Popular Sabah harvest festival cancelled over Covid-19 fears

Participants in an earlier ‘Unduk Ngadau’ contest to pick the Kadazandusun beauty queen representing the symbol of love and sacrifice. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Kaamatan, one of Malaysia’s most anticipated harvest festivals, will not be held this year because of the spread of Covid-19 in Sabah.

The Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) had decided to go ahead with the festival in February, but has called if off over health concerns.

“We feel that this year’s absence of the Kaamatan festival will not only be felt by the Kadazandusun community but also by Malaysians in general,” KDCA secretary-general Suman Yasambun said today.

He said the decision was reached after discussion with “huguan siou” (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun Murut people) and KDCA president Joseph Pairin Kitingan and the central committee members.

“It was a tough decision because we were all geared up to have the celebrations,” Yasambun said.

Sabah registered its first Covid-19 case yesterday after Health Minister Dr Adham Baba announced that a 58-year-old man was among three people who tested positive after attending a tabligh gathering at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur from Feb 27 to March 1.

The Kaamatan festival is celebrated by all Sabahans, particularly the Kadazandusun Murut community, throughout May with cultural programmes lined up in districts statewide.

“Kaamatan is a time for thanksgiving for bountiful harvests and to get together to feast and renew communal relationships.

“It is also a time to share our traditional food – including the hinompot, hinava and nomsom bambangan – and the traditional rice wine tapai.

“Kaamatan is an important occasion for the community, which has themed it ‘Kaamatan, our sacred festival,” Yasambun said.

He said the “Unduk Ngadau”, which is the search for a Kadazandusun beauty queen who mirrors the personality of Huminodun, the symbol of love and sacrifice, will be missed.