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By Nigel Edgar
KUCHING, Nov 16: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has hit back at critics who had been accusing the state government of neglecting its schools, particularly in the rural areas.
He said the state is prepared to spend RM82 million next year to continue the repairs and rebuilding of dilapidated schools, which included provision of clean water and electricity supply, for the benefit of students and teachers.
This despite education being a federal matter, he added.
“We are taking the initiative to repair these dilapidated schools ourselves using our own fund, but this does not mean the federal government is relieved of its duty to ensure that educational facilities in Sarawak are in good condition.
“Education is a federal matter and Putrajaya cannot shy away from its responsibility to provide quality facilities for students and teachers in Sarawak,” Abang Johari said at SMK St Teresa “Let’s Rebuild St Teresa” Grand Dinner 2018 here today.
His text-of-speech was read out by Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong.
Abang Johari said now is the time for Sarawakians to decide on their own destiny, considering that the last 55 years, they have more or less let others chart their future, thinking that others can be trusted.
“Starting from now, ‘anak Sarawak’, our students in particular, must study and work hard to acquire knowledge to the highest possible level so that they can contribute effectively and meaningfully to the state’s development.
“We must help ourselves and stop relying on others entirely to help us,” he said.
On that note, Abang Johari pointed out that Sarawak, being the largest region in terms of landmass in the Federation of Malaysia, only received 7.94 per cent of the total development budget for 2019 from Putrajaya compared to 9.42 per cent this year.
He said this would be insufficient to accelerate the pace of development in Sarawak.
“What is even more disheartening is that there is no specific mention in the national budget that the federal government is setting aside any allocation to repair and rebuild the 1,020 dilapidated schools found all over Sarawak,” Abang Johari lamented.
He added: “Putrajaya has not been generous to us of late although they are happily tapping away into our oil and gas resources to fill the national coffer. We are left with no choice but to look for a new source of income based on the power accorded to Sarawak in the Federal Constitution.”
As such, the state government has decided to impose a five per cent sales tax on petroleum products that are meant for export as new sources of revenue for Sarawak.
“We are expecting an extra income of RM3.9 billion from this new revenue stream that shall go back to the ‘rakyat’ in the long list of infrastructure and utilities projects that we have lined up for implementation all over the state,” he said. — DayakDaily