MP slams ex-newsman in row over Gawai and Gobind

Nancy Shukri with Sungai Buluh village head Sili Bunsi at her left at a press conference in Kuching.

KUCHING: An MP here has denied a former journalist’s allegations that she had forced a village head to call off a Gawai celebration that supposedly would have involved communications minister Gobind Singh Deo.

Nancy Shukri, MP for Batang Sadong, said she was considering making a police report or taking legal action against former journalist Joseph Tawie for his online remarks, which she said had damaged her reputation.

“I have never issued any directive or instructions as alleged by Tawie. I considered this as a serious allegation which must be addressed immediately,” she said.

On May 10, Tawie had alleged in a Facebook posting that Nancy had ordered Sili Bunsi, the tuai rumah (village head) of Sungai Buluh, not to welcome Gobind Singh Deo to his longhouse for the Gawai celebration.

Tawie said the tuai rumah had earlier agreed to organise a special Gawai celebration to welcome the federal minister but called the minister’s special officer three days later and said he had been forced to cancel the celebration.

Tawie then said:”Why should a non-Dayak tell a Tuai Rumah who should visit his longhouse and who should not visit his longhouse during the Gawai celebration?”

However, the village head, Sili Bunsi, said today that he had not given an answer to the proposed celebration when he was approached by several individuals who represented the communications and multimedia ministry.

“I thought a lot about it and even brought the matter up in a meeting with the rest of the villagers. We decided not to pursue the suggestion because none of the state ministers or MPs would be invited to the celebration. We don’t want them to politicise the Gawai celebration. It is not a directive by any of the MPs or state ministers,” he said.

Nancy said Binsi had consulted her about the matter and she had said if he was uncomfortable hosting Gawai celebration with the minister, he could always proceed with the usual ways of celebrating Gawai.

“I re-emphasised to the Tuai Rumah, that the final decision on who to invite rested with him and that he should make a decision that he himself is most comfortable with,” she said.

Tawie had also said that the state government should not blame Putrajaya for not receiving any funds after “backstabbing” the federal government by belittling and disrespecting the federal ministers and officers.

Nancy said that Gawai, the harvest celebration among the Dayak people, should be free of political issues.