PENAMPANG: Sabah has approved an allocation of RM3.5mil to upgrade the facilities in Hongkod Koisaan KDCA, the venue for the annual state-level Kaamatan celebration that falls every May 30 and 31.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said this includes expanding the hall as well as building a holding room and permanent structures for stalls in the vicinity.

“We prioritise our cultural (preservation), and that is why I am pleased to announce the approval of this request from the Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA),” he said during the celebration’s opening ceremony here yesterday.

The Kaamatan public holiday falls on May 30 and 31, but it is a month-long harvest festival that is launched on May 1, with each district holding its own celebration and picking its representative for the Unduk Ngadau (beauty pageant).

The climax will be at the Penampang venue, which will see the crowning of the Harvest Queen (the winner of the Unduk Ngadau) tonight.

Earlier in his speech, KDCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Clarence Bongkos Malakun, who represented the president and Huguan Siou (paramount leader of the Kadazandusun Murut) Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, presented the special request to the state on behalf of the KDCA committee.

They highlighted the need to expand the backstage of the venue as it can no longer accommodate the growing number of Unduk Ngadau contestants.

“This stage was built in 1990, over 30 years ago. At the time, there were 30 to 32 contestants, but today, we have 44 contestants after sub-districts were upgraded to full districts, along with a growing number of representatives from outside Sabah.

“The backstage size is no longer suitable, and we need to give them a comfortable space with air-conditioning and additional amenities like extra toilets,” said Malakun.

He added that there is a need for a VIP holding room at the backstage, with guests such as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin and Toh Puan Norlidah RM Jasni.

“The Yang di-Pertua Negeri comes every year and he usually requests the use of a traditional house for prayers, and so we should prepare a room inside KDCA.

“At the same time, KDCA executive councillors would like to request permanent stalls in front of the hall, more so as many stalls have been damaged by bad weather,” he said.

Malakun also said it was embarrassing that sanitary standards are not up to mark.

“Hopefully, we can start upgrading work this year so that we are ready for Kaamatan next year,” he said, adding that parking space is also another issue the KDCA committee is addressing.

Malakun also said it may no longer be suitable to call the Unduk Ngadau competition a “state-level contest” as it now sees participants from several other states, adding that there were requests for participation from states such as Perak.