By Karen Bong
KUCHING, May 10: Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Chong Chieng Jen has presented a good report card on the performance of the federal government in its first year in office, highlighting the significant improvement in governance and considerable progress in fulfilling its key pledges.
Chong, who is also Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, said if not for the change of government, the country would have continued to bleed dry beyond redemption.
“The federal government has renegotiated mega deals entered by the previous BN (Barisan Nasional) government, saving billions for the country,” he told a press conference at the Democratic Action Party (DAP) headquarters here today.
“There are also many other small-scale projects throughout the country that have been reviewed with savings of between five and 10 per cent of the contract sum. This adds up to a substantial amount.”
These necessary measures, he added, were efforts by the PH government to save the country from being bankrupt.
He, thus, urged the Sarawak government not to cry foul for certain projects that had been cut in the state because the slash in the budget for Peninsula Malaysia was much more.
Among the mega contracts involved were the ECRL project, MRT2 project and LRT3 project, with a saving of over RM45 billion.
“The scaling down of budget is necessary because of the way BN had run the country for the past decades and for which the GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) is partly responsible for condoning and being part of the act,” he pointed out.
Touching on Sabah and Sarawak’s special position, he pointed out that the formation of a Special Cabinet Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) demonstrated PH’s sincerity and seriousness to restore the rights of Sabah and Sarawak under the MA63.
“Previously, only the minister of law, which was (Dato Sri) Nancy Shukri, handling this matter but after a few months, she was replaced by Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said. Since then, the committee dozed off and not doing things anymore.
“Previously, it was only a ministerial committee but here we have a cabinet committee, which was headed by the Prime Minister (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad). This is a huge difference,” he emphasised.
Another major step taken to restore rights of Sabah and Sarawak, he added, was the tabling of the bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, although this bill was defeated in Parliament.
“GPS worked together with PAS and Umno to defeat the bill and to frustrate the PH government initiative to restore Sarawak and Sabah to its original position. Why GPS do that? Well, the reasons are only known to themselves.
“But obviously, among observers of politics and those in politics will know that if GPS accepted such amendment, they will lose one political capital for them in the coming state election,” he said.
Other noteworthy achievements of the PH government that Chong listed were repatriation of 1MDB funds in the billions; institutional reforms to safeguard the future generations, including limiting Prime Minister’s tenure to two terms; appointment of opposition member of parliament (MP) as the PAC chairman to determine the agenda of PAC investigation and supervision of the executive and open tenders for government procurements as well as introducing various welfare programmes targeting different groups of people, including Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH), MySalam and iSURI.
On economic benefits for the people, Chong highlighted the capping of RON95 and diesel prices at RM2.08 per litre and RM2.18 per litre respectively, suspension of the purple LPG tongs initiative priced around RM60 per 14kg tong targeting all food outlets nationwide, where the government spent RM2 billion a year to subsidise and maintain LPG at RM26.60 per 14kg tong.
On replacing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) with Sales and Services Tax (SST), he revealed that this had helped save the taxpayers a total of RM20 billion in tax payable to the government.
“The federal government has also refunded GST and income tax owed by the previous government in the total sum of RM37 billion. The full refund will be made in the first 10 months of 2019,” he added.
Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei, Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong, Pelawan assemblyman David Wong and Tanjong Batu assemblyman Chiew Chiu Sing were present at the press conference. — DayakDaily