By Karen Bong
KUCHING, April 17: The federal government’s inconsistency in decision-making can make future state-federal collaborations arduous and more troublesome.
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong noted these challenges as he referred to the latest U-turn by Putrajaya on Sarawak government’s RM1 billion contra deal to repair dilapidated schools in the state.
“It looks like it (will affect future arrangements with the federal government), but we are still hopeful. So, I’m making my preparations to meet the Minister of Education (Maszlee Malik),” he told reporters when met after Swinburne Sarawak Campus’ graduation ceremony here today.
“I will be making an appointment to meet the minister, and I’ve prepared my letter. We will try to meet as soon as he is available, perhaps sometime end of the month,” he revealed.
On his confidence to break the deadlock on the issue, Manyin said he was optimistic of a positive outcome from the meeting and discussion with the Ministry of Education.
“We just pray. We always think positive. Be an optimist, not a pessimist. We preempt that it will work out.
“We will discuss and make an appeal because it is very pitiful for the many schools in Sarawak, which are in a dilapidated state while many needed to be relocated as they have been affected by floods all the time and the situation are very bad,” he said.
In explaining the federal loan contra deal that has turned sour, Manyin said the federal government insisted that the RM1 billion loan payment be taken solely as an ‘advance payment’ to debts owed by the state.
“The RM1 billion is not a contra but to be paid in full to Putrajaya in advanced so that it will become an annual budget in the future,” he said.
Elaborating on the issue, Manyin reiterated that Sarawak actually did not need to offer a contra deal for the RM1 billion because the allocation had been approved under the 2018 Budget by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
“And that was supposed to be divided into two, with RM500 million for 2018 and RM500 million for 2019. They should be over and above the annual budget, but that was not honoured by PH (Pakatan Harapan) government,” he lamented.
Hence, he explained, the state government initially negotiated with the federal government to offer the RM1 billion as a loan, but it did not get a positive reply.
“So, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg then offered the RM1 billion to contra with the debts of RM2.3 billion owed by the state, which both parties reached an agreement on following Maszlee’s visit to Sarawak and meeting the chief minister in February this year,” he said.
The RM1 billion proposed formed part of Sarawak’s annual progress payment that would be deducted from the state government’s debt with Putrajaya.
“The idea is to retain the money in Sarawak, but a week later, our staff were called to Putrajaya and that’s when they made the U-turn,” he added.
There are more than 1,000 schools in Sarawak that are considered dilapidated, with over 400 in critical condition. While this issue must be addressed by both state and federal governments, education is under the purview of Putrajaya. — DayakDaily