KUCHING: The Gawai and Kaamatan festivals together with other festive celebrations are a unifying force that bring people of diverse races in the country together for a common goal, said 1Malaysia Foundation Trustee Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
The festivities, said Lee, have helped to foster inter-racial harmony, integration and unity, which are imperatives for a multi-racial country to succeed.
Unity nurtured among the people has made Malaysia unique and an example to the global community of a nation where different ethnic communities can live in peace and harmony and work together for the progress and well-being of the nation.
"We have been a harmonious society and it is necessary for us to further enhance and strengthen our inter-racial understanding and trust for one another despite whatever differences.
"We should continue with greater fervour and determination to strive towards building our multi-racial nation into a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny," said Lee in a statement today in conjunction with the Gawai and Kaamatan festivals.
The Dayak community in the state will be celebrating the Gawai festival to mark the end of the harvest season on June 1 and 2. The Kaamatan Festival is celebrated today and tomorrow among the Kadazandusun community and other races in Sabah.
Lee also called on all Malaysians to join the people in Sarawak and Sabah in celebrating both harvest festivals to strengthen inter-racial understanding as well as to recognise the contributions made by the ethnic groups in the two East Malaysian states.
"It was good news when the government had recently announced that effective this year, government servants born in Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan and serving in peninsular Malaysia are allowed to take one day unrecorded leave for the Kaamatan and Gawai festivals.
"We must remember that the process of establishing a united Malaysian nation is a continuous one, and what has been achieved so far must be nurtured and reinforced.
"The time has come for us to identify more ethnic bridge builders and emphasise on their crucial role. At this juncture, we must tear down any serious racial divide in the larger interest of improving ethnic relations in our country," he said.