Pesta Kaa­matan brings peo­ple from all walks of life to­gether

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is Sabah chief min­is­ter

PESTA Kaa­matan is one cel­e­bra­tion I look for­ward to ev­ery year, be­cause of its sig­nif­i­cance to the peo­ple of Sabah. At the base of it, Pesta Kaa­matan is a rice har­vest fes­ti­val. But be­yond that, it is a cel­e­bra­tion that brings the di­verse com­mu­ni­ties to­gether.

It is a cul­tural event that uni­fies peo­ple, al­low­ing ev­ery­one to join in through its dances, the feasts, the merry mak­ing, the tra­di­tional games, or even as ob­servers.

This year, I was for­tu­nate enough to join the Yang Diper­tua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahirud­din and the Kadazan­dusun peo­ple’s Huguan Siou, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitin­gan, for the launch of the month-long cel­e­bra­tion in Tam­bunan on May 1.

It was a grand event, as far as en­thu­si­asm is con­cerned, be­cause it some­how has this pull fac­tor where you get to join in the sumazau dances, lis­ten to the tra­di­tional mu­sic and in­ter­act with those who come for the fes­tiv­i­ties.

I was also at the cel­e­bra­tion or­gan­ised by Upko in Tuaran, hosted by its pres­i­dent Datuk Seri Ma­dius Tan­gau, where the same spirit and essence of the fes­ti­val pre­vailed.

Even Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak recog­nises the im­por­tance of Pesta Kaa­matan as for many years now he has joined or ac­knowl­edged us at the na­tional-level cel­e­bra­tion.

I am sure when Pesta Kaa­matan cul­mi­nates with the main cel­e­bra­tion at the Hongkod Koisaan build­ing in Pe­nam­pang on May 30 and 31, it will be as lively as it has al­ways been all these years.

Per­son­ally, I feel it is im­por­tant for all to un­der­stand that the key to our present and fu­ture suc­cess lies in the unity of our cul­tur­ally di­verse peo­ple.

We should be grate­ful that the pre­vail­ing peace and har­mony in Malaysia has served us all well. Re­gard­less of the abun­dance of cul­tures in Sabah, it has be­come our own very unique strength.

It is dis­heart­en­ing to note, how­ever, in re­cent years, we have seen ir­re­spon­si­ble par­ties mak­ing provoca­tive state­ments that could lead to dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

This is a cause of con­cern for all of us as con­flict among races can pose a threat to our unity and peace­ful way of life. We must act col­lec­tively to pro­tect our di­verse cul­tures, for with­out it, Sabah would lose her great­est as­set — its unity.

I know my de­trac­tors will not agree. Some have gone to great lengths to dis­credit and be­lit­tle what­ever has been achieved.

Others have gone fur­ther to plot and scheme be­hind closed doors to weaken my ad­min­is­tra­tion. Some have even ques­tioned my style of gov­ern­ing, my pref­er­ence for quiet diplo­macy in­stead of the fist-bang­ing ap­proach.

To me, all I want to en­sure is that we con­tinue liv­ing in a state that en­joys racial and re­li­gious har­mony as well as unity in our

MON­DAY, MAY 22, 2017 en­deav­our to trans­form Sabah into an eco­nom­i­cally vi­brant state.

I want to see Sabah as the place where we can all have a good life and earn our liveli­hood in a clean and se­cure en­vi­ron­ment with great prospects.

As a Saba­han, and a pa­triot who has deep love for the state, a fel­low Malaysian and above all, as a fa­ther, I want to make sure our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions have a bright fu­ture.

This is why I make it a point that as the chief min­is­ter, I serve as the leader of all the peo­ple in Sabah, ir­re­spec­tive of their eth­nic­ity and be­liefs.

Ev­ery year, I make sure the state gov­ern­ment al­lo­cates mil­lions in as­sis­tance for re­li­gious bod­ies, cul­tural as­so­ci­a­tions, char­i­ta­ble en­ti­ties, cham­bers of com­merce, Chi­nese ver­nac­u­lar schools, mission schools, and even en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Decades ago, when I en­tered pol­i­tics, my hopes were to con­trib­ute to­wards Sabah’s progress and even­tu­ally for the state to take its right­ful place with the more ad­vanced states in Malaysia.

I could see what Sabah needed most was to ad­vance in a num­ber of things, most ur­gent of which were hu­man cap­i­tal and ca­pac­ity build­ing, plug­ging of eco­nomic leak­ages, cre­ation of new and value-added in­dus­tries, and most im­por­tantly bet­ter gover­nance and de­liv­ery sys­tem so that our peo­ple can progress in a sys­tem­atic and co­her­ent man­ner.

These are crit­i­cal cor­ner­stones to en­sure progress comes our way.

But to do that, the peo­ple of Sabah need to stay united and this is the very rea­son why I have made it a point to ob­serve and pre­serve cul­tural events such as Pesta Kaa­matan.

It has been our way of life to re­spect and cel­e­brate with each other, re­gard­less of our dif­fer­ences. This year it will be no dif­fer­ent. Ko­to­bian Tadau Tagazo Do Kaa­matan (Happy Har­vest Fes­ti­val)

Yang di-Per­tua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahirud­din (sec­ond from left), Sabah Chief Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Musa Aman (left) and Deputy Chief Min­is­ter Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitin­gan (third from left) cutting stalks of rice to mark the launch of the month-long Pesta Kaa­matan in Tam­bunan on May 1.

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