Native festival lacks spirit

By Luke Rintod | May 18, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

KOTA BELUD: Sabah’s main local native festival, Tadau Kaamatan or Harvest Festival, was a shadow of its old self this year.

Decorated stalls that are normally put up by government agencies and private companies to exhibit and sell products were absent and uncollected garbage from the previous day was strewn around.

The district-level celebration in Kota Belud used to be attended by thousands of locals and tourists, but this year a mere 300 turned out for the drab affair.

If this is any indication, the once renowned festival that is marked for for its jolly drinking sessions, camaraderie and friendly competitions following the padi-harvesting season, is set for the state’s cultural dustbin!

Held last Sunday, the state-organised celebration here was little better than a funeral gathering.

Gone was the merrymaking and festive mood seen each year and the only cheers were reserved for the Kaamatan beauty queen contest.

Many attributed it to the changes taking place in the district including the much-publicised proposed building of a controversial dam that would submerge Tambatuon, one of the oldest and most beautiful kampungs in this rice-bowl district of Sabah.

The cheerless mood in the Kadazandusun areas of the district is all the more surprising given that it used to be celebrated with great vigour like elsewhere in Sabah.

A police officer on duty at the Kaamatan function Sunday, said an estimated 300 people attended the function which was officiated by the Sabah State Assembly Speaker, Salleh Said, who is a local.

Also in attendance was Kadamaian assemblyman who is also an assistant minister, Herbert Timbon Lagadan.

Government messed it up

A community leader, Sahabat Sagindol, who was at the venue, when asked what might be the cause of the poor turn out, said:”People might be fed-up (bosan)… They could not bother to come every year”.

Another community leader, Johny Sulukan, who is also a local leader of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), said the district office or its organising committee should have made better preparations for the annual festival.

“It is an important festival for the people, especially the Kadazandusun community, but they messed it up,” he said.

“This year they completely did away with the attractive programmes such as the exhibitions by the various government departments and agencies like the agriculture and livestock.

“The organiser also did not even provide drinking water to the people. The beautiful weather failed to convince people to come out.

“Something needs to be done so that our Kaamatan remains meaningful and continues to be celebrated by the people,” he said.

The district chairman of KDCA or Kadazandusun Cultural Association, James Muyau, admitted the spirit of Kaamatan was low this year which he partly attributed to the lack of showcasing the Kadazandusun culture in the celebration itself.

“In the process our people have become less participative in the celebration,” Muyau said.

A local Dusun, Talib Tubil, agreed that this year’s celebration was not as merry as the last few years and he blames a lack of funds from the government.

He also criticised the authorities for leaving the planning and execution of the district-level celebrations to dispassionate civil servants who have little understanding of the rationale for Kaamatan and its inherent values.

“This morning we heard our district officer in his speech thank Nestle (the beverage company) for providing free drinks, but we didn’t see any Nestle (drinks) around.”

All 27 districts in Sabah have their respective Kaamatan celebrations, and this will culminate in a two-day state-level Kaamatan on May 30 and 31 which are public holidays in Sabah.

  1. #1 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 19 May 2011 - 12:16 pm

    Would it not be funny if the lack of native spirit in local festival is due to a lack of natives.

    Sabah has had a 1000% increase in bumiputra population from 1960 to 2000. However the Kadazandusun population has fallen from over 50% in 1960 to around 30% in 2000.

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