KUCHING, Oct 3: Sarawak has allocated about RM20 million this year for the construction and repair of houses of worship, including grants in support of projects by non-Muslim bodies.
A total of RM15.87 million was approved under Phase 1 last May and were channelled through the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) — which comes under the purview of the Chief Minister’s Office — for the implementation of 206 projects that benefitted various religions and denominations across the state.
Another RM3.57 million has been approved under Phase 2 for the implementation of 20 projects. The remaining RM560,000, for projects under Phase 3, is expected to be disbursed by the end of the month.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas presented cheques totalling RM1.82 million to 10 organisations for projects under Phase 2 at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here today.
Cheques amounting to RM1.75 million to support nine projects have been given earlier to the respective bodies.
“All religious committees of their respective houses of worships must ensure the approved allocations are used wisely.
“The state government set up this unit (Unifor) with the notion that houses of worships needed funds for repair works, upgrade as well as new construction. There are many houses of worships across the state that are in dilapidated state and need repairs. Some even need new buildings to cater for the increasing congregation but lack of funds was the main problem,” Uggah, who is also the minister-in-charge of the unit, said at the cheque presentation ceremony.
Among the project allocations for Phase 2 included RM200,000 for the building of St Margaret’s Chapel at Bayai, Sri Aman; RM100,000 for the new building of Gereja Baru St Giles Parish in Batu Niah, Miri; and RM150,000 to repair and upgrade St Anna Church at Kampung Jugan, Bau.
In Serian, RM300,000 was allocated to build a new SDA Church in Semukoi, while RM250,000 was allocated to St Luangga Church, Kpg Bintawa Sungai Barie and St Matthew Church, Kpg Sebangkui.
Other project allocations included RM100,000 for the construction of fences and carpark of Methodist Centennial Park (Retreat Centre) in Sibu and RM200,000 for BEM Kuching Evangelical Church to acquire new plots of land for its cemetery ground catering for churches in the southern Sarawak region.
Uggah said applications for land to build new houses of worships needed to be sent to the unit for submission to the Land and Survey Department.
“We understand that every religious body want to own their own building for the congregation, and this is one of Unifor’s policy that we strive to implement,” he added.
He reminded non-Muslim religious bodies that Unifor was also a forum to discuss issues faced by various religions in Sarawak, especially on how the government could provide assistance and improve on its policies.
Uggah also advised state elected representatives to identify issues faced by non-Muslim religious bodies at their respective constituencies and bring them to the attention of Unifor.
On a separate note, he said a three-acre piece of land had been identified at Jalan Ong Tiang Swee here for the building of Unifor’s office. — DayakDaily