By Adrian Lim
KUCHING, Feb 20: The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research (MESTR) rejects the statement by Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen that repair work on dilapidated schools had begun.
Its minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong pointed out that Chong’s statement on February 19 was misleading and did not provide a true picture on the repair and upgrading works of the said schools in Sarawak.
“I would like to reiterate that YAB Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi) Abang Johari Tun Openg’s statement that ‘not a single dilapidated school has been fixed’ under the contra deal is factually correct.
“Because before CM made the statement, we actually had a briefing given by the directors and officers of JKR (Public Works Department) Sarawak.
“CM was totally briefed on the real situation and based on that brefing, CM was informed that up until today, not even one (repair or upgrading work) has been done (completed) yet, that is using the RM350 million from the first tranch of RM1 billion which was paid to the federal government in August last year.
“YB Chong’s claim that YAB Chief Minister has made his statement without consulting JKR Sarawak and his insinuation that YAB was not telling the truth is akin to ‘shooting blindly’ like an immature politician.
“It only reflects his own arrogance and his own propensity to make statements without checking the facts,” Manyin said during a press conference at his office here today.
He noted that Abang Johari was given the briefing by JKR Sarawak on February 14.
Hence, he opined that Chong’s assertion of Abang Johari not consulting JKR was baseless and merely an attempt by him to belittle Abang Johari for political mileage.
Manyin stressed that Chong has no locus standi to comment on the dilapidated school repair projects as he does not have detailed information regarding these projects.
At the same time, he reminded Chong to mind his own business and to take care of the responsibilities of his ministry.
He said Chong should concentrate his efforts on addressing domestic trade issues such as rising prices of essential items which has burdened low income-earning people especially the B40 group.
Meanwhile, following a discussion with the Ministry of Education, JKR Sarawak and MESTR, Manyin disclosed the original schedule to tender the projects to rebuild or upgrade 37 dilapidated schools under the first tranche:
five schools to be tendered between August to October 2019, two schools between October to November 2019, 17 schools in November 2019 and 13 schools in December 2019.
He noted the scope of work and costing for all the projects were prepared by the State Education Department and agreed to by the Ministry of Education.
Manyin also noted that the Ministry of Education provided the scope and costing to the federal JKR for project implementation dated August 6.
He pointed out that the state government was not involved in determining the scope nor the cost of the projects.
He also disclosed that the Ministry of Education on August 15 last year issued another letter to the federal JKR for them to implement the 37 school projects and to ensure that the tender will be called by end of 2019.
Following some delays due to issues such as bureaucracy with tender processes and authorisation letters to proceed with the implementation of the repair work, Manyin said that the projects to rebuild and repair the dilapidated schools were delayed, resulting in none being rebuilt in the end.
Therefore, he emphasised that Abang Johari’s comment was accurate and there were no dilapidated school being fixed using the money from the first tranche paid to the federal government on August 14, 2019.
Among those present at the press conference were permanent secretary to MESTR, Kameri Affandi, deputy permanent secretary to MESTR Dr Abdul Rahman Din and officials from JKR Sarawak.