By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, Jan 20: The fall of Barisan Nasional (BN) in GE14 somewhat provided a blessing to the state governing coalition, which now, through Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), are able to break free from the political whip of the previous regime.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said all GPS component parties, which were part of BN then, have found freedom with the formation of a new wholly state coalition with a voice of its own to champion the rights of Sarawakians.
Abang Johari, answering critics on why Sarawak politicians did not fight aggressively for the state under the previous Barisan regime when compared to GPS today, said they were bounded by BN’s political whip and practically outnumbered by their peninsula counterparts.
“Some people said why previous leaders did not fight wholeheartedly for Sarawak back then but how could we? Back then, we were still under Emergency Orders from 1969, which was only revoked in 2011.
“Even if we make some noise, we will be whipped. We don’t have the freedom and we were bounded by Putrajaya,” he said at the grand launching of GPS at Stadium Perpaduan here on Saturday (Jan 19).
Abang Johari added that Sarawak Barisan Nasional only had four parties when compared to members in Peninsular Malaysia led by UMNO. When it comes to decision, BN’s policy was based on consensus, he explained.
“After GE14, I discussed with other state leaders and we unanimously decided to leave the Barisan coalition to form GPS, with its own voice and decision.
“We are now a partner to the peninsula. That is the way we administer Sarawak. We can work with anyone as long as Sarawak rights are respected,” he said.
Abang Johari affirmed that GPS will be doing its best to get back the state’s right based on MA63 and the federal constitution. One such effort was getting back rights over oil and gas resources through the Oil and Mining Ordinance 1958.
“We sent Assistant Minister of Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali to London with a team of seven lawyers to study documents containing agreements between the colonising British government back then and Shell (oil corporation), and we brought the documents back.
“We discovered another document that determines the state boundary dated 1954 including our continental shelf. These boundaries are recognised worldwide. Therefore, we now have basis to relook at our interests in our oil and gas industry,” he continued.
Abang Johari took swipe at the Pakatan Harapan government for initially promising 20 per cent royalty to Sarawak over its oil and gas resources.
When the state asked to clarify, they were still undetermined if it should be 20 per cent of gross or nett profit, he said.
To seek more revenue to aid infrastructure development, the state decided to impose five per cent Sales Tax over its petroleum products, which could provide an extra RM3 billion annually.
The newfound revenue would enable the state undertake development projects, especially those cancelled by the federal government, such as construction of bridges along the coastal road and Pan Borneo Highway.
He also highlighted the state’s own effort to build the Coastal Highway as well as the state water grid and power grid projects.
At the launch, Abang Johari, who is also GPS chairman, revealed the coalition’s nine pillars:
(1) Upholding the Constitution, (2) Respecting Rules of Law, (3) Safeguarding Sarawak’s Rights and Interests, (4) Building Prosperity and Greater Sarawak, (5) Political Integrity and Patriotism, (6) Strengthening Sarawak Economy, (7) Fostering Unity and Peace, (8) Inspiring Future Generations, (9) Preserving Heritage and Sustainable Resources. — DayakDaily