By Lian Cheng
One cannot help but notice the numerous similarities between the respective manifestoes of state-ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and state opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH).
The state BN manifesto titled “Transforming Sarawak through Digital Economy: Continuity and New Opportunities” was launched on Monday afternoon by state BN chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) headquarters in Kuching while the eight-page state PH manifesto themed “New Deal New Hope for
Sarawak”, was launched much earlier on January 20 in Sibu.
Perhaps it was all due to the fact that both state-ruling and opposition coalitions are made up of local Sarawakians, the manifestoes from these forces on different sides of the political divide inevitably reflect the desires and sentiments of all Sarawakians, thus the coincidentally close similarities.
One of the most obvious similarities is the fight for Sarawak’s immutable rights enshrined within the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Then there is the same pledge of advocating for more devolution of power from the federal government to the state. Even the areas of concern or focus points in the respective manifestoes — trade and commerce, fiscal decentralisation involving taxation and public revenue, sport, health, tourism and education — are more or less
The third similarity is the pledge to improve basic infrastructure including treated water, electricity provision and road connectivity.
Another similar pledge concerns the rights over the natural resources of the Land of the Hornbills, especially petroleum. While the state government has set up Petros (Petroleum Sarawak Bhd), PH proposes to form PETROGAS,
which like Petros will also be a wholly state-owned company.
Understandably, among the similarities, there are minor variations. One of the obvious minor variations concerns the civil service. While state BN pledges for an efficient and effective civil service, PH is aiming for the Borneonisation of the civil service based on meritocracy and capability in terms of intake and promotion.
Another interesting point to note is that both sides placed emphasis on physical connectivity but in terms of the government-backed Light Rail Transit (LRT) versus the opposition’s railway plans.
BN’s plan is to complete an LRT by 2024 to provide better connectivity across greater Kuching. The project is introduced as a catalyst to generate 20,000 job opportunities and business opportunities, enhance property
values and promote tourism as well as investment. State PH, on the other hand, advocates a Trans-Borneo Railwasy System to connect all major towns and cities in Sarawak and Sabah.
While there are many similarities between the two manifestoes, there are of course big differences. And it is these differences that set both manifestoes apart.
One distinctive variation is PH’s pledge to set up an independent supervisory body to ensure that every allocated ringgit is genuinely utilised for development purposes. This is something that is not found in the BN manifesto.
Meanwhile, the state BN manifesto consists of two main components.
The first part under the main category of “continuity” consists of previous policies laid down by the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem. This is the part of the manifesto that shares many similarities with that of the PH’s.
The second part — new opportunities — is the part that makes the state BN manifesto stand out on its own in terms of distinctive electoral promises to Sarawakians.
Under this large category, the state BN promises to bring about benefits including enhancing customers’ experience; developing higher skills and a talented workforce; creating new job opportunities; increasing productivity, businesses, trade and exports; projecting Sarawak as an attractive investment destination; achieving higher incomes and economic growth; and improving quality of life through the digital economy.
It is also the vision of the state BN to create more jobs and business opportunities for youths, women, and entrepreneurs through the digital economy, to be achieved through digital training, talent development and innovation, and digital inclusivity.
In conclusion, the state BN manifesto does make more promises than that of state PH. However, promises will only remain as promises until they are materialised. Whether state BN or state PH can deliver, Sarawakians will have to wait after GE14 is well over where the side that wins will have the opportunity to implement and complete what it has pledged. — DayakDaily