KUCHING: The haze enveloping the city has forced the national-level Malaysia Day celebration here to be moved indoors.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the organising committee decided on Tuesday evening to change the venue from the outdoor Padang Merdeka to the Indoor Stadium in Petra Jaya.
“After being briefed by the Meteorological Department, the Natural Resources and Environment Board and the Department of Environment on the haze situation, we had no choice but to relocate the venue to the Indoor Stadium because of health concerns, ” he told a press conference yesterday.
Awang Tengah, who chairs the committee, said the haze was forecast to continue until the end of the month and that there were currently more than 100 hotspots in Kalimantan, Indonesia.
“Worse still, the wind direction is still towards Sarawak, so it is not suitable for us to hold the Malaysia Day event at Padang Merdeka.
“We cannot put the health of the public at risk in case the Air Pollutant Index (API) rises above 200.
“We do not know what the situation will be come Sept 16, ” he added.
Awang Tengah said some performances would be scaled down in view of the venue change, but there would be no cuts to the original programme.
He said the main highlights of the celebration would remain the same, including the beating of 300 drums, a shadow play, a video presentation on Malaysia’s formation and the raising of the Jalur Gemilang.
“We will still give our best to ensure that this Malaysia Day celebration is a success.
“I know many of the performers will be disappointed because they have been rehearsing for the last three weeks and now they have to make some adjustments.
“But for the good of everyone, we had to make the decision to change the venue.
“We have a short time to make the adjustments, but I’m confident that the committee members will ensure that the celebration will proceed smoothly, ” he said.
Awang Tengah also said the Federal Government had been notified of the venue change, while the event secretariat would inform the invited guests.
Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud is the guest of honour for the celebration, which will also be attended by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal as well as other federal and state leaders.
The air quality in Kuching remained at an unhealthy level yesterday, with an API of 123 at 4pm.
Sri Aman and Samarahan also recorded unhealthy readings of 144 and 102 respectively, while 10 other stations in the state had moderate air quality levels ranging from 57 to 83.
However, the 409 schools which were closed on Tuesday due to the haze reopened yesterday as the API did not exceed 200.
“All schools are open as usual, ” the State Disaster Management Committee secretariat said.
The Education Department had issued a directive on Monday that schools in locations where the API was above 200 should close immediately.
School heads are empowered to decide on closing their schools based on the API reading at 6pm daily.