Tiong laments council has no planning authority

Datuk Tiong Thai King

VARIOUS problems arise in Sibu because the local authority has no planning authority.

The local authority which provides the services then gets blamed by the public for not being able to solve issues caused by development which is not really well planned, said Datuk Tiong Thai King (UPP-Dudong) when participating in the debate on the motion of appreciation to the address by the Head of State in the august house yesterday.

He cited some examples over the matter.

“For instance, Jalan Ulu Sungai Merah cannot accommodate the rapid development of residential and commercial areas thus causing massive jam every day. Besides, some of the building extensions are really causing eyesore.

“For example one side of a semi-detached house is even extended to three storeys. The application of such extension was rejected by the local council but it was approved by higher authority,” he pointed out.

“One of the worst cases was found at Jalan Pedada whereby an existing road has been approved for an additional shop lot attached to the existing commercial building.

“When the local authority took action against the extension, only then they came to know that it was approved by the higher authority as shown by the developer.

“This approval has affected the planning of the local council to widen the main road next to it as the road reserve becomes narrow. So people have to face the consequences of using a small main road with high volume of traffic,” he added.

Tiong said he wished the Sibu Municipal Council has the planning authority in development so that the main major road is constructed before the development takes place.

A master plan is needed to make sure town planning is organised; therefore it is very important for the local council to have planning authority to avoid similar negative consequences and also, so that Sibu can move forward to achieve city status, he pointed out.

Planning authority in Sarawak used to be under the prerogative of the local council before it was taken over by the State Planning Authority (SPA) during the 1970s.

Tiong said he would like to appeal to the Sarawak government to consider seriously the possibility of letting local councils deal with planning matters in their respective jurisdiction.

“We have nothing against the SPA but I believe that the local councils, municipal councils and major divisional district councils know best the needs and aspirations of those areas under their respective jurisdiction. Planning authority in other states in Malaysia is all vested in the respective local councils,” he said.

On another matter, Tiong said the Sibu aviation service should not be categorised under the Rural Air Service (RAS) because Sibu Airport is the 10th busiest airport in Malaysia and the third busiest in Sarawak, while its upgraded terminal is the second largest in Sarawak after Kuching International Airport.

“The (Sibu) terminal can even accommodate up to 1.8 million passengers annually but it is so disappointing to note that Sibu aviation service is still under the category of RAS since 2007. It is with much regret (also) to note that last year, the federal government extended its RAS concession with MASwings to 2024,” he said.

“The Ministry of Transport defines the RAS as a non-economical aviation service to provide access to the interior of Sabah and Sarawak where air transport is the primary form of connectivity to the outside world. But Sibu is an urban town, not the interior of Sarawak. Therefore Sibu aviation service should not be under the category of RAS,” he argued.

The government fully bears the cost of operating the RAS route by way of subsidies and aircraft rental payments. The annual subsidy bill for the seven-year period up to 2024 is about RM190 million, according to the ministry.

“But surprisingly the air fares from Sibu to any destination are much more expensive than any other towns. It is not only unreasonable but unfair. At the same time, it is a great disadvantage to boost tourism industry in Sibu,” Tiong said.

Tiong supports the government’s investment in a low cost carrier terminal (LCCT) for Sarawak.

With the LCCT facility, Sarawak will become a regional low cost carrier hub and catalyst of development apart from setting it to be an integral part of the transportation development masterplan by connecting the terminal area to the proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, he said.

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