or bring up related issues of indecent dressing and morality, it should be the Muslims who were present.

In this case, Dr Annuar as probably the most prominent Muslim present should be the one to make noise about the raunchy dance if indeed it was deemed indecent and insulting to any culture or religion. 

But no, Dr Annuar and the Malays/Muslims present did not.

Instead, who were the ones making a hue-and-cry over a mere entertainment event as a modern cowboy dance, even if it was performed by “cowgirls”? Surprisingly, the Dayaks themselves were firing their own people who organised the gathering.

Come on, my dear Dayak friends. Let us not make mountains out of molehills. I am not only surprised but also shocked that a dance (or is it the attire of the dancers or their moves?) has turned into such a controversial issue.

Oh yes, I know it’s Gawai and a Dayak festival. So Dayaks should be concerned that the Gawai-associated rituals were duly adhered to and respected. I agree this is important. The Harvest Festival is a celebration to behold for the community and the Dayaks are more than happy and proud to invite those of other races or religions to join them.

In fact, this is the tradition of all Sarawakians. We honour and respect our different festive occasions and happily partake in the celebrations at different times of the year. This racial and religious tolerance and harmony is something which should be nurtured and remain the mainstay of our inter-racial and inter-religious relations among Sarawakians.

I think I must have written, and even bragged, about our tolerance and harmony in Sarawak countless times, so much so that readers often find the subject boringly repetitive. I apologise but I am truly proud of what we have in Sarawak.

As a Sarawakian, I also believe there is nothing more important than helping to ensure, in whatever little ways I can, that our racial and religious tolerance and harmony are preserved for all eternity and should never be lost.

I’m blessed to be a writer at times for I have the opportunity to remind my fellow Sarawakians publicly to stay on track should I find some of us going off tangent.

At times, we quarrel over something not worth quarrelling about. Think about it. It’s true, isn’t it? What is worse is that we like to bring our grievances into the public sphere, bothering others unnecessarily and creating a public nuisance in the process. In most cases, the public do not relate to the subject which is only of interest to a few people.

On this latest controversy, let me appeal to all involved to cool down and take three deep breaths. It is not a question of who is right or who is wrong. I don’t think there will be winners or losers in this debate over the Gawai dance.

I have watched the video of the dance and I don’t think anyone should be offended by the dress code or the moves. I doubt anyone had taken advantage of the dancers or demean them in any way.

In fact, I think the girls were enjoying themselves and I believe dancers are also given a stipend. There are dance studios in Sarawak and the young and old have taken up dancing as a form of exercise or just for recreation.

Let me appeal earnestly to all not to be overly righteous or be moral policemen of our young people.

I really resent what has been going on in Malaya when certain extremists and bigots attempted to tell others how to live their lives. The Bon Odori Festival is another recent case of intolerance we are seeing in Malaya. Even the Selangor Sultan’s decree has been challenged.

Please, let us learn from all the silliness and nonsense we have witnessed happening in Malaya. Let us not bring such a culture of intolerance and hypocrisy into our beloved Land of the Hornbill.

So, may I humbly appeal to all to close this chapter on the Gawai dance? Even if we don’t like some of the politicians involved, we have an opportunity to vote them out during the elections. Until then, let’s keep the peace.

For we truly know, the Dayaks are better than this; our politicians are better than this and surely, Sarawakians are better than this.

At the end of it all, our beloved homeland, Sarawak, is bigger than any of us.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune. 

Previous articleBumi chambers seek clarity on 30 per cent allocation
Next articleCompanies showcase sustainable initiatives at IDECS