TONGOD (May 10): It is high time for the annual Harvest Festival or Pesta Kaamatan celebration be given a new lease of life with a pledge to increase the rice yield in an integrated manner in Sabah, said Kuamut assemblyman Datuk Masiung Banah.
Masiung opined that the government needs to draw up guidelines to rebrand the rice industry every time the Kaamatan Festival is celebrated.
“If there is no unified action, then the Kaamatan celebration would just be an annual festival in the state’s tourism calendar. Even though Kaamatan is the basis of the rice harvest ritual, it turns out that Sabah is still dependent on imported rice,” he said when officiating the Tongod level Kaamatan celebration in Kampung Talibu, here on Sunday.
The Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah (Gagasan Rakyat) vice president added that despite highlighting the diversity of Sabah’s traditions and culture, the government needs to see what is happening with the rice production industry which is the main focus of the Kaamatan Festival.
He pointed out that the Pesta Kaamatan celebration has now been modernized where the thanksgiving ritual ceremony to the padi spirit is only performed on the stage.
Masiung said in the old days Sabahans in villages would have a gotong royong to plant and harvest the padi in their areas.
This, he said, helps to generate the economy as well as reflects the spirit of unity among the people.
“Currently, Sabah has only achieved a 25 per cent self-sufficiency level of rice production from seasonal crops. It must be remembered that the Sabah is now fully dependent on imported rice from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
“What will happen to the people of Sabah if these countries suddenly stop exporting rice due to the global phenomenon?” he asked.
Masiung stressed that in the excitement of celebrating Kaamatan, the government should think about giving the festival a new lease of life towards creating a rice-based industry.