KUCHING: The Pakatan Harapan (PH)’s maiden budget does not have much to say about Sarawak aside from announcing a general allocation of over RM4 billion in development funds, says Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also United People’s Party (SUPP) president.
According to him, the word ‘Sarawak’ was only mentioned five times by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng during the tabling of the national budget in Parliament on Friday.
“This is a glaring contrast to the previous government in practice whereby the previous government would always designate a separate chapter or section to specifically list down all the allocations of funds, benefits, policies and projects for Sarawak,” he said when asked to comment on the budget.
Dr Sim also observed that Sarawak’s equal partner status in the Federation of Malaysia had not been respected.
“There’s a Chapter 3 of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report 1962 dedicated to all the safeguards for Sarawak’s rights and position when forming Malaysia,” he said.
“Accordingly the Federal Constitution also provides specific chapters and articles to stipulate special financial, rights and autonomy for both Sabah and Sarawak.”
Moreover, Dr Sim said during the 14th general election campaign, PH also set aside a separate ‘pillar’ of promises for Sabah and Sarawak in their ‘Buku Harapan’ (manifesto), promising to ensure prosperity to the people of Sabah and Sarawak by closing the development gap between Peninsular Malaysia and the two Bornean states, as well as specific attention to be given to education and healthcare.
However, under National Budget 2019, Sarawak had been shrunk to the status of a mere state without its own chapter, he argued.
“With the operational expenditures for education and healthcare expected to be increased to RM55.1 billion and RM26.5 billion, respectively, it is totally unknown to Sarawakians whether we are part of the beneficiaries of the increased expenditures – or we are being marginalised in 2019,” he stressed.
“The National Budget 2019, therefore, constitutes a prelude that is so bleak to Sarawakians that we cannot see any glimpse of hope in the forthcoming meetings of the (Malaysia Agreement 1963) Steering Committee conducted by the PH government to review and restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners in Malaysia.
“Let’s listen to our fellow Sarawakians’ response,” said Dr Sim, expressing disappointment over what he claimed as the ‘marginalisation of Sarawak’ by the PH.