Sabah, Sarawak granted more autonomy in administration

KOTA KINABALU: In keeping with his promise, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has granted Sabah and Sarawak more autonomy in their administration, including in deciding the priority of development projects in the states.

When speaking to the press after officially opening Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here yesterday, Najib said a joint committee comprising the state and federal governments would be set up to look into the issue of administrative empowerment.

He said this will ensure the devolution of power is smooth in terms of implementation and feasible in matters dealing with negotiations and preventing overlapping of functions between state and federal government agencies. The committee will first be set up in Sarawak after which it will be done in Sabah.

Najib said a major policy decision made with regards to the decentralisation of powers is ensuring that in three years’ time, 90 per cent of teachers in Sabah and Sarawak are locals from these two states.

He explained this is to ensure stability in the teaching force in the two states, adding although locals may have lower academic qualifications they can make up for it through additional training.

“One issue considered complicated is that there are too many teachers from Peninsular Malaysia posted to Sabah and Sarawak. Their posting is not long and also teachers with insufficient experience are posted to these two states.

“Thus the government has set a target to ensure that within three years 90 per cent of teachers in Sabah and Sarawak will be locals. At the moment 32,168 out of 41,935 teachers in Sarawak, are from Sarawak. In three years’ time, the number of local teachers in Sarawak is expected to increase by 5,914 to 38,082 people.

“The same target will be implemented for Sabah,” he said, adding that details on the other educational matters would be discussed in the joint committee.

Continuing, Najib said the federal government agreed that administrative empowerment to Sabah and Sarawak would be implemented in stages.

As a start, he said it would be implemented at all federal government agencies and departments so as to allow decision making at state-level by federal officers.

The state government, according to him, would be given a bigger role in deciding projects, especially on their priority and location. He also said evaluation of federal projects can now be done at the state level through a committee that includes the state secretary and representatives from the federal government.

In addition, interviews to fill posts in the civil service such as in the teaching profession and police among others in Sarawak would not only be done in specific towns but also in locations accessible to folk in the rural areas.

“The state counsel is also delegated with powers by the public prosecutor under the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) to prosecute offences under the State Ordinance. The federal government also agreed that to improve immigration enforcement in Sarawak, there will be vacancies for 100 officers,” he elaborated.

Furthermore, local authorities are now empowered with ‘warden traffic authority’ and allowed to use tyre clamps on vehicles at public roads and public parking lots, he added.

He also declared that Sabah and Sarawak governments would have a say in the approval and issuance of deep sea fishing permits.

For Sarawak, the premier announced the upgrading of Serian District Office to Serian Administrative Centre and the upgrading of Tebedu, Pusa, Kabung, Tanjung Manis, Sebauh, Subis and Bekenu sub-district offices to full district office.

In addition, two district offices, namely Telang Usan and Bukit Mabong as well as four sub-district offices in Baria, Tinjar, Long Bedian and Mulu would be set up, he said.

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