Celebrating the ties between Penang and East Malaysia

Celebrating the ties between Penang and East Malaysia

Reflecting on the deep ties between the otherwise distant states as the 59th Malaysia Day rolls around the corner

ONE of the states which has truly come to incorporate its fellow citizens from across the South China Sea is Penang, where waves of Sabahans and Sarawakians have resettled after finding gainful employment in the healthcare and tourism sectors.

Thousands are also now employed in the thriving manufacturing sector, not to mention serving the civil service, according to Penang executive councillor Datuk Abdul Halim Hussein.

Hence, the state should give a shout out to fellow East Malaysians when the nation marks the annual Malaysia Day public holiday, said Abdul Halim.

Officiating at the recent Sabah Day celebration at the Hin Bus Depot in Penang, Abdul Hussein spoke of how the East Malaysian communities have become part and parcel of society here, a thing to celebrate as the country celebrates 59 years since it came together as a federation.

“We are grateful for their eagerness to find work in the peninsular, particularly Penang, as they have helped to fill the shortage of workers in key areas.”

So, the celebration of Malaysia Day on Friday (September 16), is not just confined to the largest two states in the Borneo Island but in all parts of the country, including Penang.

Historian Fuad Saad recalled that each state in the federation, has their parochial belonging, with uniqueness from cultural, customs and culinary standpoints.

“But as each state become intertwined with each other and interdependent, the uniqueness takes a backseat to the collective sense of seeking a better quality of life.”

Such practises are now taking root in Penang, Fuad said when met here.

Dr K. Suresh said that if Sabahans and Sarawakians decided to boycott work for a day, the private hospitals in Penang would be forced to close, as there are many of them serving key roles in the medical fraternity, from doctoring to nursing and dietitians.

Even the physical rehabilitation services here hire many of their fellow East Malaysian counterparts, Suresh noted.

Political scientist Dr Sivamurugan Pandian noted that Sabah and Sarawak are not just important in terms of national politics, but eventually geopolitically, as it is located near the proposed new capital (Nusantara) of Indonesia in Kalimantan.

“So the future of the Borneo states are bright, especially with signs that Indonesia’s economy would be growing to be one of the largest in the world,” he said.

Sivamurugan said that the mindset of the peninsular folks must also adapt to accept that whatever happens in Sabah and Sarawak would impact the inhabitants in Penang too.

“So, a better understanding of each other from the culture to politics would be beneficial for all. The approach of prosper thy neighbour could never be truer now.”

In Penang, among the East Malaysian individuals who standout is, the northeast district police head Soffian Santong, who is from Sarawak and another fellow Sarawakian Jonathan Freddy Bagang.

Jonathan is the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry Penang office director, and since the onslaught of Covid-19, he has been at the forefront of reviving tourism here.

Together with another state executive councillor, Yeoh Soon Hin, who oversees the tourism portfolio, Jonathan has been lobbying for more connecting ties in East Malaysia, either by bringing them over to fill the acute shortage of workers or as tourists here.

He is ever mindful of the need for more and better air links between Sarawak, Sabah and Penang – pushing for direct city to city linkages.

Recently, Jonathan lobbied for the holding of a Sabah Day celebration where more than 500 members from the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) gathered for a day of fellowship and goodwill.

President of KDCA Penang chapter Dominic Sandungan spoke of how keen the group is, to share their culture and heritage in Penang, in view that the city holds the distinction of being crowned as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

“I am happy for all of you in this gathering which is possible after the pandemic. This event serves to preserve and showcase the culture and tradition of the community, not forgetting the diverse cultures the country has,” said Sandungan.

East Malaysians are not only in the private sector, but many are posted to the peninsular due to their jobs in the public sector such as in the police, Sandungan said.

After Sabah, Jonathan also promoted the culture of Sarawak, where for three consecutive days, a troupe performed at the Straits Quay Retail Mall in Tanjong Tokong here. The sounds and dance of traditional music by the Kayan Sarawak Association (Sg Asap branch) filled the air at the main entrance of the mall.

The 21-members troupe was on a nationwide roadshow to showcase the ‘Tarian dan Muzik Orang Ulu Sarawak’ (Dances and Music of the Native Sarawakians).

“This initiative to promote the culture and traditions from Sarawak is welcomed in Penang as it reflects our diversity,” said Yeoh.

“The culture and arts must be preserved for future generations to enjoy. My office welcomes more traditional and cultural shows not only locally but also internationally. These programmes are part of the Penang 2030 (development) Vision,” added Yeoh.

Earlier, the guests were invited to taste the traditional welcome drink of ‘Tapai’.

Looking ahead, Jonathan sees Malaysia Day as a meaningful and memorable occasion, as it not only celebrates the diversity but also the togetherness of the country.

“It is also a reflection of our roots, and we need it to going forward,” he said.

source – The Vibes


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