KUCHING: Christmas is a time of great rejoicing and celebrations for our Christian friends, and people of other religions share in the joy and festivities, as this has been our practice, said Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.
He said in Sarawak, people make it a point to send greetings to their friends and make an effort to visit them according to the open house tradition.
"The open house tradition is a unique facet of our shared culture that we must continue to nurture and cherish for the sake of our unity and harmony which is so vital for the continuous development of Sarawak," he said in his Christmas and New Year message here on Saturday.
He said Sarawak is a land where people of many different races and religious beliefs live together happily side by side, like brothers and sisters who have much respect for one anothers culture and religion.
"In some parts of Sarawak there are Christian and Muslim families that stay together under the same roof, and religion is of no issue because they belief that "your religion is your religion and my religion is my religion," he said.
"That's the way it has been for us in Sarawak for the last hundred years and that's the way it should be all the time in the future. Of late, when there was a great deal of social tension on issues of race and religion, we in Sarawak kept our cool and refused to be drawn into debates that are very divisive in nature," he said.
"For so many years, there has been no hindrance and issue at all to religious freedom in Sarawak. We are free to worship as we wish; Christians are free to use the word "Allah" as they used to and there will be no "Hudud" in Sarawak," he added.
On economy, Adenan said Sarawak cannot forever be a commodity-based economy, as it is time for the creation of more downstream industries in order to process its raw materials such as natural gas, timber and silica sand into products that can fetch much greater value than when they are exported raw.
He said with the implementation of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy Programme (Score), Sarawak is well on the road to industrialisation with more and more investment from overseas.
He pointed out that Score has attracted 21 investments worth RM33.50bil, generating over 17,000 employment opportunities, especially in the Samalaju industrial zone in Bintulu.
Adenan said Sarawak has high hopes that the Pan-Borneo Highway will become another factor to propel its economy in the decade to come.
"I believe many of you who travel from Sematan to Miri have seen that works in some packages have already started. Pan-Borneo highway is not empty talk and it is steadily becoming a reality," he said.
Adenan also wished the people of Sarawak 'Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.'
"To fellow Sarawakians who are not Christians, continue the tradition of visiting those who are celebrating Christmas and usher in the celebrations. As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017, strengthen unity and preserve the peace and harmony that we have been enjoying," he said. - Bernama