By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, Dec 18: Putrajaya should not have slashed its budget for the Public Works Department (JKR) to maintain protocol roads in Sarawak since the state’s oil resources generate about RM15 billion for the national coffer annually.
Padawan Municipal Council (MPP) chairman Lo Khere Chiang expressed his dismay that only RM100 million would be allocated to the state for protocol road maintenance, including grass-cutting and drainage-cleaning, next year.
The allocation for this year is RM820 million.
Lo, who is also Batu Kitang assemblyman, said MPP had received numerous public complaints about unkempt grasses and drainages.
“The people are angry. They are accusing MPP of not doing their work. How are all the councils going to maintain these federal roads now that the budget has been cut from RM820 million to RM100 million?
“The federal government generates about RM15 billion per year from the state’s oil resources and now they slashed the budget for road maintenance. Where has all the money gone to?” he told a press conference here today.
Lo also found it ironic that the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63) steering committee had its first meeting yesterday to restore Sarawak’s and Sabah’s rights as stipulated in said agreement, yet the federal government is taking away money from the local councils.
“This is why I truly agree with our chief minister (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg) to impose a five per cent sales tax on petroleum-based products to increase the state’s revenue.
“We must support the state government. We need the political will and strength to gain back our rights and funds from the federal government,” he said.
He also took a swipe at Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen, who reportedly said on Dec 8 that funds were available but withheld until a fresh tender process had been carried out to flush out cronies from getting the contracts.
Lo said a company had been appointed by the federal JKR for Sarawak but questioned why the funds had not been disbursed accordingly.
He added that MPP alone needed about RM22 million per year for road maintenance, including grass-cutting and drainage-cleaning.
Meanwhile, Works Minister Baru Bian recently confirmed the RM100 million allocation for next year, which he described as “very limited and restricted”.
He added that the Finance Ministry had given its assurance that they were prepared to provide additional funds if necessary or upon request.
Due to budget constraints, Baru also confirmed that the federal government had instructed JKR to cease all maintenance works, including grass-cutting and drainage-cleaning, along protocol roads for November and December this year. — DayakDaily