Building bridges across the South China Sea

Food for thought: Festivals like Gawai in Sarawak and Kaamatan in Sabah offer Malaysians the opportunity to come together and foster unity.

IT is a well-known fact that Peninsular Malaysians do not know much about their fellow countrymen in Sabah and Sarawak since we are separated by the vast South China Sea.

It is also common knowledge that since the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the main focus has been on the peninsula with Putrajaya exercising political control.

Despite being rich in resources, Sabah and Sarawak have not developed like the peninsula. But recent prime ministers have begun to place more attention on Sabah and Sarawak by re-visiting the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and allocating more development funds to them so that they can progress in tandem with the peninsula.

In order to know the people of Sabah and Sarawak better, we need to increase our interactions with them, and what better way than to participate in the celebration of their traditions and cultural practices.

Sabah’s Kaamatan festival and Sarawak’s Gawai Dayak, which fall on May 30 and 31, and June 1 and 2 respectively, offer good opportunities for Peninsular Malaysians to know more about their fellow citizens across the sea. As such, these festivals should be given more publicity by the relevant government agencies as well as the media. This would serve to remind people from the peninsula to plan their visits to Sabah and Sarawak to coincide with the festivals. This would certainly be a boost to tourism.

The government should consider reviving Ferry Malaysia, the ferry service that used to link Kuching and Kota Kinabalu with Kuantan in the 1980s. The service would offer Malaysians an alternative mode of travel, and perhaps even entice motoring enthusiasts to organise driving holidays between the peninsula and Borneo.

The government should seriously look at subsidising travel between the two Malaysian regions to allow for better interaction among the people, thereby creating a more united nation.


Sg Buloh, Selangor

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letters , Sabah , Sarawak


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