By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Nov 14: The Sarawak Legislative Assembly was told today that the state government would be asking for 100 per cent of the tax revenue from Sarawak to be returned to the state — not 50 per cent.
In his winding-up speech, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the original financial plan for Malaysia was that the federal government would take the income and other tax revenue from Sarawak and spend it on Sarawak on matters of national interests, such as law and order, security, education and public health.
“Along the way, the federal government had also taken away our rights over our oil and gas as well as deep sea marine fishery resources. As a result, much of Sarawak is underdeveloped, and we have to rely on the exploitation of our land-based resources for our own development, leading to unwanted environmental issues.
“On such serious matters, Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak had the audacity to make a pre-election offer of 20 per cent oil royalty and 50 per cent of all taxes collected in Sarawak be given to the Sarawak government to spend on education and healthcare.
“The 20 per cent oil royalty was and is our demand and not a gift from them. Furthermore, they do not even know how to define the oil royalty properly. On income and other tax revenue, in fact, we would insist on 100 per cent of the revenue from Sarawak be returned to Sarawak for our government spending, not just 50 per cent,” he said.
Abang Johari said when Sarawak talked about autonomy, it was about the devolution of power and its financial implications.
“We are not foolish to accept political and economic autonomy without properly looking into the financial aspects. Autonomy means access to our financial resources and spending them according to our goals,” he said.
He said Anak Sarawak was made up by at least 26 ethnic groups with 2.8 million in terms of population, but Sarawakians have their own unique brand of humanity that only those who are born in Sarawak could truly understand.
“There are, unfortunately, those among us Sarawakians who, in pursuit of their ambition for power, discard their loyalty to Sarawak and open a back door for our enemies from among our so-called ‘friends’ to enter into Sarawak politics.
“In this regard, it may be urgent and important that we encourage the formation of new opposition parties that are truly Sarawak-based and who are not affiliated in any way to non-Sarawakian or foreign political parties to participate in Sarawak politics.
“For us, GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak), we are truly Sarawak-based and helmed by only Sarawakians. We need to garner more educated and clever young men and women to be involved in politics so that our political future may be strengthened against incursions by foreign interests,” he said.
He added that in Sarawak today, there were no 100-per cent Sarawak-based opposition parties. Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak is only the Sarawak chapter of the national Pakatan Harapan, which is based in Peninsular Malaysia.
PH Sarawak, Abang Johari pointed out, had very little say over national policies on behalf of Sarawak.
“We have learnt from our history the danger of Sarawak parties being too closely aligned with peninsula-based parties, such as to be subservient to national politics.
“This is one loop-hole in such a national party concept. Sarawakians do not want Sarawak chapters of national parties to take up positions of political power in Sarawak. Neither do they want non-Sarawakians to influence Sarawak behind the scenes. In the context of PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu), we have all along objected to Umno spreading its wings to Sarawak, and this will remain our policy,” he said.
Abang Johari insisted that he was not wrong in barring certain non-Sarawakians from entering the state because he knew they would come here to stir up trouble and disunite the people.
“The risk of disruptive elements to our peace and harmony is one good reason why I will not relinquish the right of Sarawak to control our immigration policy,” he pointed out.
Editor’s note: The first paragraph has been amended to specify that it is the return of tax revenue being sought and not just revenue.