(Text of the Christmas and New Year message of the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, which will be broadcast over RTM in the evening of December 24, 2016 (eve of Christmas)
I wish to take this opportunity to wish all Malaysians, all Sarawakians during this festive occasion Merry Christmas. When we contact and come to know much more why people enjoy themselves whenever they celebrate respective festivals then we know much more that we have become a society, which is quite multi-racial. We are able to appreciate our differences rather than being scared of them in the society.
Of course, this feeling started when I was a schoolboy in St. Joseph in Miri and later on in Kuching, where I began to deepen my relationship among fellow schoolboys of different ethnic groups. That made me quite prepared by the time I had to leave for Australia to attend a law degree in the University of Adelaide. By then I had the background of being able to communicate, understand everybody’s culture and participate in a more meaningful way in the enjoyment of being part of the culture, which was being celebrated as a festival.
This trend is fitting much more among all races, among all people who have different religions in the country. I can see during Hari Raya Aidilfitri Chinese coming to wish me Selamat Hari Raya; in fact thousands of them, comprising old and very young people, queue up to wish me Selamat Hari Raya. .
THE SAME feeling is being felt by many when I visit houses during Chinese New Year during other festivals. The Ibans, the Dayaks are making Gawai much more rounded up by making the festival the inter –mixing of races. I know it will be more enjoyable in the case of the Ibans and the other races, which embrace Christianity and celebrate Christmas.
I think we ought to be feeling quite lucky that instead of being put off by the fear that we are not the same as people and celebrate the different festivals, we begin to enjoy and understand the meaning of relationship among all the various races even though we have been born Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and to a lesser extent Hindus. In Peninsular Malaysia, we could see the celebration much more because the Indians are beginning to congregate in cities. This kind of life has put into our minds in a different setting. Instead of being puzzled, the people enjoy themselves being part of the festival, they have a sense of participation.
Every time there is a Chinese New Year or Christmas or Hari Raya, the people can all reflect the fleeing of enjoying themselves to celebrate each other’s festival. Initially, it may not be important but you can imagine yourself being warmly welcomed when we visit a Christian house during Christmas, a Chinese house during Chinese New Year and of course a Muslim House during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
The feeling will grow more and more, as we get more exposed to each other in schools, in places of work and in our social life because we mix much more in various places. This makes our life more colorful and enjoyable. The whole things started when other races and the Malays started to invade houses of Muslims during Hari Raya way back in the 50s. It picked up in the 60s and now it has become part and parcel of our way of celebrating Hari Raya.
I could never think of Hari Raya being the same thing if the mixing of races does not pick up in our society. Everybody knows, even children know when there is Hari Raya, everybody can go and see the Chief Minister; that was my experience during my time. Of course, now it is much less as the Yang di Pertua Negeri because people are scared to come in to the Astana.
We always had big gathering during every occasion that we celebrated a festival, for example a Chinese New Year in Dewan Suarah or any other public places including SUPP headquarters building or even private homes. The gatherings, as long as they are well organized, will be attended by a large crowd of people comprising various ethnic and religious groups. This makes the feeling of being Malaysians much more than other people, who have the feeling of being members of one race in a country.
This what makes Sarawak so special that it can give the feeling of being welcomed even to foreigners, who come for visits. Sometimes, certain people feel that they are more welcomed in Sarawak than in their own country. We should all feel proud that we have been able to establish a way of life that awakens people’s feeling of being able to enjoy in the midst of the company of people of different races and different religions.
This is the greatest gift that we can give to the new generations and to the future of the country in the efforts to build a united Malaysia, where people can learn to understand each other and appreciate more the feeling of equality in spite of our differences. I have been enjoying a lot of this kind of feeling in my life as the Chief Minister and my private life.
I can recall an occasion when I went to a restaurant in New York some years back thinking that I would not have much enjoyment during a dinner in one of the festivals. I was wrong. When I had my dinner in New York Second Avenue, a young Chinese girl from Kuching, glanced at me many times. She came over to me and my wife and asked if I were the Chief Minister of Sarawak? When I answered yes and she responded immediately by introducing herself that she came from Kuching and she is a Sarawakian.
So you can see total strangers breaking their ice and starting a conversation in New York, which had no connection with Malaysia at all, when they meet each other. This kind of life is going to enrich our experience where ever we go and where ever there is Chinese restaurant, Indian restaurant or Malay restaurant, belonging to various races of Malaysia.
Today I can tell you there is a place in London, where if I want to meet Malaysians, I would go. The place is called Satay House. Although the food is completely Malay by nature, you can see all races namely Chinese, Indians and no need to say Malays patronizing the Malay restaurant.
We have not only enjoyed the feeling of being one with each other in our own country but carry that feeling into other people’s realms to make ourselves enjoy much more the feeling of being Malaysians. I cannot describe without telling all these stories how it feels to be Malaysians. But I am sure you can imagine now after hearing my stories because that is the realization how united we are; how far we have mixed with each and become Malaysians slowly without us knowing it consciously.
Therefore, I would like to say here let this kind of feeling be not only emerging but driving us to greet each other during Christmas and all other festivals of the various races. We can feel and realize how much we become more and more Malaysians every year without sacrificing our feelings of being Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Orang Ulu. That does not rob us in any way rob of our love for our own tribes or own sub – ethnic groups. In fact, it will make us realize how much it means to become Malaysians in multi-racial population.
It is during this period that we should reflect even in 10 seconds how much we have become Malaysians and Thanks God we have been able to enjoy peace and prosperity in the true sense of the words. We have been able to experience this feeling, I would say increasingly from year to year if not everywhere at least in Sarawak.
Merry Christmas to all of you may God bring us together in the spirit of unity, which we have slowly been able to draw in the past. Now, if we are asked to realize how much Malaysians we are, we can certainly much more Malaysians now than say 10 years ago or 20 years ago.
As the New Year is coming soon, I also take this opportunity to wish Malaysians a Happy New Year 2017; enjoy your holidays. With one inclusion, wherever we go we will be able to meet more fellow Malaysians; meet more people, who we can enjoy and deal with in sharing different ways of celebrating festivals. May we have a happier and more prosperous New Year 2017.
Thank you very much.