By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Feb 16: The Sarawak government will spare no effort, including bearing the cost, to bring home the 40 Sarawakians who have been freed after being detained for 65 days at Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison in Cambodia.
Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state government was now discussing with the relevant parties to get ready the facility to bring the 33 from Kuching, six from Sibu and one from Sarikei back.
“I think (they would be flown home) tomorrow or the day after … within these two days,” the chief minister told a press conference after chairing the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Supreme Council meeting at party headquarters today.
He added that Minister of Welfare, Community Well-Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah, who is currently on a mission in Cambodia together with Santubong MP Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, has been given the mandate to do all that are deemed necessary.
On whether the state government would bear the costs to fly them home, Abang Johari replied: “Ya … and if they are supposed to appear before the court, we will provide the legal counsel (to assist them). It is already unfortunate for them as they were promised US$1,500 monthly salary. They are innocent people.”
He extended his sincere thanks to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, Prak Sokhonn, for releasing the Sarawakians, who are victims of a scam.
“I also want to extend my thanks to Putrajaya. We have been working quietly because we need to follow international protocols between the government of both countries (Malaysia and Cambodia).
“As the state government, we abide with and respect the protocol and in turn to be able to achieve this good outcome for all parties, especially the Sarawakian detainees who have been freed at last.”
According to Khmer Times, the consular staffs of the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia had been working since early this morning to complete the paperwork, including emergency travel documents, for the 47 Malaysians (40 from Sarawak, 4 from West Malaysia and 3 from Sabah) so that all of them could catch the first flight out at 8.30am to Kuala Lumpur from Siem Reap tomorrow.
In addition, the Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry has been working closely with the Transport Ministry and AirAsia to secure seats for all the detainees.
Meanwhile, on the PBB Supreme Council meeting, Abang Johari said discussions were focussed on what needed to be done for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to move forward as there were many requests from the grassroots of wanting to come together to promote GPS’s new hornbill logo as well as the coalition’s struggles and objectives.
“That apart, we discussed about the economic plans now being implemented in Sarawak under Budget 2019 and will last until 2020, which is the final year of the 11th Malaysia Plan. The implementation is progressing well currently.
“We will also roll out our basic infrastructure projects for rural areas, particularly water and electricity supply. The people also welcome the incentives for newborns as well as the subsidies for students to fly home to join their families for festivities.”
PBB, he pointed out, would continue with efforts to take care of the welfare of the people with funds from the state government.
On the ongoing negotiations under the Steering Committee for Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), Abang Johari reiterated Sarawak remained firm on its stand, especially on the four non-negotiable matters, namely (1) immigration autonomous power, (2) rights to enforce state law in accordance with the Federal Constitution (Land Code), (3) state border protection, and (4) sovereignty over the sea, underground and its natural resources within the state. — DayakDaily