By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Aug 29: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is so serious about repairing run-down schools in rural Sarawak that he was willing to let the federal government take advantage of the Sarawak government.
Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that was the stand taken by Abang Johari and it was thus utterly unfair for Sarawak Pakatan Harapan chief Chong Chieng Jen to accuse the Chief Minister of not giving repairing dilapidated schools priority.
Wan Junaidi said, the topic of repairing Sarawak’s run-down schools was already being discussed between the federal and state governments in 2017.
The matter was even brought up for discussion in the federal cabinet where former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak agreed in principle with the offer that Sarawak would loan the federal government RM1 billion to fix all these rural schools.
However, before finalisation, there was a change of government. According to Wan Junaidi, since then, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) elected representatives have kept on reminding the federal government what had transpired between the Sarawak and federal governments.
The issue of the RM1 billion loan to repair rural schools was again brought up by the Sarawak government.
“It was finally agreed that Sarawak was to come up with RM1 billion to repay the loan it had with the federal government.
“The loan Sarawak had with the federal government is a (type of) loan under the constitution where the federal government has the constitutional obligation to give long-term loans to Sarawak which Sarawak does not have to settle so soon.
“It is like I am buying a house and I only need to settle the house loan in 20 years’ time. There is no need for immediate settlement as there is no rebate of any kind.
“However, the chief minister is willing to do it because he sees the school repair issue as of utmost importance and needing immediate attention. So rather than politicking or spend time quarrelling, he was willing to let the federal government take advantage of him.
“Not that he does not know Sarawak’s rights, but to him, the people’s needs especially our children’s needs come first. So he agreed to the very unfair arrangement,” said Wan Junaidi.
He said the RM350 million sum given to the federal government was “a lump sum” of cash.
“Usually, in any government project, payment is done over a few stages. But in this case, the payment made by the chief minister is one lump sum, because he really wants the school repair projects to be carried out as soon as possible. He has no choice.”
Apart from the school repair issue, Wan Junaidi said the Sarawak government also had no choice but to build the bridge projects scrapped by the federal government.
Citing the example of Rambungan Bridge, he said the bridge’s construction was approved in 2017 and RM150 million was budgeted for its implementation on October 2018.
“But it was scrapped by the federal government. If we want to help to connect the coastal people, we need the bridges.
“So the Sarawak government had no choice but to finance the building of Rambungan Bridge and other bridges,” said Wan Junaidi.
Chong had hit out at Abang Johari in a press conference this morning for the latter’s failure to allocate funding to address the issue of dilapidated schools in the state.
He said the chief minister should have provided some funds to repair the schools if the latter was serious about education instead of depending on the federal government’s help. — DayakDaily