KUTCHING, SARAWAK, Malaysia, February 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- One of the most attractive features of Sarawak, setting it apart from many of Malaysia's other states, is its cultural diversity. Sarawak has a population of 2.5 million, with 27 distinct indigenous ethnic groups that speak at least 45 different languages and dialects.
The State's socio-economic development has helped to develop a progressive community with a strong ethnic identity among its people regardless of their origins or religious beliefs. Half of Sarawak's population live in rural areas; the other half live in towns. Of the 27 ethnic groups, all except the Chinese and the Indians are indigenous. Sarawak's cities and towns are generally populated by Chinese and Malays and a growing number of indigenous people who have migrated from rural villages.
Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud said:
"A strong Sarawak cannot exist unless all races unite. We cannot build our State and fulfill our aspirations without working together."
Increasingly, employment and business opportunities are being created for the people of Sarawak, including those in rural areas predominantly populated by indigenous communities, as more industrial and commercial projects are implemented in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) development area. SCORE, one of five regional development corridors throughout Malaysia, will transform Sarawak into a developed state by 2020. Focussing on five major growth nodes - Tanjung Manis, Samalaju, Mukah, Baram and Tunoh - SCORE will develop 10 key industries including hydropower, heavy industry and tourism. Baram, currently a rural and underdeveloped area, will benefit from a new hydro dam. As a result, the district will attract a wide range of industries such as palm oil, pulp and paper and timber which will provide job opportunities for the indigenous people living there and ensure that Baram is not excluded from mainstream development.
Sarawak is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia because of its rich cultural diversity. A variety of colorful festivals, rituals and practices attract tourists all year around. Tucked away on the foothills of legendary Mount Santubong, 35 km from Kuching, is Sarawak's fascinating cultural showcase, the "Sarawak Cultural Village" which is also the venue for the internationally renowned Rainforest World Music Festival. This living museum depicts the heritage of Sarawak's major racial groups and portrays their respective lifestyles amidst 14 acres of tropical vegetation and attracts thousands of visitors a year.
The Ibans, members of a major ethnic group in Sarawak, were once the legendary warriors of Borneo; the most feared of the headhunting tribes. These days, they have adopted a peaceful agrarian lifestyle. There are also the Bidayuhs (land inhabitants), known as the "Land Dayaks"; the Melanau fishermen of Central Sarawak, and the multitude of upriver tribes who collectively form the Orang Ulu. The Penans are the guardians of the rainforest and although most of them have now formed permanent settlements, a negligible number of Penans still live in nomadic communities.
SOURCE Asia Newswire