KUCHING, May 1 — Sarawakians embracing each other as friends and neighbours with one identity, putting race and religion secondary to friendship this Hari Raya Aidilfitri. That is the message Selangau MP Baru Bian wants to convey.
The Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) lawmaker recalled the good old days in the 1960s and 1970s especially when it came to occasions like Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Chinese New Year celebrations.
“In those days, we looked forward to visiting our classmates to join in their celebrations. We did not mind walking long distances under the hot sun.
“All homes were opened to everyone, and invitations were not necessary. We were heartily welcomed at every house we visited,” he said in his Hari Raya Aidilfitri message yesterday.
Baru, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said he often reminisced about the fun he had with his classmates, walking the three-mile stretch from SMK Limbang to Limbang town visiting all the families along the way who were celebrating the particular occasion.
He recollected: “Upon reaching the town, we would turn around and walk the three miles back to school, our bellies full and our spirits high.”
That period of our lives was when we felt the closest as a country of many races, united in our common identity as Sarawakians, co-existing harmoniously, in total acceptance and appreciation of our various religions, cultures and traditions. That was the time when we as a society truly embodied the spirit of ‘muhibbah’.
“Those who have experienced the idyllic times of old will agree with me that things are very different now. That unity we had has been chipped away, as the races have been slowly and insidiously divided by racial and religious issues.
“I am deeply saddened by the polarisation of our society and the way even commonplace issues are seen from racial and religious perspectives causing tensions and suspicions among the ordinary people,” he pointed out.
Baru wondered what the causes or reasons were behind this change.
He asked whether it could be due to the politicians and leaders playing the game of divide and rule.
“In Sarawak, we pride ourselves in the fact that we are different from West Malaysia. I truly hope that we are different, and that we will maintain our differences.
“I hope that we will continue to be exemplary in our spirit of harmony and acceptance of all,” he said.
As such, Baru said it is his fervent desire to regain the “innocence” of the 1970s when individuals embraced each other as friends and neighbours, when they were Sarawakians with one identity, when race and religion were secondary to friendship.
With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, he hoped that people can resume the practice of visiting their friends during the celebrations so that they can restore and strengthen the spirit of harmony and unity among all the people of this country.
“I would like to take the opportunity during this auspicious time to wish ‘Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri’ to all Muslims, especially the Muslim community in Sarawak: ‘Maaf Zahir dan Batin’,” he added. — Borneo Post