Anwar gets rousing welcome at Kaamatan celebrations

KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim arrived for the closing of Sabah’s Kaamatan Festival to loud cheers from the people in Penampang near here on Wednesday (May 31).

Wearing batik and donning traditional Kadazandusun headgear, the Prime Minister reached the Kadazandusun Cultural Association’s (KDCA) Hongkod Koisaan hall at 10am and was greeted by a line of bobohizan, or high priestesses, and local Kadazandusun leaders.

The 5,000-over crowd jostled through the packed KDCA grounds to shake hands with the country’s top leader as he made his way into the Hongkod Koisaan hall where the state-level closing ceremony of the May-long celebrations was held.

Also greeting Anwar and other guests were an array of traditional music and a variety of people from the various Sabah ethnic groups wearing their full traditional and colourful gear.

After the customary Negaraku and Sabah Tanah Airku anthems, Anwar joined guest of honour Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin and other VIPs such as Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitigan, and Huguan Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun community) and KDCA president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, among others, for the mongomot ceremony.

Mongomot is a Kadazan ceremony which symbolises the harvesting of paddy.

It was seen that Anwar, who was understandably unfamiliar with the custom, asked Pairin what was the right way to cut the paddy, to which the latter explained that he had to use the index, middle and ring fingers to grip the stalk before cutting it.

Anwar waving to the crowd.Anwar waving to the crowd.

After that, Anwar, together with other VIPs, also took part in the singing of a Kaamatan song in the Kadazan language, with the help of lyrics projected on an onstage television.

Later, the Prime Minister witnessed the magavau ritual, or calling of the paddy spirits, which involved the bobohizan chanting, paying homage to the paddy spirit besides expressing hope for a bountiful harvest.

In his speech later, Anwar said Kaamatan was a unique festival and that he made it a point to attend the celebrations.

"Kaamatan is a special celebration not only for the Kadazandusun Murut Rungus (KDMR) communities but for all Malaysians in Sabah and throughout the nation," he said, to loud applause from the crowd in the hall.

"My presence symbolises to all the leadership in the government and states that every festival celebrated by any race is our shared celebration that must be respected," he added.

In fact, Anwar said, he had been to Sabah so many times after taking over Putrajaya.

"I’ve been to Kota Kinabalu three times in a short space of time.There has never been a PM on record that has been to the state so often, even (my wife) Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail asked me why so frequently. I told her 'rahsia' (it’s a secret)," he said, to laughter from the crowd.

After that, the organisers paraded the 50 lasses who were vying to be crowned the state-level Unduk Ngadau Kaamatan cultural beauty pageant.

The crowd cheered on as the contestants catwalked gracefully on stage, eager to show the Prime Minister how Kaamatan is a big celebration in the state.

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