Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this august House on the occasion of appreciation and thanks to the speech of the TYT Governor given on the 8th June 2016.
Firstly, I wish to record my sincere thanks to the voters of N81 Ba’Kelalan for showing their confidence in me by retaining me as their representative in this Dewan. I repeat the promise I made in 2011 to do my best by the grace of God. I will not only speak up for and on behalf of the constituents of Ba’ Kelalan but for other Sarawakians as well that need their voices heard in this Dewan.
I congratulate the right honourable Chief Minister for succeeding in getting the further 5 years that he had asked for from the people of Sarawak, and I trust that he will do his utmost to fulfill the promises made to the rakyat during the campaign, particularly in relation to our demands for our rights as promised to us pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement, some of them being Borneonisation, Autonomy, Oil Royalty and the reclamation of our territorial rights. In addition my sincere congratulations too go to all the Honourable members of this august house both from the BN and opposition side in winning your respective constituencies in the just concluded SGE11.
· ELECTION PROMISES
I wish to thank the BN leaders and the Federal Government for the many promises they made to the people of Ba' Kelalan during the elections campaign. In one day of campaigning, Ba' Kelalan was promised RM40.5 mil worth of projects, which must be a record of sorts. I sincerely hope this was not just another political gimmick to buy votes. The people of Ba’ Kelalan are keen to know the time frame for the fulfillment of these promises. If the government fails to deliver, I guarantee the people of Ba' Kelalan will never trust BN again, especially those 2,320 people who voted for the BN candidate.
The Prime Minister promised, during campaigning, to restore the 183 old and dilapidated schools in Sarawak. This promise is nothing new, as his Education Blueprint 2013-2025 had aimed to ‘Ensure 100 percent of schools meet basic infrastructure requirements by 2015, starting with Sabah and Sarawak’ and in February 2014, the then-deputy prime minister promised an additional budget of RM1 billion for Sabah and Sarawak to rebuild dilapidated schools. Not surprisingly, nothing came of these. The people are tired of the BN’s empty promises and I urge the Chief Minister to remind the PM of this. At least, in acknowledging the shameful state of our schools, the PM must have been admitting that the BN had failed Sarawak during the last 53 years, and he should have the decency and grace to make up for lost time.
· SMK LONG SEMADOH
I was very pleased that the Prime Minister had approved RM35mil for the construction of SMK Lg Semadoh. I had raised many questions about this during the last term. Although the Ministers at first denied there had been plans for the school, I managed to find the gazette for the acquisition of land to build this school, and also one for SK Long Semadoh. These gazettes are dated 2005, and for the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water to say the projects were put off partly because Ba’ Kelalan ‘fell to the opposition’ is not entirely accurate, as I only became an assemblyman in 2011. Perhaps the people of Ba’ Kelalan became unhappy over the broken promise by BN to build these schools. I must say they made a smart decision to turn to the opposition, because the Prime Minister himself has now promised them that the school will be built. I hope the BN government makes a better effort to honour their promises this time round, and I should be grateful for an indication from the Minister as to when construction is expected to begin.
The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water also conveyed the PM’s approval of RM5.5 mil for the purchase of equipment for and repair of 110 churches in Ba’ Kelalan. This is welcome news indeed, as the churches are in need of funds for various maintenance needs, having received little or no financial aid from the government before. I wish to ask the Minister concerned how the fund will be disbursed and when disbursement will commence. A timeframe would be most useful, if the Minister can come up with one. It would be most unbecoming and embarrassing if the BN government were to break a promise made to houses of worship.
1. BA’ KELALAN TO BARIO ROAD
None other than the Defence Minister announced during the campaign period that the second phase of the Ba' Kelalan-Bario Rd costing RM128.55mil is to be completed by March 2018 under the Army’s ‘Jiwa Murni’ programme. However, I wish to raise my concerns about the ‘Jiwa Murni’ roads following the Auditor General’s damning report released on 18 May 2016 on the roads that have been built thus far. Some of the findings of the AG include:
Quality of work was less satisfactory. Road shoulders and drains were not built… There were potholes, uneven and muddy road surfaces. Road maintenance was less satisfactory... Besides faded road lines, there were untrimmed wild plants and grasses along road shoulders… safety of the roads built were “less satisfactory” as they were steep and winding, with “no slope protection.”
Mr Speaker, it sounds like the Army employed slapdash methods to build the initial ‘Jiwa Murni’ roads. The rights and safety of rural Sarawakians are equally as important as that of the city dwellers. Is the government continuing to use the Army and their un-named ‘direct negotiation’ contractors even after the AG’s unfavourable report? These inferior roads will need constant repair, which will end up costing the government more than it would if professional builders had been engaged in the first place. Or worse still, as stated by the Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications, in response to my question about the poor state of the Ba’ Kelalan- Lg Luping road during the last DUN sitting, there will be no repairs undertaken because there is no allocation from the Federal government.
