“Federal cannot control everything”, Tiong says when grilling Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry

A combo screengrab of Tiong (left) and Nik Zawawi (right) during the Parliament sitting broadcast live today (July 26, 2022) via the 'Parlimen Malaysia' YouTube Channel.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, July 26: “Federal (government) cannot control everything”, Bintulu MP Dato Sri Tiong King Sing told the Dewan Rakyat in Kuala Lumpur today after grilling the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry over the lack of allocation and actions to develop the agriculture sector in states, especially Sarawak, to improve food security in the country. 

Tiong said this after Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries Datuk Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh seemed to indicate that it was because Sarawak, including Sabah, disallowed Farmers’ Organisation Authority or Lembaga Pertubuhan Peladang (LPP) to enter the two Borneo states that resulted in farmers being unable to benefit from certain policies. 

Nik Zawawi, when answering questions from Tiong during the Dewan Rakyat sitting broadcast live through the ‘Parlimen Malaysia’ YouTube Channel, explained that food security in the country has increased compared to neigbouring countries.

“We always hold discussions with State governments and today, I want to advise Sarawak and Sabah…. Sarawak disallowed LPP to enter the State. For example, Sabah does not allow the Pineapple Authority to go into Sabah and this was after a series of discussions.”

Tiong interjected and appeared to tell Nik Zawawi that federal agencies do not understand the needs of Sarawak: “We are ‘kongkalikong’ agency, story 10 times also don’t understand.”

But in defence, Nik Zawawi advised Tiong to be open.
 
Tiong stood up from his chair and hit back, saying: “Officers from federal agencies must have an open mind. Not everything Peninsula must control. This cannot be the way.”

Shouts could be heard across the floor supporting Tiong’s statement.

On allocations for farmers, Nik Zawawi also informed the House that farmers needed to register with the government agencies before grants can be disbursed. But he regretted that Sarawak and Sabah were the only two States in Malaysia where most farmers were not registered with the said government agencies.

Earlier, Tiong did not take well the “repeated answers” from the ministry over its long- and short-term plans to ensure that issues related to the shortage of chicken and chicken eggs will not recur as well as on its plans to reduce reliance on agriculture and food products from other countries given that recent price increases were caused by the ongoing disruption and instability of the global supply chain. 

“I cannot see improvement on food security or any such guarantee for the country. The State governments should collaborate (with the federal government) but until today, what sort of discussions has been carried out together?

“Is the State government ready with land and other resources? Has the State government agreed to upgrade their farms and plantations? Is the ministry prepared with sufficient funding to help farmers?” Tiong further asked.
 
He claimed that many farmers in his Bintulu constituency have yet to receive any funding assistance from the government.

Complaining about loans given by financial institutions like Agrobank, Tiong also asked if the bank really gives out loans to help farmers or just “kongkalikong” (all talk, no action) only. 

“Or just to find business, or bridging loan but in the end nothing is fruitful and farmers were not helped. How can this happen? Why not the government go to the ground and see and understand the issues and problems faced by the farmers?” he asked. 

Nik Zawawi however pointed out that food security in the country has increased when compared to neighbouring countries. 

He also gave assurance that discussions were actively conducted between federal and state governments, while expressing his hope for fruitful outcomes. 

“If there are problems in Bintulu, we can discuss further and the ministry will help and go down to the ground,” he reassured Tiong. — DayakDaily