Declare  Gawai Dayak national holiday

File Photo: The Bidayuh celebrate Gawai thankful for the rice they have harvested. Here, the folk of Kampung Gumbang, Bau perform some old Gawai rituals.

    KUCHING: The Dayak Think-Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS) has urged the federal government to declare Pesta Keamatan in Sabah and Gawai Dayak in Sarawak public holidays nationwide.

    Its deputy president Ricky Sani said the important festivals should be given due recognition (by declaring as national holidays), in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s Malaysia Madani concept.

    He said one of the important demands of the people of Sabah and Sarawak when forming Malaysia was to guarantee the special rights of the indigenous people of the two states.

    Ricky Sani

    “This is enshrined in Article 153 (1) of the Federal Constitution, which states that ‘it is the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to protect the special position of Malays and natives of any of the states of Sabah and Sarawak’,” he said.

    As Pesta Kaamatan in Sabah is celebrated on May 30 and 31 while Gawai Dayak is celebrated on June 1 and 2, he said, DTTAS would like to suggest that May 31 and June 1 be declared as national public holidays.

    At the same time, additional holidays on May 30 for Pesta Kaamatan and June 2 for Gawai Dayak be retained for Sabah and Sarawak respectively.

    Speaking to New Sarawak Tribune on DTTAS wishes and hopes for Gawai this year, Ricky said it is important for the federal government to declare these festivals as public holidays; to reflect that Sarawak is treated as a region in Malaysia.

    “This will also allow our Dayak friends and families working, studying or residing in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah to return home to celebrate Gawai without having to apply for leaves,” he said.

    Apart from that, he believed that declaring public holidays for Gawai will also promote better understanding and knowledge about the festival, in the multiracial society of Malaysia.