Elevating Sarawak’s towns: Sibu primed for city status while Bintulu on the horizon, says Deputy Minister

Sibu Central Market (file photo).

By Karen Bong and Ashley Sim

KUCHING, April 10: If any town in Sarawak were to be elevated to city status, Sibu could be the frontrunner, followed by Bintulu.

Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Urban Development Datuk Len Talif Salleh said that if there were to be proposals to upgrade a town in Sarawak to city status, Sibu should be the immediate priority, with Bintulu considered in the long-term.

He cited Miri as an example, which despite Sibu being initially larger, attained city status due to earlier and more effective town planning and development.

“There are still things needed to be done on Sibu and Bintulu’s elevation to city status. It is the ultimate goal for the future. If you say 10 years down the road, there will be a time to elevate Bintulu to a city which is why we are currently undertaking proper expansion of the town,” he told DayakDaily in an exclusive interview on Tuesday (April 9).

In recent years, Bintulu has registered rapid growth, especially in terms of industralisation in Samalaju Industrial Park from manufacturing to hydrogen, solidifying it as a strategic location with economic importance in Sarawak.

Len Talif speaking to DayakDaily during an exclusive interview on April 9, 2024.

On the criteria for a town to be elevated into a city, Len Talif explained that population is not a major consideration but the question of self-sustainability.

He pointed out that there were cases of cities abroad which had relatively small populations of 50,000 but were granted city status.

“But there must be well-structured management, governance, financing, facilities, amenities and robust infrastructure. All of these are prerequisites to create an enabling environment for people, come into play,” he said.

While there is no issue for Bintulu or Sibu to be granted city status from a technical aspect, Len Talif emphasised the need for comprehensive planning and development in preparation to attain city status.

“Bintulu has the potential to become a city and now we want to do proper planning and develop all necessary infrastructures including roads, sewerage system, housing, commercial, industrial and social to create an environment that will spur the town towards city status.

“For instance, Jepak is a new area with a bridge coming in. So we want proper road planning, zoning for proper land use, and so forth,” he added.

Len Talif drew parallels with the evolution of Kuching, which began its transformation three decades ago under the leadership of the late Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud. — DayakDaily