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KUCHING, Feb 10: The Sarawak Government will continue to protect its autonomous right on matters dear to the State such as not following the blanket policy of the federal government in imposing the Movement Control Order (MCO) throughout the country, said Chief Minister Datuk Paitnggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
He said such rights accorded to Sarawak is enshrined in the Ninth Schedule Clause (7) of the Concurrent List under the Federal Constitution.
“Sarawak is lucky as we have the power to make our own decision to suit our local conditions and not necessarily following the decision of the federal government every time which may not be in our best interest.
“We are able to decide for ourselves not to impose MCO, except for Sibu, Kapit and Song to ensure that life can go on and businesses can continue to operate in order to keep people in employment. We cannot continue to close our economy but somehow, we have to find ways to get it going.
“The State Government is implementing this policy as we have the autonomous right as enshrined in the Ninth Schedule Clause (7) of the Concurrent List. That is the right we have to protect in future,” said Abang Johari in his Chinese New Year message.
He added that despite the challenges, the State’s economic fundamentals have remained strong.
“Our numerous infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges are able to proceed, including the Pan Borneo Highway, that has kept the economic engine moving though it’s tough going because of the shortage of workers,” he said.
Abang stressed that the State Government has set up a special committee to look into the problem of shortage of workers and that the matter could be solved to ensure that the various projects can be implemented without much delay.
“We need to continue with our efforts to keep the coronavirus infection rate down again, and hopefully with the coming of the vaccine the situation can be better towards the second half of the year,” he said.
Abang Johari who is also Finance Minister pointed out that Sarawak is the only state that benefits from both the Federal government stimulus package as well as the State’s own initiative under the Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) which has so far dished out RM3 billion.
“We are lucky as Sarawakians are able to receive assistance both from the state and the federal government. For example, many of you received cash assistance under the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) and also receive similar cash assistance under BKSS.
“At the same time, consumers in Sarawak are given deductions in their electricity bills, again both from the State and Federal governments at 23 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. I believe people in other states do not enjoy this privilege of receiving dual assistance – only in Sarawak.
“The electricity, and also water bill deduction will continue until June this year under BKSS 5.0. incurring the government a total of RM198 million,” he said.
The Chief Minister pointed out that besides the BKSS assistance, the State Government has already spent more than RM75 million to pay for the cost of quarantine in hotels for returning Sarawakians in order to protect the people of Sarawak from imported infections.
“Again, no other state is doing the same for its people, and also, that is the amount of money (RM75 million) the state government is pumping back into the hotel industry to keep it afloat. With strong savings and increased streams of revenue, the state government is able to provide BKSS assistance during this difficult time, but government resources are not unlimited.
“We must maintain our financial prudence and continue to manage efficiently while at the same time invest especially in the provision of infrastructures and strategic projects,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister said Sarawakians have to abide by the SOPs and co-operate with the frontliners and enforcement authorities so that the current three-digit daily infection could be brought down to just single-digit or even zero.
“We can never thank our frontliners enough for the tremendous work pressure that they have to bear with in order to keep the rest of us free from infection. They have sacrificed their own personal comfort and are kept away from their families, and some in the course of discharging their duties, are infected themselves. We pray for them that the Almighty will always protect them and their families,” he said. – DayakDaily