By THE BORNEOTODAY TEAM
KOTA KINABALU – While the Chief Minister reiterated that the Sabah government remains committed to ensuring the unity of the people it was Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun who stole the thunderous applause at the opening of the 12 Kota Kinabalu (Gaya) Christmas celebration Tuesday night.
Musa Aman had tasked Masidi to read out his speech at the event, but in off-the-cuff remarks, the Ranau politician said that Sabahans are the best example for religious tolerance and unity.
“I come from Ranau. Here is the ultimate pinnacle of religious tolerance,” he said.
“Over 90 per cent of the people who live here are Dusuns. They are actually divided equally in numbers between Muslims and Christians.
“Though they are in that religious divide, we don’t see it as a problem. We see it as a reason for us to be united.
As such the religious differences we have in Sabah is the very reason for us to be united….. we show the rest of the country that Sabahans are the best example for religious tolerance and unity.”
Masidi went on to add:
“A diplomat who came to Sabah told me – you have the best islands like Sipadan…you have beautiful islands, and a beautiful mountain, but your biggest asset is actually the people,” he said to a thunderous response.
Masidi added that Sabah boasts the freshest air, and “the friendliest and most tolerant people are here.”
He said events such as the Christmas which is celebrated at several towns and districts on a community-level, attracted the people from different religious backgrounds who did not have any qualms taking part.
Masidi earlier read out the text of Musa’s speech which added that racial harmony and religious tolerance remains strong and that the government gives its fullest support in order to ensure a more successful and better future.
“Anything that could jeopardise unity and stability should be avoided in order to achieve an effective development agenda and improved economy in Sabah,” said Musa.
“The state government has never hesitated to support any festival, carnival and programme which promotes unity among the people of all races, customs and cultures in the state.”
Among the crowd was Marina Laker, Canadian High Commissioner in Brunei, Hajaj Nooriyah PLW Pg Hj Yussof, the Brunei Consul, Chen Peijie, the China Consul and Hiroko Matsuo, the Japan Consul.
Rough estimates put a multi-racial crowd of 30,000 who were at the Merdeka Padang from as early as 6pm to take part in the programme that included stage performances and stalls selling food and drink and various items.
There were Muslim men and women who served as volunteers with the Civil Defence group, RELA, policemen and women.
And among the cleaners from City Hall were Muslim men and women who did not grumble having to work after office hours to clean up afterwards. Not that the crowds littered the place anyway.
The programme continues Wednesday night with more stage performances and carolling at various stations around Merdeka Padang.
The same stalls selling refreshment and goodies will also be there.
The programme starts officially at 7.30pm and end by 11pm but don’t discount the early birds and late comers.
The event is jointly organised by the Sabah Council of Churches and Kota Kinabalu City Hall, and this year, it was the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu and the Protestant Church of Sabah who were the lead organisers.