SIBU: The raunchy dance show staged at a Gawai Dayak gathering here recently took a fresh twist when Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing defended the event, accusing certain quarters of turning it into a racial issue.
“Unfortunately, it has been mutated into a racial issue by those with evil and obscene thoughts. Screenshots of performers at the recent dinner for Gawai Dayak have been shared online and disrupted the daily lives of those involved in the event,” the Bintulu MP said.
Tiong, who is also the Dudong state assemblyman, said the Gawai Dayak was widely celebrated to honour the multi-cultural and harmonious co-existence of all races.
He said all forms of dances should be treated with equal respect and accused critics for “taking the performance out of context, belittling the cultural and artistic performances, and creating unnecessary turmoil”.
Dayak community leaders had on Thursday (June 16) condemned the event organisers for using scantily-attired women to perform stage shows.
Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Paul Raja said the organisers had “desecrated” the Gawai Dayak festival, and Dayak Think-Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS) adviser Willie Henry Majang said the raunchy stage acts had portrayed a negative image of the community.
Both organisations demanded an apology from the organisers.
“They have turned the dance performance into a political issue … Do the performers in Hawaii need to apologise too?” said Tiong.
He claimed that those who attended the event provided good feedback.
“All of them gave positive feedback on the Gawai Dayak festive dinner, citing the unique stage performances as refreshing, which combined dance elements of various ethnic groups.
“It allowed the youth to showcase their talent and love for cultural and artistic performances. Why do their efforts be belittled all because of a simple matter of clothing?”
Tiong said the country had always sought to seek a common ground and strength in its diversity while accommodating each other’s cultural differences.
“Only in doing so we can maintain peace, unity, and harmony among our people.
“Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with the costumes worn by performers of the Cowboy Dance. There is no nudity, so I don’t understand why these performers are being victimised,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Vibes news portal in a report quoted PBB Central Zone chairman Christopher Tegong as saying that his branch and the PDP Bawang Assan branch had organised the event and invited the girls to add flavour to the event.
The portal reported that Christopher stressed that before the show, the traditional Iban prayer rites were followed with due respect.
“The extra shows were slotted in by the organisers to spice up the festive mood. The controversies over the show are instigated by people with political motives who are trying to get political mileage,” he said.