By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, July 22: The state government should find a sustainable solution to ensure all Sarawakians will benefit from its resources, asserts MTUC Sarawak secretary Andrew Lo.
“As we mark ‘Independence Day’ today, we must find sustainable solutions working with each other instead of against each other.
“To move forward, we must find inclusiveness while recognising our diversity. We will find sustainable and better solutions working with each other instead of against each other. And for goodness sake, nationhood is too precious to be used as a political tool. Civil society must wake up.
“Therefore, the priority is to improve integrity, reduce corruption and to ensure that wealth is equitably shared with the ordinary people of Sarawak,” the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Sarawak leader opined in a statement in conjunction with Sarawak Day today.
In the statement, Lo also highlighted that recently Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg made a bold declaration that Sarawak was demanding that both Sarawak and Sabah should have one third of parliamentary seats.
“I do not wish to get into a debate on the legalities of Malaysia Agreement of 1963 (MA63) and I leave that to the lawyers and the politicians to interpret it in accordance to their own agenda.
“All I want to say is that our forefathers made a conscious decision to be part of Malaysia for better or for worse; that Sarawak do have special rights and privileges compared to the other states, and MA63 is not, and must not be a means to an end,” he said.
Lo who is also who is also Sarawak Bank Employees Union chief executive officer sainoted, lately there has been a lot of resentment towards Putrajaya for what many perceived as unfair treatment by the federal government.
“Most point to the oil royalty and lack of development funds.
“Sarawakians do have legitimate rights to want more control over our oil money. We empathise with some of these gripes and I agree Putrajaya has a lot to answer for.
“But is it just the fault of Putrajaya? Is it also safe to say that our leaders in the past have failed to do their job?” he asked.
Lo asserted that together with any complaint about unfair allocation of development funds from the federal government, questions should also be asked about the allocation of development within Sarawak.
“Why on earth does the Kuching-Bau Road still don’t have street lighting while some other places are lighted up like a Christmas tree?
“Why did we build the coastal road with so many mega bridges to open up more land for oil palm and ignore the Pan-Borneo Highway until recently? Even that is not enough as we now want a second trunk road,” he added.
Lo also opined that the state government hit a jackpot riding on the autonomy tide during the last state elections.
However, he pointed out that greater autonomy must mean greater responsibility and accountability.
“The track record of the state government in matters where we already have full autonomy: land, labour and immigration, does not give any confidence. We have so many land-grab issues, not just NCR (native customary rights) land for oil palm, but beachfront land and ex-government quarters demolished for condominiums and commercial shophouses,” he added.
On labour, Lo highlighted the Sarawak government has stopped the Federal Employment Act.
“As a result, it was only after almost 50 years that the hopelessly outdated Sarawak Labour Ordinance was amended to provide basic rights for workers. It was only last year that the federal government has delivered on its promise to have a uniform minimum wage rate for the whole country, while the Sarawak government wants to widen the gap. We don’t even have any State Minister in charge of human resources,” he added.
Lo added that according to Sarawak Employment Report 2019-2020 by Sarawakjobs.com, the salary of a master’s degree holder is just RM1,829 after two years in employment.
“Accordingly, to Dr Fong Chan Onn, the former Human Resources Minister, his starting salary in 1975 was RM1,750. In 45 years, it has not increase!” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Lo pointed out that while Sarawak wanted a bigger share of the oil and gas revenue, it does nothing about the sharing of the timber wealth which has been controlled by the Big Six timber companies.
“Royalty on timber was a paltry 80 sen per cubic metre for 30 years. These timber companies remain vehemently opposed to minimum wage. Wages in the oil palm and timber are among the lowest while oil and gas are the highest. Areas like Kapit and Song and the interior, where billions of ringgit of timber are extracted over the years, remain the poorest and the most under-developed regions of Sarawak,” he added. — DayakDaily