KOTA KINABALU, Nov 12 — An Oktoberfest celebration on a street in Sandakan last weekend may have overlooked some religious sensitivities, Sabah DAP chairman Datuk Stephen Wong said today.
Wong said that the area chosen for the beer drinking festival, which also saw the attendance of a DAP assemblyman as the guest-of-honour and Muslim members of Rela on duty, may not have been suitable.
“To a certain extent, I can see how the place may not be so suitable for such an event. It is rather open and I understand there are some Muslim coffee shops and businesses there.
“Although it is normal to me to have such an international event, we live in a multicultural country and have to be sensitive to other people’s cultures,” he said when speaking to reporters at the state assembly building here.
Yesterday, the Sabah Amanah complained that the event hurt the sensitivities of Muslim people in the area because of the event which celebrated alcohol consumption on a massive scale and was held openly on the street.
Its chairman Haris Alimudin said that previously such events were held in more confined areas. The area also already has
Wong, who is Sandakan MP said he was not consulted before the event but acknowledged that the Sandakan Municipal Council had no objections to having the event on the street in Bandar Indah.
“It was perhaps just an oversight on the organisers and the municipal’s council’s part. We hope that this doesn’t become a heated issue. There’s some lessons to be learnt and we can take for the future but we hope this does not create any tension between races here,” he said.
Wong said that Sabah was known for its racial and religious tolerance where people of all backgrounds can sit in the same coffee shop and hoped that parties do not seek to provoke the status quo.
“We should respect other cultures but we should also not think inclusively and seek to create friction among the different cultures,” he said.
When asked whether he thought Amanah was politicising the event for political mileage, Wong declined to comment.
Although the Pakatan Harapan coalition in Semenanjung sees a close working relationship between DAP and Amanah, the Sabah Warisan Government has left Amanah out of their equation.
Meanwhile, Elopura assemblyman Calvin Chong Ket Kiun, who was the guest of honour at the event said that it was extreme to claim that the party disrespected the Muslim faith.
“I was there because the NGO, Rakan Elopura, invited me to witness them handing over a donation to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
“It is a misunderstanding so say that we don’t respect Islam that is extreme,” he said.
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