Celebrating Malaysia’s diversity

KOTA BELUD: Known for its tapestry of cultures belonging to various ethnic groups, Kota Belud is a showcase for racial unity and harmony.

The ubiquitous coffee shop in this quaint little town, located about 70 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, is the favourite meeting place for the locals, where they talk about everything from politics to the latest goings-on whilst sipping hot coffee or tea.

Their ethnic or religious dissimilarities do not get in the way of their social interaction and they are all friends and look out for each other.

The Kota Belud district has a predominantly Bajau population, with the rest made up of people from the Kadazandusun and other ethnic communities.

The sentiments expressed by a senior denizen, Ebin Adim, clearly sums up the genuine camaraderie that prevails there.

“In the coffee shop, we all sit together. It doesn’t matter whether we are Bajau, Kadazandusun, Murut or anyone, we are familiar with each other and don’t think along racial lines,” said the 78-year-old Bajau craftsman who is an expert in making the Bajau parang or machete.

Ebin, who lives with his wife in Kampung Siasai Kumpang, here, reckoned that the most important ingredient in their recipe for peaceful coexistence was the fact they were “not clannish. We’re also not envious of each other and neither do we oppress one another although we belong to different ethnic groups”.

This writer met Ebin during a media visit to Kota Belud last month organised by the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation (Kraftangan Malaysia).

Colourful cultures

The affable senior citizen, who became a parang craftsman at the age of 18, invited the visiting journalists to his house where his workshop is also located and treated them to fried noodles and hot coffee prepared by his niece who lives nearby.

Ebin said the people of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia should strive to live in unity and show their love and respect to the nation.

“In the earlier days, life was difficult for us but as our country progressed, life became better for us.

“I’m already old… it’s my hope that we, especially the younger generation, will continue to live in harmony. Don’t deliberately trigger conflicts as it will only lead to hardship for the people. We should all value the peace we enjoy now and our nation’s progress.”

Hoping the Land Below the Wind would also be able to reap the fruits of the nation’s overall economic development, he said it would foster more love for the nation at every level of society as the people of Sabah would not feel left behind in their own homeland.

Rattan craft entrepreneur Empin Galing, 58, who is a Kadazandusun and lives in Kampung Gansurai, said ethnic and cultural diversity was something to be celebrated as it was what that made this country unique.

“Our colourful cultures make us different from other countries. Our country may have its flaws but, still, it’s our homeland. However appealing another nation may look, it’s not the country we are willing to die for,” said Empin, who is also headman of his village.


Meanwhile, academic Jayum Anak Jawan, who is a Dayak Iban and hails from Sungai Assan in Sibu, Sarawak, said national integration efforts have helped to bring the people of Sabah and Sarawak closer to their fellow citizens in the peninsula.

The New Economic Policy, introduced in 1971, had succeeded in assisting to promote national integration among the people of different ethnicities from different geographical regions, he said.

Jayum, a professor (Politics and Government) in the Department of Government and Civilisation Studies at Universiti Putra Malaysia, said it (NEP) also led to higher social interaction between the people of Sabah and Sarawak and the peninsular and helped to forge mutual respect and appreciation.

And, now with the creation of a new socio-political environment after Pakatan Harapan won the 14th General Election, the people hoped to see healthier levels of integration and unity.

“The government has already made some changes towards being more inclusive and creating a ‘New Malaysia’. For example, after a long time, a Chinese has been appointed as Finance Minister (Lim Guan Eng) and, for the first time, non-Malays were appointed to the post of Attorney-General (Tommy Thomas) and Chief Judge (Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, a Kadazandusun)… this is actually a huge signal (of change),” he said, when contacted by Bernama.

However, he added, a lot more needs to be done by the government to strengthen unity among the various races.


Read more @ http://www.theborneopost.com/2018/08/17/celebrating-malaysias-diversity/

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