KUCHING, Oct 13: When Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg next sits down with Putrajaya to discuss Sarawak’s rights as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and in the Federal Constitution, he will say only one thing — Sarawak wants all her rights back.
“Sarawak and Sabah are now finding a fast and amicable solution to get back our rights in full as what was signed by our leaders in 1963.
“No more, no less. We will not agree with anything less,” he said when delivering a special address at Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s 82nd birthday celebration in Sibu today.
On the state’s natural resources, for instance, Abang Johari said the revised Oil and Mining Ordinance 1958 gave the state full autonomy over its oil and gas.
“Others can develop our natural resources and gas, but they cannot do so unless they have a licence issued by the state of Sarawak under Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros),” he said.
On another matter, Abang Johari made it clear that his administration was not “deaf and dumb” to the plights of the rural populace.
“We are not deaf and dumb to these problems that our people are facing in the rural areas.
“If I have my way, I would like to see that everything is implemented overnight or tomorrow, but there are rules and processes that we must adhere to before any project can take off the ground,” he explained.
He asserted that the state’s development budget had always been rural-biased.
“It has to be rural biased because we need to provide the infrastructure and amenities to our people in the rural areas to enable them to enjoy a comfortable life, like others in the towns and cities.
“Of course, after so many years, we still have pockets of areas where our people still do not have access to clean water and 24-hour supply of electricity,” he noted.
He added that even in Kuching itself, certain areas still do not have piped water, while certain parts of Belaga do not have electricity from the grid even though they are located near to the mammoth Bakun hydroelectric dam.
Abang Johari said his recent announcement on the water supply projects costing RM2.8 billion throughout the state was to make sure that all these projects would be completed within these two years.
“I have also announced hundreds of million ringgit worth of roads and bridges all over the state to ease travel and enhance linkage in the rural areas, “he reiterated.
These include building the Marudi bridge, Long Lama bridge (almost completed) Kota Samarahan bridge and a bridge in Bako.
Song and Kapit, he pointed out, were now connected, but Kanowit and Song have yet to be fully linked. A bridge across Batang Balleh in Kapit and the Kuala Kemena bridge in Bintulu would be tendered out soon. Then there is Belaga-Menjawah.
“The new federal government might want to cancel a number of projects as they have already indicated, but Sarawak can still cope as our financial position is quite strong,” he said.
Abang Johari commended all the chief ministers before him, including Taib, for ensuring that the state spent prudently and save for the future.
On economic sustainability, he said Sarawak anticipated a steady economic growth of between 4 per cent and 4.5 per cent for this year. Last year, the growth rate was 4.7 per cent due to the strengthening of the global economy.
“The state’s total trade improved to RM137.6 billion, as our exports grew strongly in tandem with the economic improvements in other parts of the world.
“Our GDP per capita stood at RM49,327 or about USD12,000 at current value. This year, the higher commodities prices are expected to support our export growth.
“There remains the downside risk created by the current trade war between China and US, which may also have some impact on the state’s trade, but we hope for the best,” he said.
To sustain growth, he said the state would continue to enhance and focus on economic growth.
“We cannot depend heavily only on our oil and gas sector and our agricultural commodities as they are subjected to fluctuations in the global market. We have to add more value to our products and create more downstream activities to support higher economic growth,” he added.
He reiterated that to continue progressing, there was a need to transform the state into a digital economy.
“We need to embrace technological changes to be competitive and create more economic value to our products and services and move away from a conventional approach,” he said. — DayakDaily