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By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, Feb 22: Assistant Minister of Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh today challenge Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo to go and ask high-tech industry players in the state on the number of high-paying jobs they have provided to Sarawakians.
He also challenged Lo to take a ride with him from Kuching to Lawas for claiming that the coastal highway project was a waste of money.
On the decent jobs issue as raised by Lo, Len Talif said the numbers would be contrary to the claims by Lo, who recently discredited the state government for failing to provide enough decent jobs to Sarawakians; thus, tempting them to look for jobs outside the state.
“It is not quite true the statement from Lo with regards to his statement that the state has not been doing enough, or anything for that matter, with regards to providing employment to Sarawakians. When you look at the investments that came to Sarawak in Samalaju till now, they (brought in) almost RM30 billion in the last few years in Samajaya and other places.
“So, we have created a lot of jobs. I’m not talking about low-paying jobs. When the state government was under Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, he invited those from First Silicon to come here, he basically had a long foresight. And now we are looking at digital economy.
“You look at Samajaya now, you have this China solar panel manufacturer Longi and other expat companies employing Sarawakians. I want to invite MTUC (Sarawak) to check the records by going to these companies and ask them how many Sarawakians they employ not as labourers but at higher levels, from managers to engineers.
“In LONGi, they employ a lot of Sarawakians engineers, technicians and what not,” Len Talif told a press conference on the Sarawak Career and Training (SCaT) Fair 2019 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here this morning.
During the official opening of LONGi Kuching Sdn Bhd last April, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said Samajaya Industrial Park had provided about 10,800 jobs, where 99 per cent were Sarawakians and 10 per cent were Sarawakian engineers.
LONGi, meanwhile, created 2,130 jobs, including 247 engineers, and 99 per cent of their workforce are Sarawakians.
Len Talif added that without going down to the ground to find facts, it was unfair for Lo to accuse the state government for not doing its part in creating decent jobs for Sarawakians just based on the number of Sarawakians going outside the state and even overseas to find employment.
“Those people who go out of the state to look for jobs, they have their choices.”
Now that the state government is allocating some RM6 billion on infrastructure development, it was the more reason for Sarawak to be needing a highly skilled workforce to implement the development projects.
“But, sometimes, people go out of their comfort zone just to get the ‘oomph’ factor, probably they want to find other experience.
“And the many Sarawakians going to the Middle East to work not necessarily because of salary but because of something else, probably they want to get away from their parents and whatnot.”
Therefore, he said, what Lo and Sarawak MTUC said was stirring up a complex issue in only a simple manner, which was not the way to approach the issue.
On a related matter, Len Talif also took a swipe at Lo’s statement for claiming that the Coastal Highway project was a waste of money.
He challenged Lo to follow him for a drive from Kuching to Lawas to experience for himself why it was important to have the coastal highway as an alternative to the Pan Borneo Highway.
“Principally, if you want to spur the economic activities of any place, you need to have the connectivity. You need to have roads, airlines, telecommunications and whatnot. So, the fact that we have only one backbone road, the Pan Borneo Highway, if anything happens to it, like landslides or whatever, then you will be cut off. That’s why we have a series of roads to increase connectivity.”
Generally, he said, if one wanted to increase economic activities, they would need to have a high density of road connections.
“It’s not a waste of money. And I have been travelling along that road for the last 50 over years, since 1971. I know how it was and how it is, and am still travelling along that road now.
“And now when the Pan Borneo Highway is under construction, the coastal highway is being used quite extensively, so much so that even the Triso ferry sometimes would have to wait in queue for almost four hours.”
He opined that those who criticised the coastal highway initiative were those who had never been out of town or city areas and see for themselves what it’s like out there in the rural areas.
“So, I suggest Andrew Lo come and travel with me, driving from Kuching up to Lawas. I can drive. I’ve been doing it for the past 50 over years.
“This is something that needs to be conveyed in the right way.” — DayakDaily