“Build Pan Borneo Highway, Coastal Road first, shelve Second Trunk Road for now”

See pointing out the Second Trunk Road proposed routes on the Sarawak map going through peat soil areas, which may hike the construction cost.

KUCHING, August 19: The state government should not build the Second Trunk Road while work on the Pan Borneo Highway and Coastal Highway is still on, suggested See Chee How, the newly-minted special officer to the Works Ministry.

See argued that implementing all three projects simultaneously would exhaust the state’s coffer. It is best to implement the Second Trunk Road after the other two are completed as the proposed trunk road could cost between RM4 billion and RM6 billion, he added.

“The state government appears to have indulged itself in a spending spree, but certain pricy projects are questionable, especially those that are not of significant priority nor strategic. One such lavish project is the proposed Second Trunk Road project,” See said at his service centre here this afternoon.

The Batu Lintang assemblyman also advised Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to appoint a certified integrity officer from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to oversee the whole process of implementing the second trunk road — from planning to appointing of contractors.

See said priority should be given to the Coastal Road project as it could catapult economic development in the coastal regions. Besides, this proposed project was approved 32 years ago. In addition, motorists may prefer using the coastal road to the Pan Borneo Highway to travel between Kuching and Miri as the trip would be shorter.

The proposed Second Trunk Road project marked with dotted coloured lines, also marked with the yellow boxes. The solid black and solid red lines are the Pan Borneo Highway and the Coastal Road respectively.

As the urgency in building the Second Trunk Road is debatable, See also advised Abang Johari to seek an independent opinion whether there was really a need for this road.

“Of course, all roads are beneficial but there is always the need to prioritise, to take into consideration the numerous needs for provision of other basic amenities and infrastructural development, and also the budgetary strengths and constraints.

“Further, the proposed Second Trunk Road project is coming short in design and planning, soil investigation, survey and risk assessment. The work scopes are broadened and exaggerated to jack up the project cost,” said See.

Instead of rushing the project, See recommended getting JKR Sarawak to investigate the soil for the proposed Second Trunk Road Road project as more than 80 per cent of the road would be over peat swamp land.

“The chief minister and the state administration must therefore rationalise the implementation of the two mega road projects together when the Pan Borneo Highway project is also ongoing. They most certainly will drive up the inflation of costs of materials and manpower in the construction industry in general, and road construction in particular.

“It is certainly more advisable to implement the Coastal Road project first to complete the bridges before implementing the proposed Second Trunk Road project, if by then it is fully assessed and found to be necessary,” he opined.

See said he was raising this issue out of concern for the state’s coffer. This was because also in the pipeline were the proposed State Water Supply Grid project, which is estimated to cost RM8 billion, and the chief minister’s Walkabout projects, which are to cost an aggregate RM6 billion.

See said to implement them concurrently with the two mega road projects that cost an estimated RM8 billion to RM11 billion, almost all of the state reserves would have been exhausted.

The proposed Second Trunk Road project (routes are marked with dotted red line, and two solid cyan lines) going through peat soil area coloured in blue, which may hike the construction cost.

“The chief minister will be held in high esteem if he is to request for the secondment of independent integrity officers from the MACC to serve in the respective boards and project management teams that oversee the planning and implementation of the state mega projects, including the proposed Second Trunk Road project and the proposed State Water Supply Grid project,” said See.

He also called on the MACC, the national and state audit departments, and all Sarawakians to keep watch of the state ministries, departments, agencies as well as consultants, contractors and others who were involved in the undertaking of these mega projects to ensure that the state and Sarawakians’ interests would not be compromised. — DayakDaily