LRT only serves Abang Jo’s ego, says Chong

Chong (left) and Stampin MP Julian Tan question the state's ambitious LRT plan.

KUCHING, April 1: The state government’s RM10.8 billion Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan will empty the state’s entire reserves only to serve Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s ego, says a Sarawak Opposition leader.

“It is like a father saving all his money for decades, and suddenly the son uses it all to buy a luxury car for his ego, emptying all the savings,” state Pakatan Harapan chairman Chong Chieng Jen told a press conference today.

He said Abang Johari is only implementing the LRT plan for his ego and all Sarawakians would have to bear the consequences, including being controlled by Putrajaya later when the state has no money.

Abang Johari had announced on March 29 that the three LRT lines connecting Kuching, Samarahan and Serian divisions would be operational by 2024 and would be expected to create a total of 20,919 jobs upon full operation.

Stressing that he is not against development, Chong, the Bandar Kuching MP and Kota Sentosa state assemblyman, said that there are other projects that are more urgent and more beneficial to the people, such as schools and medical infrastructure.

He said the state would have no extra money to implement other projects if the state leader insists on implementing the ambitious LRT plan.

Among the projects Chong proposed the state could better spend the RM10.8 billion on are building three hospitals with 300 beds each, constructing flyovers, offering free bus services, repairing all schools in Sarawak, building affordable houses, and improving medical infrastructure and services; and there will be still be balance leftover for other projects, Chong claimed.

Meanwhile, Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei said the 155.2-kilometre-long light rail railway is wasteful and not necessary for Kuching at this stage.

In a press statement, Wong said that the state will take on a huge debt to construct the LRT and other mega projects which are expected to come.

“Eleven billion ringgit is only for the construction costs; how about monthly operation costs? These were not contemplated by the Chief Minister in his LRT plan. For a total of 155.2 kilometres of LRT, the construction costs and operating costs are naturally not cheap. The interest imposed by the bank will also be part of the operating cost. These debt-type operating costs will be passed on to light rail passengers, and the LRT fares will not be expected to be cheap.”

He hence urged the Chief Minister to futher elaborate on the average fare per kilometre expected to be paid by passengers and to reveal the loan amount to be obtained by the state government from the Development Bank of Sarawak to finance the construction of the LRT as well as how much is the interest rate per annum. — DayakDaily