Pelawan rep fumes as Uggah touches on agriculture subsidies

by Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 14: Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas today assured David Wong (DAP-Pelawan) that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government does not practise discrimination when distributing subsidies and allocations.

Wong, in trying to defend the plight of farmers in Sibu Division, lost his cool when seeking clarifications from Uggah on where exactly was the money allocated for agriculture subsidies for Sibu and the state, as a whole.

He claimed that farmers in Sibu were struggling with the high costs of farming but was frustrated to learn that the division was given only RM3 million when the ministry has hundreds of millions of ringgit in allocations from both state and federal levels.

Wong suddenly appeared to become agitated and raised his voice in the august House: “I am only helping the farmers. Do you have any problem with that? I am seeking clarification very nicely, and these people ‘kacau-kacau’ (disturb).

“Come on lah, you are the government of the day in Sarawak. I am seeking clarification only. Is there anything wrong with that? Do you have any issue with that? Stand up and open (sic) the mic,” he said.

Uggah responded by telling Wong that there was no need to be angry and observed that the opposition faction tended to stir trouble, even over petty matters.

“Apa ini,” added Uggah, as the floor erupted with laughter.

He explained that the money was with the state government and that the allocations mentioned in the winding-up speech were for 2019, which have yet to be distributed.

“So you pre-empt … you are just looking for an excuse to criticise us. Criticising without the need to study the plan of the projects. The money is with the state government and our coffer,” he said.

Uggah followed this up by stating his disappointment that the allocation for Sarawak in the federal budget had been reduced significantly.

“One of the allocations for ‘padi bukit’ (hill paddy) is zero for 2019. Can you talk to the federal government and tell them, blame them?” he asked Wong in return.

DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar then urged all lawmakers to listen carefully that Uggah, who is also a Deputy Chief Minister, in his winding-up speech covered the subject from crop to crop, livestock to livestock, instead of from division to division.

Echoing Asfia, Uggah added that the winding-up speech covered the entire state and not only Sibu, while pointing out that there were many other elected representatives from GPS and other opposition parties who had also appealed for more allocation for their areas.

“Sometimes, they don’t understand that the allocation can be with agencies like Recoda (Regional Corridor Development Authority). I have clarified (that the allocation is) for 2019, but I don’t have the figure for 2018 now,” he said and proceeded with delivering the rest of his winding-up speech.

Uggah stressing a point when responding to Wong, who interjected in the midst of Uggah delivering his winding-up speech. Screenshot taken from DUN media feed.

Earlier on, Uggah informed DUN that the budget approved for his Ministry in 2019 was intended to finance and support the various initiatives, programmes and projects that his ministry had planned for the transformation of agriculture and the rural economy.

The economic sectors include crop, livestock, fishery and agro-based industries.

The state government, he said, had allocated RM450.2 million in the 2019 budget to strengthen the agriculture sector.

“This amount is an increase of RM227 million or 101 per cent increase over the 2018 approved allocation.

“My ministry will adopt the key development strategies and approaches mentioned by the chief minister, including leveraging on opportunities offered by digital technology, focusing on investment-driven sector growth, recognising the private sector as the main engine for sector growth and striving to improve the effectiveness of the service delivery system,” he added.

Under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), he continued, his ministry was also allocated a sum of RM450.2 million to implement various agriculture and land development projects.

During the mid-term review of the 11MP in May 2018, the ceiling was increased to RM1.085 billion (58 per cent).

“The increase of the ceiling was to cater for various Social Economics Transformation Programmes (SETP) with an allocation of RM27.6 million, RM200 million for Agriculture Venture Capital, RM15 million for Digital Initiative Projects and RM168.5 million for Chief Minister Walkabout projects,” he said. — DayakDaily