Be vigilant during Gawai celebration – Sarawak leaders

KUCHING: In celebrating Gawai today, messages urging Sarawakians to continue complying with the current Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) were shared by prominent figures in the state as concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic linger in the country.

Leading the call was Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg who said enforcement by government agencies alone would not be sufficient to get everyone in the state to strictly follow the procedures outlined under the CMCO during this festive period.

“The government cannot be checking every house and village but I believe village and longhouse heads would ensure the people adhere to the SOP and festive protocol set for all to comply,” he said in a Gawai festival message.

His call was shared by his deputy, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also the State Disaster Management Committee chairman, on concerns about the possibility of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the post festive period.

“We should not let our guard down as we celebrate. I must apologise for the inevitable restrictions imposed on Gawai as well as the Hari Raya celebration. These are necessary to stop the (COVID-19) transmission,” he said.

Uggah said when the state government prohibited Gawai celebrants from returning to their respective longhouses during the festival, it was not only in line with the nationwide interstate or inter-district travel restriction but with concerns for those vulnerable to COVID-19.

He said the majority of the longhouse folks are senior citizens who are at high-risk as about 80.7 per cent of them have underlying health problems like diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and heart problems.

“For the sake of our aged parents, our “aki” (grandfather) and “inik” (grandmother), aunties, uncles, nephews and nieces, it is best that we do not come (to the longhouses). We may create the Gawai cluster if this call is ignored,” he said.

Meanwhile, a prominent philanthropist Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon said the restrictions imposed under the CMCO should not be seen as undermining the spirit of Gawai which was to mark a year of achievements while reflecting on the challenges.

“For all of us this unique celebration is a time to reflect on our good fortune to be in a tolerant society where ethnicity, custom, culture and belief system can be celebrated and where the celebrations are welcomed by everyone in the community.

“It is also a time to consolidate the basic tenets of our society that we will never allow our ethnicity, customs, culture or belief system to be used in our society as a divisive issue. Rather we should celebrate our unique diversity,” he added.