Hornbill Unleashed

October 8, 2011

Hurrah for multi-racial Sarawak

Sim Kwang Yang

NOWHERE in Malaysia can you find so many people of different ethnic origins living side by side in peace and mutual respect.

True enough, the various races are more segregated in the urban areas, but outside on the fringes of the urban communities, people of different ethnic origins tend to mix readily over the long period of living together.

Many years ago, I went to Long Bulan, a bustling Kenyah community who have lived there for generations.  I was surprised to find many Ibans living there, and marrying into the local Kenyah community and co-existing side by side in perfect mutual respect.  There, the Kenyah Chiefs told me, that the influx of timber workers from outside marrying into the local population had resulted in the Iban immigrants, integrating with the Kenyahs over a long period of time.

You see this everywhere in Sarawak. For Sarawakians the word xenophobia probably does not exist. That is why inter ethnic relationship among Sarawakians is excellent, through inter racial marriage and happy social relation among the various peoples.

Of special mention, is the good neighbourly relationship between Muslims and adherents of other religions.  Inter-racial marriage between the Malays and non-Malays is quite common in rural Sarawak, and the Malays are very keen to adopt children from other races without any compunction.

The close relationship between Malays and other races is helped by the existence of a common Malay dialect, exclusively used by Sarawakians only.  For a Malay who comes from Malaya, the local Sarawak Malay might as well be a foreign language.
The linguistic and other barriers are one of the factors that separate Sarawak Malays from Malays who had moved into Sarawak from West Malaysia.  Most Orang Malaya would be at the loss in a gathering of Sarawak Malays.  The West Malaysian people are very particular about their food taboos while Muslims in Sarawak are more tolerant.

The fact of the matter is that ethnic polarisation has never been a problem in Sarawak, unlike in West Malaysia, where people live in exclusive ethnic enclaves.  Despite the attempt by many opportunistic politicians to turn race into a political issue, the majority of Sarawakians will always rise above the ethnic barrier in their daily life.

In Sarawak, there are no strangers but only friends who have not yet met.  Here in the Land of the Hornbills, everybody has some close friends from member of another ethnic community.  We can eat together and share our food in convivial companionship unlike in Malaya.

In Malaysia, racial politics has always been at the forefront of Malaysian’s consciousness.  We tend to think of political issues in ethnic terms.  Everything is decided by whether you are a Chinese, a Malay or Indian.

It is only in Sarawak where the ossified racial curtain does not cloud the judgement of Sarawakians in general.  Until today, I still cannot get used to talking to any Orang Malaya because in their world, the Muslim, the Chinese and the Indian are forever separated.

I am glad I was born in Sarawak and shall continue to stay here till the end of my days.


  1. My late father used to say this to me in his unique ways. It doesn’t matter Muslim or non-Muslim, Bumi or non-Bumi, rich or poor, young or old. He didn’t mind white people, or a generation of NAZIs or MAFIAs. He wouldn’t be disappointed by such trivialities as long as my choice is a Sarawakian rather than the OM.

    The poor Sarawakians (including the Chinese, Malay, Iban etc) who married with the OM may know what I meant. I objected to my father’s ideas: wondered why he said that. But now, I thanked him for his thoughtfulness. I am the happiest cat on earth.

    Comment by Dilema Anak Pendatang — October 10, 2011 @ 2:58 PM | Reply

  2. Thats what I like the most living in Sarawak. Sarawakians, be they Ibans,Chinese,Bidayuh,Melanaus, and various smaller ethnic groups of Orang Ulus, we are the one state that upholding and practising the spirit of so-called Najib’s ONE MALAYSIA. It is that tolerance, respect, and to certain extent the spirit of ‘togetherness’ makes Sarawak is unique. The every day life mingling using the local Malay dialect had been practised for generations almost every ethnic groups. Mind you, religion to us Sarawakians is only oneself relationship with the Divine one. Bravo to us SAEAWAKIANS.

    Comment by Mayas Sarawak — October 10, 2011 @ 2:05 PM | Reply

  3. I lived in KL for 5 years and traversed the whole length and breadth of Peninsular. You cannot find anything like what you find in Sarawak there. In Kuching I shared table with Muslims (Muslims not necessarily Malay) eating kolo mee with cha siew and they don’t mind.

    Comment by Colin Ubeh (@swknative) — October 10, 2011 @ 9:49 AM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: