By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Jan 13: Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS)’s independent position in the Federation of Malaysia is ideal because it gives Sarawak the best of both worlds.
GPS secretary-general Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi opined that maintaining a certain degree of separation allowed the coalition to better demand, defend and represent the rights and concerns of Sarawakians.
“Even though we are not a component of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, we are friendly to cooperate and collaborate for the betterment of Sarawak, which still needs support and funding in many areas of development. But at the same time, we will choose not to support decisions or policies that are contrary to our interests,” he told DayakDaily.
“We are happy now because if we are part of the PH, then it will not be easy for us to speak up openly, like how we can do so now boldly, because there will be restraints. Sarawakians must realise this,” he emphasised.
Nanta, who is also Kapit MP, believed that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who leads GPS, was positioning the state in the right direction.
“When the last 14th General Election (GE14) result became obvious, he wasn’t beaten down. He took the time to decide the course that Sarawak will take. He bravely affirmed that it was time to leave Barisan Nasional (BN) for the good of Sarawak.
“I hope the people of Sarawak will give him full support. I appeal to the people to open their eyes, ears and hearts to see that this man (Abang Johari) is trying to do something more and good for all of us and he deserves the people’s support,” he highlighted.
Nanta added that he strongly believed and subscribed to the objectives, visions, and missions of GPS, which Abang Johari had spoken in depth about, especially his aspirations for Sarawak.
“The prime objective is to make sure Sarawak’s rights and privileges as enshrined in the Constitution be protected and where it has been eroded, be restored to its original status as well as the interests and well-being of Sarawak and its people being well taken care of,” he said.
Throughout history and since the formation of Malaysia, he pointed out, Sarawak had always been in the pursuit of progress and development, which was the reason why the state has been with the federal government for so many years because, in that position, funding will come in to ensure continuous development.
“Now Sarawak is on its own, the chief minister has worked on how to secure funding for the state and asserted the rights of Sarawak to impose a five per cent sales tax on petroleum products and control over the oil and gas industry through the Oil Mining Ordinance. These will give us a new source of income for the state to spur greater growth and development,” he elaborated.
Nanta refuted criticisms that Abang Johari did not care for or neglected the rural areas even though he emphasised on digitalisation to transform the economy of Sarawak in order to create a better future for Sarawak and its people.
“He had planned for and immediately allocated funding for rural development much earlier. Three months after taking office, he established the rural development agencies, namely Ulu Rejang Development Agency (Urda), Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA) to further expedite development in the rural areas.
“The agencies are set up so that it will be more focussed on the tasks. Abang Johari announced RM1.5 billion for Urda for two years to develop infrastructure, including roads as well as electricity and water supply,” he added.
In the past under the Malaysia Plan, he said Sarawak was only allocated about RM500 million for five years for the same purpose.
Besides funding, he emphasised that Abang Johari urged for a bottom-up approach in planning for development, where all staff, common people and grassroots leaders are involved in the planning of what needed to be done.
“In the past, we depended on the State Planning Unit to decide and plan. The chief minister’s new approach is more meaningful, wholesome and people-oriented. He is not only talking but he is actually doing it.
“Moreover, the government also wants to empower the local community with opportunities to generate income through social-economic programmes that would create economic activities so that people do not have to leave their hometown to find work,” he added.
For all these reasons, Nanta failed to see any reason why Sarawakians should reject GPS. — DayakDaily