BETONG: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is willing to offer RM1 billion loan to the federal government to rebuild dilapidated schools throughout Sarawak if the Ministry of Education is facing fund shortage.
Abang Johari made the offer when officiating at the state-level Teachers Day celebration at Tan Sri Datuk Amar Kalong Ningkan hall here yesterday.
“I don’t want Sarawak to be isolated from development that is taking place worldwide now. I have suggested to them why not use our funds first but you must pay back. I offered RM1 billion, but the previous federal government said they had money. I hope the new government will continue with the pledge to upgrade our dilapidated schools.
“We cannot wait for too long and if they cannot afford, I am willing to give them loan of RM1 billion to develop these dilapidated schools. This is not politics, this is about the needs of our children,” he stressed.
The Chief Minister also said he could not understand why the Education Ministry was not taking proactive measures to connect schools to available power grid but chose to use diesel-powered generators.
“I visited one school in Bintulu affected by the recent flood and found that the school is in very close proximity to power transformer but they chose to use diesel powered generator, very illogical – something which is not right,” he said.
This, he added, seems to be a plot to enrich diesel suppliers at the expense of the poor children who were deprived of the most basic needs of modern day education.
“If the federal education ministry agrees, we will connect these schools with the state power grid. If they need RM50 million, I will approve RM50 million to get it done for the sake of rural children,” he said.
The Chief Minister also could not comprehend why the federal government was not taking any serious measure to address such predicament and lamented that something was not very right.
“Why? There is cable, power source is very near but they did not connect. Something very stupid, forgive me for using the word stupid but I cannot understand such a stupid move to use diesel when there is regular power supply available.”
To add insult to injury, the price of diesel is on the upward trend which definitely would cause the government more money despite Sarawak being very rich in hydropower.
“After all, we are a power producer – we have Bakun, Murum, Batang Ai, Baleh – there is abundance of power, I cannot understand why rural schools are without power. Something is…I don’t know what to say. I am not angry but I cannot get it,” he said.
Touching on water supply issues faced by the rural schools, Abang Johari admitted that Sarawak was facing serious water supply problem now.
“I must admit that. We are facing water supply problem throughout Sarawak. I have instructed the water supply department to do a new water grid but this will take a very long time.
“Raw water will come from our dams like Batang Ai, Bakun, Murum, etc channelled via big pipes but this will take time. For stressed areas, the Sarawak government has approved RM2 billion to fast-track water supply for rural areas,” he said.
On the request by Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin for emergency funds totalling RM9 million to connect rural schools to existing water grid, the Chief Minister said the Sarawak government had decided not to wait for federal funds.
“We cannot wait for federal fund and Sarawak government has approved the request to connect the identified rural schools to the state water grid,” he said.
Among those present were the Chief Minister’s wife Datin Patinggi Datuk Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, former deputy chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and Education Department director Rakayah Madon.