KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — A federal minister urged state governments in the peninsula to give Sabahans and Sarawakians a day off to celebrate the Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak festivals.

News portal Borneo Post reported that Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun had made the request due to complaints that East Malaysians working in the peninsula could not celebrate the respective harvest festivals.

“Hari Gawai Dayak and Kaamatan are very important festivals for the indigenous people of Sarawak and Sabah,” Belaun was quoted saying when closing the Gawai Dayak Festival at MJC Batu Kawah New Township in Sarawak on Friday.

“For the indigenous people of the two states, the meaning of the two celebrations is the same as what Chinese New Year is to the Chinese, or Hari Raya to the Malays here in this country,” he added.


There are approximately 100,000 Dayaks living and working in the peninsula today.

According to Belaun, 40,000 are in Johor, 40,000 in Selangor, and 20,000 in Penang.

The minister said while he understood that not all states may implement his suggestion, those with the highest number of East Malaysians should try to.


He added that the private sector would likely comply and understand if their Sabahan and Sarawakian workers were allocated off days to celebrate their respective harvest festival.

“I am sure all the private companies will understand how important the two festive occasions are for the people of Sarawak and Sabah. They will feel appreciated too.”

In Sarawak, Gawai Dayak has been gazetted a public holiday since June 1, 1965.

In Sabah, the Kaamatan public holiday falls on May 30-31.