KUCHING: This Malaysia Day, Sarawakians are calling on fellow Malaysians to embrace the values of multicultural harmony, unity and inclusivity that their state is known for.
For them, celebrating the nation’s formation should be marked by a renewed commitment to respect and accept one another regardless of race and religion.
“As Sarawakians, racial and religious harmony is of paramount importance to us. I grew up in an environment where religious beliefs are based on a person’s conscience. No one should force his beliefs and practices on others, ” Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing said.
Masing, who is an Iban, said Malaysians in the peninsula should follow Sarawak’s lead.
Sarawak will host the Malaysia Day celebrations here today.
Works Minister Baru Bian said he had always been proud of Sarawak’s unity in diversity, harmony and inclusivity.
“This is something we must strive to maintain and perpetuate, especially now, in the spirit of the new Malaysia.
“We must recognise and value our multiculturalism and multiracialism but at the same time, build a sense of oneness as Malaysians. Only then can we truly be a strong and united country.
“As ‘anak Sarawak’ and ‘anak Malaysia’, I call on all to celebrate our diversity, preserve our culture of tolerance and embrace one another, and unite for the economic success of our country, ” said the Selangau MP who is from the Lun Bawang community.
Baru also said it was crucial to avoid politicising race and religion.
Political and religious leaders must speak out against extremists, while Malaysians should reject the instigation of such people, he added.
Batang Sadong MP Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri said she is proud to be a Malaysian and to see the diversity of Malaysians.
“It is always a nice feeling to be among friends and relatives from different races, hanging out together eating laksa, kolo mee and cucur udang together, ” she said, referring to some of Sarawak’s famous dishes.
The Wanita PBB vice-chief also said it was her hope that the long-standing harmonious relations in Sarawak would prevail.
“Since Sarawak has always been the role model state that reflects the true Malaysia, let us mark Malaysia Day with peace and harmony, celebrating our unity and diversity, ” she said.
For Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii, diversity and inclusivity should define and unite, not divide, Malaysians.
“In Sarawak, due to our values of multicultural harmony, inclusivity and unity, we often get a feel of what Malaysia should be.
“That is why such values should be embraced and emulated by all Malaysians, ” he said.
The Sarawak DAP Youth secretary said this would restore the original spirit of Malaysia’s formation, in line with the forefathers’ vision that all citizens regardless of race and religion live and prosper together in harmony.
“As we celebrate Malaysia Day this year, let us work towards this so that all of us can call this place our home, where our diversity will be our strength, ” Yii said.
Sarawak’s Suhakam commissioner Dr Madeline Berma, who is an Iban, said being Malaysian meant living in harmony by accepting and respecting each other’s differences.
“As a Sarawakian, I liken Malaysia to our favourite kek lapis (layer cake) – a metaphor for multiculturalism and unity in diversity.
“Like the kek lapis, Malaysia is a beautiful, multi-ethnic and pluralistic country, thriving in peace and harmony, ” she said.
However, she said one of Malaysia’s biggest challenges was that the nation continued to be divided along economic, ethnic and religious lines.
Sibu Division Amateur Athletics Association president Dr Gregory Hii said the birth of Malaysia had brought about prosperity, among others.
“Moving forward, I hope this will continue as Malaysia accommodates new ideas and aspirations from different strata of society, especially the younger generation, ” he said.
Accountant Wong Ching Yong, 62, said he was in kindergarten when Malaysia was formed in 1963.
Back then, he said, he did not know the difference between being a Malaysian and a Sarawakian.
“As the years went by, I discovered that Sarawak is the land I love.”
To him, the various arguments and controversies about race and culture which surfaced time and again in Peninsular Malaysia were “irrelevant” to Sarawak.