New Deal may be back on the table

Abang Johari (third right) together with other invited dignitaries stirring a pot of 'bubur lambuk' to launch the 'bubur lambuk' distribution event at the State Mosque, Petra Jaya this afternoon.

KUCHING, May 18: With the proposed formation of a new state coalition in the pipeline, the Sarawak government is now focused in getting down to the business of remaining relevant to the administration of the state.

This would mean working closely with the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government, which may include reconsidering the New Deal Agreement delivered by state PH to the Chief Minister’s office late last month prior to the election (GE14), based on a comment made by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg today.

Although the proposed meeting involving all state Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties in Sarawak has not been held yet nor the dates determined to discuss their position in BN, and probably to form a new coalition of Sarawak-based parties, Abang Johari indicated that it would be done after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

On May 16, he said only after meeting all state BN component parties and through unanimous agreement, then could a decision be made to either stay in BN or form a new coalition, after chairing a Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) meeting.

Today after officiating at a Ramadan event at the State Mosque, he was asked if other Sarawak-based political parties that were not BN could join the proposed coalition. Such parties would encompass the United People’s Party (UPP), Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak Baru (PBDSB) and State Reform Party (Star).

“Hold on, let us go through Ramadan (fasting month) first,” he replied.

But when asked on the New Deal Agreement offer, which state PH chairman Chong Chieng Jen said was off the table the moment the election started during a press conference earlier this week, Abang Johari replied: “Later I’ll tackle this.”

The reply seemed to indicate that the state government may be willing to relook at or reconsider the agreement based on its own terms.

The New Deal Agreement offer letter was delivered by Chong along with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) state chairman Baru Bian on April 26 to the Chief Minister’s office at Wisma Bapa Malaysia.

The New Deal was not contingent on Sarawak having a PH-friendly government, only that the state ‘must first agree to accept the transfer’.

The letter also stated: “In the event that we, Pakatan Harapan, shall form the Federal Government in the coming 14th General Elections, the NEW DEAL shall be what the Pakatan Harapan Federal Government offers to Sarawak and the Sarawak State Government. There is no need for further negotiation.”

Since there had not been any reply from the state government since, Chong during a press conference on May 16 declared that the deal was off, saying that it had passed the deadline, and it would be dangerous to devolve power to the state government who might misuse it for political vengeance.

On another note, Abang Johari said Sarawak BN Members of Parliament (MPs) would receive allocations similar to those received by state BN assemblymen.

This would mean annually each state BN MP would receive RM1 million as Minor Rural Project (MRP) funds, RM5 million as Rural Transformation Programme (RTP) funds and RM250,000 for the MP’s service centre.

“It’s just like DUN (Dewan Undangan Negri members),” said Abang Johari.

The allocations would be given by the state government in addition to what the federal PH government would give them later. — DayakDaily