Or­gan­is­ers should screen hosts be­fore pageants and ad­dress mis­takes promptly

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

TO Sabah folk, to­day is the cul­mi­na­tion of the month-long Har­vest Fes­ti­val, or Kaa­matan. May 31 is syn­ony­mous with a visit to Kadazan­dusun Cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion’s (KDCA’s) Hongkod Koisaan build­ing in Penampang, and some even con­sider at­ten­dance to be com­pul­sory, with so­cial me­dia cre­at­ing a “fear of miss­ing out” syn­drome, es­pe­cially among youth.

I went to the stalls there, which opened as early as 10 days be­fore the an­nual event to­day — the crown­ing of the Un­duk Ngadau, or beauty queen.

A rel­a­tive lamented last week­end that it had al­ready be­come un­bear­able to visit as crowds were huge and traf­fic — both on the road as well as along the stalls — was barely mov­ing.

Thou­sands of peo­ple come here to make merry, eat and hang out with friends, and over the years, what started out as a tra­di­tional fes­ti­val has turned into some­thing like a Coachella event.

That is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing, of course, as this fes­ti­val, highly pub­li­cised by the state Tourism Board as well as travel agen­cies, has at­tracted in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic tourists. Tourism re­ceipts are among the high­est dur­ing this month.

In fact, the event has be­come so well known that rideshar­ing ser­vice Uber has come on board, of­fer­ing free rides to the location yes­ter­day and to­day.

This year’s cel­e­bra­tion, how­ever, has taken on a lit­tle bit of a sour note, thanks to a drunk em­cee who hosted the Banggi Un­duk Ngadau pageant on May 21 and an­nounced the wrong win­ner dur­ing the district-level com­pe­ti­tion. Drink­ing al­co­holic bev­er­ages, in­clud­ing the tra­di­tional

and is com­mon dur­ing the month-long fes­ti­val, but the hosts or em­cees for Kaa­matan cel­e­bra­tions have nor­mally kept it pro­fes­sional.

The Banggi in­ci­dent begged a rec­ol­lec­tion of other fa­mous mis­takes, such as host Steve Har­vey an­nounc­ing the wrong Miss Uni­verse in 2015, as well as the Os­cars flub in Fe­bru­ary for the Best Pic­ture cat­e­gory. But, while these in­ci­dents were ad­dressed im­me­di­ately, what made mat­ters worse was that the district co­or­di­na­tor did not rec­tify the mis­take un­til the win­ners’ list be­came vi­ral and the real win­ner sought jus­ti­fi­ca­tion two days later.

The state-level Un­duk Ngadau com­mit­tee said this was a first “mishap”, and blamed the district-level com­mit­tee for not set­tling the mat­ter ear­lier. As both the crowned con­tes­tant and the ac­tual win­ner turned up for reg­is­tra­tion last week­end for the state-level fi­nals here, and no im­me­di­ate so­lu­tion was in sight, the com­mit­tee deemed that the only log­i­cal ac­tion was to not have rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Banggi this year.

Both par­ties are now dis­sat­is­fied as they felt an in­jus­tice had been done, see­ing as how they both spent money and time to pre­pare for the pageant, and thus took mea­sures to make sure the re­spon­si­ble par­ties “be held ac­count­able”.

The crowned Banggi Un­duk Ngadau wants her dig­nity re­stored and, via her lawyer, is seek­ing a clar­i­fi­ca­tion let­ter from the or­gan­is­ers as there had been no of­fi­cial state­ment on the mat­ter. Mean­while, the ac­tual win­ner took it a step fur­ther by lodg­ing a police re­port over the er­ror and the lack of ac­tion taken to rec­tify the mis­take.

While it was some­thing that would haunt both ladies, who may or may not be open to en­ter any more beauty pageants in fu­ture, it should also serve as a les­son to Un­duk Ngadau or­gan­is­ers, be it at district or state level.

Per­haps next time they should screen hosts be­fore pageants, even those at the district level, as these are of­fi­cial events, the win­ners of which will rep­re­sent the district at the state-level fi­nals dur­ing an im­por­tant hol­i­day cel- ebra­tion at­tended by Sabah — and some­times, national — VVIPs and lead­ers.

A stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dure should be worked out in case such in­ci­dents re­cur, so that there would be no fur­ther ar­gu­ments on the verdict. Some “dis­as­ters” may not be avoid­able as it is hu­man na­ture to make mis­takes, but in this case, there were def­i­nitely ways to solve it.

As Un­duk Ngadau state-level com­mit­tee chair­man Joanna Kitin­gan puts it, the mat­ter would not have es­ca­lated to such a point if the district co­or­di­na­tors had not taken the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the pageant so lightly.

“If they knew the em­cee was drunk, (they should have) let the head judge read the re­sults,” she con­cluded, adding that be­cause of the in­ci­dent, the beauty pageant was now “fa­mous” for all the wrong rea­sons.

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