5 SEPTEMBER 2016
I have just returned from a week’s stay in my constituency and catching up with the news, I am relieved and happy that the Chief Minister had hit it on the nail in his remarks about the lack of infrastructure in Sarawak during the 31 August celebrations in Sri Aman. This is what we have been saying for many years; in fact, the underlying message in my statement for 31 August was the need for the truth to be acknowledged. The CM sounded as exasperated as us and his statements reflect the sentiment and disappointment of all Sarawakians. On that, I am with him.
On the use of our own resources, I am glad the CM is taking this step. I had asked in DUN during November 2013 for the utilisation of our state reserves to improve our schools but the Finance Minister II replied that it was not appropriate to do so as Education is a Federal matter and ‘we should not use the basis of our healthy reserve which we have worked so hard to build over the past years to finance responsibilities beyond purview’.
It is only right that we should use our reserves to improve the lives of our people. Whether we will be able to claim the funds from the Federal government is another matter which may be like the ‘macam menunggu sungai tidak berhulu’. It would be best to get an increase in our petroleum royalty to a higher percentage from what we are currently receiving. Even an increase to 10% or 15% will go a long way in the improvement of our infrastructure.
I hope that the plans for rural infrastructure will be implemented as a priority, and that the roads built will be good roads, not like the Jiwa Murni roads which need constant repairs. Improved road connectivity will act as a catalyst for economic activities and uplift the lives of the rural folk. It is the dream of many rural Sarawakians to have good roads that connect Lawas through the interior to Long Semadoh, Bario, Long Lama, to the other rural areas including Kapit and Ulu Rejang in the interior of Sarawak. In fact the Petronas Sabah-Sarawak Pipeline from Kimanais Sabah to Bintulu Sarawak could be a foreshadow of such an interior highway which is possible if we have the political will and means.
The government must take steps to ensure that in the implementation of the infrastructure projects, careful monitoring is carried out to ensure that all the allocation is maximized, to prevent any leakages. The MACC report in 2009 that 60% of the federal funds for certain Sarawak projects had been diverted to other people comes to mind. Such leakages must be investigated and stopped if the government is serious in wanting to provide good infrastructure and facilities for the people.
On the matter of roads, the CM had announced in May last year that the government had approved RM15mil for the Lawas to Long Sukang road but in a written answer to my question in DUN this year, the Minister for Infrastructure Development and Transportation informed me that the government was constructing 2.8km of road there. Something is not right if RM15mil is to be spent on building only 2.8km while the distance from Lawas to Long Sukang is around 35 kms. I hope the Minister can clarify. The road to Ba’ Kelalan is also still in really bad condition, and in dire need of repair.
I am encouraged by the Chief Minister’s statement and urge him to utilise more state funds if necessary to provide schools, hospitals, electricity, water and other facilities for the rural folk. They deserve better after 53 years as Malaysians.
Chairman, KEADILAN/ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan