MIRI (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Some 40,000 people took part in a Christmas parade through the streets of oil-rich Miri town in Sarawak on Saturday (Dec 8) evening.
The big turnout reflects the harmonious relations between the different races and religions in the East Malaysia state, which is a priceless asset of Sarawak, said the state's Minister for Housing and Local Government Sim Kui Hian.
Datuk Sim represents the Sarawak state government in the parade organised by 15 Christian churches in Miri.
This was the 11th consecutive year that the parade has been held in Miri, Sarawak's second largest city after state capital Kuching.
"Sarawak has something that is very precious that we must protect at all cost. This spirit of total acceptance among Sarawakians of all races and religions is very rare," he said.
In the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 55,000 Malay Muslims peacefully marched to celebrate the federal government's backing away from signing a United Nations charter that eliminates racial discrimination.
Mr Sim said the state government, which is led by Chief Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg, had given RM15 million (S$4.9 million) this year for non-Muslims to upgrade their houses of worship. Another RM20 million will be allocated next year.
The state government is controlled by Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a group of local parties that broke away from the central Barisan Nasional coalition after the May general election.
Among those who took part in the parade were students, community groups, ethnic bodies and tourists.