Of Gawai and tuak, alcohol and PAS



COMMENT Today is June 1. It is Gawai Dayak in Sarawak and the Kaamatan festival is also celebrated in Sabah.

My greetings and felicitations to all my Dayak friends in my dear homeland and Kotobian Tadau Kaamatan to the Kadazandusun community in Sabah.

Gawai Dayak, a harvest festival celebrated with thanksgiving offerings for a bountiful year, is also considered a religious and social event.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

And tuak, the popular rice wine, is a staple of Gawai Dayak, where every visitor to a host’s home is obliged to take a sip. It is a “must-have” of the Gawai celebration.

Tuak is basically made from a mixture of glutinous rice, sugar and yeast, which are fermented for a long period.

Womenfolk in the community take great pride in preparing tuak for Gawai. Yes, it is an alcoholic drink.

On May 27, after PAS information chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad (photo, below) called for a ban on alcohol salein order to curb drink-driving, a reporter asked for my comments on the issue.

I wrote a quick statement, challenging Kamaruzaman to tell the Sarawak government to ban tuak during the coming Gawai Dayak festival.

“If you are not up to it, Kamaruzaman, then use your brain the next time you ask to ban this and that.

“Now alcohol, next gambling, after that, tobacco. What else?”, I posited.

I described the PAS leader’s proposal as “ridiculous and nonsensical”.

Banning all sales licences of alcohol beverages in convenience stores so as to stop drink-driving? How pathetic is that!

Why not ban all motorcycles and vehicles on the road? Then there will be zero road accidents.

Perhaps, we should also ban sex in order to resolve the issue of abandoned babies.

I doubt the sincerity of Kamaruzaman’s statement and view it as an attempt by the young PAS leader to highlight his Islamic credentials, perhaps to hasten his climb up the PAS hierarchy.

Now it’s alcohol. Will it be gambling next and after that, will he be picking on certain entertainment shows and even some eateries or clothing which he does not like?

I believe we have heard enough of such nonsense from PAS and let me advise Kamaruzaman to stop politicising such issues.

A ban on alcohol is not the answer to the problem of drink-driving. Stricter laws and enforcement are.

I support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s statement on May 30 that penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol will be enhanced during the upcoming sitting of Parliament.

The prime minister also said that he had instructed the Transport Ministry to draft amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 for the purpose.

I will even support a mandatory life sentence for drunk drivers who cause fatal accidents. They must be punished severely.

Seriously, if Kamaruzaman wishes to help curb road mishaps, he could start by encouraging Mat Rempit (motorcycle stunt riders or illegal road racers) to give up such a dangerous thrill-seeking hobby.

Many Mat Rempit have lost their lives and their increasing numbers continue to pose a danger to other motorists.

Of the 55,887 fatal accidents recorded over a nine-year period from 2011 to 2019, only 47 were caused by drink-driving, with five such incidents in 2019.

The majority of the fatalities were due to speeding, carelessness in observing traffic regulations, overtaking, changing lanes and at blind corners.

Unfortunately, I do not have the statistics of fatal accidents involving Mat Rempit but from regular media reports, there are surely one too many unnecessary young lives lost. This is a tragedy.

There is also something very important which Kamaruzaman and his PAS colleagues should be aware of.

Banning alcohol also infringes on the rights of people of different tenets and beliefs and Kamaruzaman should take note that in plural Malaysia, no one religion is more superior than the other.

Malaysians had co-existed in peace and harmony because they tolerated, respected and celebrated the different religious and cultural practices of one another.

If it is Kamaruzaman’s intention to take a swipe at the DAP and the non-Muslim community in the brewery business so as to score political points, then take it to them directly.

Do not drag many other Malaysians, who are not politicians but enjoy their beer, wine and whisky, into your political warfare. They are not interested.

By the way, I don’t drink. I don’t touch alcohol. Many of my close friends are aware of that.

However, if not for the MCO, I would probably be back in Sarawak joining my Dayak friends for Gawai.

Do you have a problem, Kamaruzaman, if I take a sip of tuak at the open house of my host?

If so, then take this from me: Just mind your own business and don’t you dare question me what I eat or drink, or even how I choose to dress.

I don’t care how you live your life, so don’t bother with mine.

And one more thing, Kamaruzaman, since you are a politician, allow me to advise you not to touch money which is not yours, in case such temptations come your way.

You see, some leaders in your party were alleged to have done that in the past. Isn’t involvement in corrupt practices a sin in Islam?


FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com. 

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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