The Works Minister, during the elections campaign, had said that the ‘Jiwa Murni’ roads are ‘just basic roads’, which would be handed over to the state government’s JKR for maintenance and will be upgraded in future. However, the Minister of Infrastructure Development and Communications had said in December last year that it would be impossible to repair the roads; what was needed was rehabilitation of the roads, which would cost RM1.8mil per km, and there was no money from the Federal government. This leads me to wonder how the Federal government is going to honour all the promises it made during the elections campaign amounting to over RM350 mil.
I hope the Government will take corrective measures and even alternative means in this matter to ensure that the people are provided with safe and proper roads to use. I would be grateful for a response from the Minister on this worrying issue.
2. LONG SEBANGANG TO LONG SUKANG ROAD
On the ongoing road construction from Lg Sebangang to Lg Sukang, I hope it will not end after 3.5 km as rumored. Many NCR claims have not been settled yet and I urge the government to take this seriously as genuine claims must be compensated.
3. LONG SUKANG TO LONG LUPING ROAD
In order to promote tourism in the highlands, I would suggest that the Government consider building a road between Lg Sukang and Lg Luping and to reopen the old Lg Semadoh airstrip. This would provide a means of reaching the hinterland of Ba’ Kelalan, and the encourage tourism in that area, which could, to an extent, make up for the downturn in economy.
· ‘HUDUD’ BILL AND STATUS OF MALAYSIA
I commend the Chief Minister for his firm stand that hudud will not be implemented in Sarawak, and that PBB will not support the ‘Hudud Bill’, recognizing that Sarawak is a multiracial state with Muslims constituting only about 25% of the population. I also wish to commend Mr Speaker for your insight into the ramifications of the Bill should it be passed, ie the discrimination against Muslims and the violation of Article 8 of the Federal Constitution, and your view that the Bill should be thrown out for being unconstitutional.
In the light of the above, I request the honourable Chief Minister to remind the Prime Minister and his Ministers that our founding fathers intended that Malaysia should be a secular country, as documented in the many papers and reports relating to the establishment of Malaysia, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Che Omar bin Che Soh’s case. I was disturbed to read in the Borneo Post dated 4 May 2016, the Prime Minister’s remarks on ‘Malaysia’s status as Islamic country’ in a report headed “Malaysian Syariah Index successful in defining clear definition of Islamic country – Najib”. It is our duty to remind the Federal government to stick to the agreement that was made in 1963 between Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya, and Singapore.
· ROONEY AND OTHER CONVERSION CASES
Rooney Rebit is a lucky man, for his case to have come up during the election campaign period, and the Chief Minister managing to persuade the NRD to withdraw their appeal against the decision of the High Court to allow him to have his religion changed in his IC.
I hope that this will not be a one-off case that is resolved during an election campaign, but that there should be a policy decision for such matters. In order to avoid lengthy and costly legal processes, a Special Council could be set up to resolve such matters. If we are to truly subscribe to a system of democracy where no individual is forced to remain in a religion against his or her will, there must be an avenue for them to seek easy redress.
· HELP FOR THE STATELESS BORDER SCOUTS AND RANGERS
Mr Speaker, the government must address the plight of the stateless Lun Bawang border scouts that was highlighted by the SPDP deputy president in March. I need not go into detail about what these men and other border scouts have done for Sarawak, save to say that the least the Government can do is to legitimize their status as Malaysians in their old age so that they can live out their lives with peace of mind. It must be a bitter pill for them to swallow that other foreigners who have contributed nothing to Sarawak are able to get blue ICs without any difficulty while they, who have served us well, have been given the runaround by the NRD for decades.
The Chief Minister appears to have a strong influence on the NRD, as shown by the swift response to the Rooney case, and I strongly urge him to intervene in this matter, not only for the Lun Bawang border scouts, but for the many Sarawakians who are unfortunate enough to not possess any birth certificates or identity cards.
In connection with this matter, I wish to also urge the Government to assist the SRVA Baru in their quest to locate ex-servicemen such as former Iban Trackers, Sarawak Rangers and First Battalion Malaysia Rangers intake 1 to 4, as highlighted in the newspapers recently. The cost of living allowance of RM300 per month for them is hardly sufficient, bearing in mind the increase in the prices for goods and services since the imposition of the GST. The Government should increase this allowance to ease the burden on these retired servicemen. The provision of the RM3000 funeral expenses is welcome, but they should be able to enjoy a decent life while they are still on this earth.
In conclusion, I would like to wish my Dayak friends Happy Gawai and a fruitful harvest for 2016, and to my Muslim friends, Selamat Berpuasa and Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
May God Bless Sarawak and all her people, and let justice and righteousness flow like the mighty Rejang river from this august house and flood this beloved ‘Fair Land Sarawak’.
Thank you Mr Speaker for your indulgence.
N.81 Ba’ Kelalan