Devolution of power: PH Sarawak to set up Special Cabinet Committee to negotiate with state govt

Chong (second right) speaks to a press conference at Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) headquarters flanked by other DAP members.​

KUCHING, May 19: Faced with a public backlash after calling off the New Deal Agreement made to the state government before the general election (GE14), Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Chong Chieng Jen clarified that state PH will continue to pursue the devolution of power and decentralisation of government for Sarawak.

He said to achieve that, Sarawak PH would seek other avenues for the devolution of power by setting up a Special Cabinet Committee to study other aspects which Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) government would feel comfortable to take up.

His remarks follow after what Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said yesterday that he would “tackle this matter later”.

Chong said the state BN government previously might have felt overwhelmed to take up its New Deal Agreement was deemed rejected since there had been no response from the BN state government.

“It is regrettable that Sarawak BN refused to accept these powers together with the responsibilities coming with it. Either Sarawak BN had no confidence in managing the said ministries (stated in the Deal) or Sarawak BN was just simply not interested in taking over these responsibilities.

“We could not devolve power to someone who refused to take responsibility of managing that power,” he said.

Asked if he would be heading the Special Cabinet Committee, Chong said the committee had not been formed yet.

Chong then explained that PH would still continue to explore other avenues for devolution of power which the state BN may feel comfortable to take up.

He added that as for the devolution of full power in education and healthcare, since the state BN was unwilling to take up such responsibilities, the only way Sarawakians would acquire such autonomy would be to change the Sarawak government in the coming state election in 2021.

“Let the new Sarawak government take up such responsibilities,” said Chong.

He said the state BN government had nothing to lose signing the New Deal Agreement before as if the agreement was not honoured on the part of PH, the more the reason the state government to get back at PH.

“Whether we have authority or otherwise all the more you (BN Sarawak) should’ve signed it so you can argue about it later. We would lose our credibility. Should be in your favour.

“But if the agreement was honoured it would benefit Sarawakians and you (state BN) would gain full power.

“Why only give excuses not to sign now?” said Chong.

He was responding to the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister Abdullah Saidol who yesterday argued the validity of the Agreement and said that was why the state government refused to sign it.

Chong responded to Abdullah, saying if PH couldn’t deliver the Agreement, that would mean PH breached it, and all the more to reasons for the state BN hit out at PH.

“But if we can deliver, Sarawak will benefit from it and you have nothing to lose.

“And now that we have a new federal government, to work on these things does not mean that you will have a lot of ‘kangtao’. Everything will be heavily scrutinized by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). So we in PH Sarawak are willing to take up the job,” he said. — DayakDaily