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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scheme does not cover Gawai

SDNU wants immediate extension of price scheme so that Dayaks will not have to pay more for essentials

If you ever wonder why every time it was Gawai Dayak the prices of essentials got a little more pricey than usual?

There was really nothing anyone could do about it, not even the price-controlling authority or the consumer bodies, all because a certain scheme in use in the country to cover major festivals has yet to be extended to Sarawak to specifically include Gawai Dayak.

However, if Sarawak Dayak National Union’s (SDNU) effort to get the scheme extended here is successful, Dayaks doing Gawai shopping may not have to dig deeper into their pockets anymore.

“SDNU wants fair treatment,” said Dr Dusit Jaul, the union’s youth chief, “and that as far as this subject is concerned, Gawai Dayak is celebrated by the Dayak community which forms the largest ethnic group in the State and they should not be made to pay more for necessities they need for Gawai.”

“The union wants the government to extend the controlled items scheme during festive seasons (skim kawalan harge musim perayaan-skhmp) to also cover Gawai Dayak festival,” Dusit said at a press conference after a meeting with Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs state director Rodin Mamat yesterday.

Dusit said the scheme had been long been extended for the Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavalli, but unfortunately not Gawai Dayak and Pesta Keamatan.

“Based on our (SDNU) observation, the trend is that the prices of goods, especially in rural areas, always increased during Gawai Dayak. We also received complaints and feedback from the public regarding such price increases,” he added.

The meeting with Rodin was arranged following an SDNU supreme executive committee (SEC) meeting the previous day, which was chaired by union president Mengga Mikui.

Dusit also urged that a similar scheme be extended to ‘pesta keamatan’ which is celebrated in Sabah.

“Similarly, Pesta Keamatan is celebrated by Kadazan which forms a big percentage of Sabah population,” he pointed out.

Dusit said if the scheme was made to cover Gawai Dayak, the prices of goods like chicken, eggs, rice, glutinous rice, flour, vegetables and onions would be strictly controlled by the government, and Dayaks would not be “shortchanged” every time Gawai Dayak came around.

Dr Dusit also said that the public were also complaining about the higher fares provided by certain transport operators during every Gawai Dayak celebration.

He said Dayaks would be travelling the length and breadth of the state during this Gawai month, therefore the union would be most grateful if the government could consider extending the scheme to Gawai Dayak immediately.

SDNU, he assured, would work closely with government departments and agencies to monitor the prices of goods during the coming Gawai Dayak celebration.

Dr Dusit also said that the meeting yesterday also suggested that oil companies set up mini-petrol stations in rural towns like Pantu, Lingga, Pakan and Machan for the convenience of the people in rural areas.

He pointed out that even though setting up mini-petrol stations may not be profitable, the oil companies should consider the proposal as their social obligation to the rural population of Sarawak.

He noted that people in rural areas travelled far to get to town to get their supply of petrol while those intending to sell petrol found the conditions set up by authorities near impossible to fulfill.
“The end result is there is general suffering among the rural dwellers in a as far as this matter is concerned. The mini-petrol stations must be set up,” he said.

At the conference, SDNU also took the opportunity to extend Happy Gawai Dayak greeting to the Dayak community wherever they are.

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