Multiethnicity at its best in Sarawak
IT USUALLY takes an outsider or a total stranger to remind us of the special things in our daily life that we often take for granted.
A professor from China recently described Miri’s multiracial and multireligious composition as a most attractive asset that is priceless.
Prof Wang Rui He, who is the vice-president of China University of Petroleum, visited Miri to look into plans to establish a training college here.
During a luncheon with local politicians and business leaders as well as reporters in this city, he told them that Miri was indeed a very special place.
“I have travelled to many parts of the world. My work takes me to countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and all over Asia.
“While I am very familiar with Asean countries because I visit them often, this is my first visit to Miri.
“This place is very special because this city has so many races and religions, people who speak all kinds of languages and dialects living in one place.
“That is the most important asset in Miri. To be able to have so many different people of differing backgrounds being able to live and work in peace is something that is very difficult to find in the world today.
“Miri must take good care of this precious asset,” he said to the crowd listening to him.
“We in China have always respected peace and harmony and we enjoy working with those who have similar values because that will ensure a working cooperation that will have bright prospects,” he stressed.
The good professor was spot-on in his observations about Miri.
For us Sarawakians, this racial and religious solidarity comes naturally and is nothing new.
We in Sarawak have been living like this for centuries. There are mosques and churches built side by side with Chinese and Indian temples nearby each other.
In our coffeeshops, we can see Muslims, Chinese, Indians, Ibans and Orang Ulu operating food stalls under one roof. Muslims and non-Muslims eat at the same table and it is not uncommon to see Malays chatting in Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka and Iban.
I visited one such truly-Sarawak kopitiam in the heart of Miri city and indeed, it is heartwarming to see such inter-racial and inter-religious harmony flourishing.
This multiracial kopitiam called “Plates Miri” is like a mini Sarawak. The entrepreneur behind the eatery is Molly Robert, an Iban woman.
Inside the coffeeshop are stalls selling Iban food, Kayan food, Chinese food and Muslim food.
The Muslim stall is operated by a Muslim lady and she sells mee jawa and Sarawak laksa. Located next to it is a stall selling Chinese food such as mee sua and kolok mee manned by a Dayak.
Also on the menu are Orang Ulu dishes such as the delicious wild fern midin and other food prepared by a team of multiethnic cooks.
That is multi-racial integration at its best.
And you see this not just in Miri but also in Kuching, Bintulu, Sibu and other towns in Sarawak.
That is the true spirit of Sarawak where everyone has a place under the sun.
As we celebrate Malaysia Day, let us not forget nor take for granted this unique multi-racial and multireligious way of life.
These virtues of Sarawakians are indeed priceless.