KUCHING: “I have never issued any directive or instructions to force the cancellation of a Gawai ceremony to welcome the Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo,” said Batang Sadong Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.
She said this in response to insinuations made by former journalist Joseph Tawie on his Facebook page at 10pm on May 10.
Nancy claimed that in the post, Joseph implied that she used her capacity as Batang Sadong Member of Parliament to issue a directive to one Sili Bunsi, who is the Tuai Rumah of Sungai Bulu (Buluh) in Sadong Jaya, to cancel a Gawai ceremony meant to welcome the minister.
Quoting Joseph, Nancy said, “Why should a non-Dayak tell a Tuai Rumah who should and who should not visit his longhouse during Gawai Dayak celebrations?”
She contended that by making the statement, Joseph engaged in an effort to defame her while putting forward suggestive questions with implications that could raise tension among Sarawakians especially those in Batang Sadong.
“He implied through his suggestive questions that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is politicising Gawai Dayak.
“I have never imposed anything on the Tuai Rumah as alleged by Joseph,” she said during a press conference at Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) headquarters by Jalan Bako yesterday.
Nancy also revealed that when Sili consulted her on the matter he voiced out his concerns to which she shared her opinion that if he was uncomfortable hosting Gawai Dayak celebration for the minister, he can always proceed with the usual ways of celebrating.
“Ultimately, I re-emphasised to Sili that the final decision on who to invite rest with him and that he should make a decision that he himself is most comfortable with,” she said.
Sili, who was also present at the press conference, stated that the whole incident started with the arrival of five representatives from the Communications and Multimedia Ministry who wished to hold a Gawai Dayak programme to welcome the minister on May 31.
It is said that three days later the Tuai Rumah called the ministry’s special officer and was accused of having been forced to cancel the programme following a directive that came from the Batang Sadong MP.
“To hold a programme on the eve of Gawai Dayak when we (Sungai Bulu residents) will also hold ‘Ai Pengayu’ (longevity toast) is fine. However, I am concerned over the fact that the ministry officials will be coming by themselves from Malaya without any local minister.
“When the ministry officials came, it was not yet decided that the programme will take place. We neither agree nor disagree.
“On our part, we held a meeting of the longhouse residents where we discussed lot of matters. We decided not to proceed with the Gawai programme because we feel uncomfortable welcoming the minister in the absence of Sarawak leaders,” he said.
According to Sili, it is not that they are being racist. They think it would put them in an awkward position since the longhouse is within the Batang Sadong constituency currently under Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).
“It would have been better if we can get local leaders to take part in the programme so that we can reflect the true meaning of unity. We don’t want Gawai Dayak to be politicised. So, to avoid that, we have come up with a solution, which is saying no to the programme,” he said.
GPS secretary general Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi, Simunjan assemblyman Awla Dris and Sadong Jaya assemblyman Aidel Lariwoo also expressed their thoughts on the matter and urged the involved parties not to politicise the issue.
“It is a norm that if you want to hold an event at someone’s property, you have to get their permission first. If they said no, we cannot do anything about it.
“The community leaders can make their own decision. Whatever the outcome, not all matters are done based on Nancy’s decision and she never advised the leaders to reject people,” said Nanta.
Gawai Dayak is a harvest celebration of the Dayaks, thus Nancy expressed her disappointment over Joseph’s post which has turned it into a political conflict.
“I am obligated to address and clarify this issue which could breed unwanted and unnecessary racism and hatred,” she said.
She then urged all parties to respect the rule of law and to cherish the harmonious relationship among various ethnic groups by being responsible with their words and statements. To her, it is very unbecoming of anyone to compromise the precious racial harmony for political gains.