KUCHING: It is high time for Sarawak to be politically independent in order to be able to stand up for its rights and pursue its development priorities, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
The Chief Minister said this in his speech in Kuala Lumpur last night when officiating a Gawai Dayak and Hari Raya Aidilfitri dinner involving members of Sarawak’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) based in the Klang Valley at a restaurant in the federal capital.
He was accompanied by his wife Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang.
He said Sarawak could not be subservient to the “big brother” anymore in deciding its development direction as the state would always lose out because of the need to make decisions based on consensus.
“This is the reason we left BN (Barisan Nasional) and decided to be on our own.
“Its time for Sarawak to stand on its own feet and decide its priorities based on its needs,” he told the 700 odd members of the NGOs at the dinner.
The NGOs included Hikmah, Federal Territory Branch, Song Kapit Welfare Association, Dayak Transformation Association (Trada), Pasar Borneo Sri Kembangan Traders Association, Sarawak Diaspora Network Association, Borneo Semenanjung Association and Serian Foundation, Kuala Lumpur Branch.
Abang Johari expressed his belief that GPS government had managed Sarawak well and the recent decision by the federal government to work with Sarawak government through a joint committee to ensure effective implementation of projects was a testament of Sarawak’s ability to administer itself.
He said Sarawak’s priority was to develop its infrastructure, physical and cyber, in order to enhance its connectivity and to spread out development statewide, particularly in the interior of Sarawak.
Out of the record budget of RM11 billion for this, RM7 billion was allocated for implementation of infrastructure and economic projects in the rural areas, he reiterated.
Implementation of the coastal highway and the setting up of agencies under Recoda, namely the Upper Rejang Development Agency (URDA), the Highland Development Agency (HDA) and the Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA) were part of the overall effort to enhance Sarawak’s connectivity and economic status, he said.
“Even though the federal government is under PH (Pakatan Harapan) and Sarawak under GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak), we are working together, and we form a joint committee to monitor federal projects’ implementation in Sarawak under the joint chair of the Federal Minister of Works Baru Bian and Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.
“Thus they (federal government) have to take into consideration our priorities,” he pointed out.
On the development of the Malaysia Agreement (MA63) negotiations, he described the progress as “going on well”.
He said Sarawak had insisted that “pursuant to MA63” be inserted in the recent attempt to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to ensure that Sarawak would not lose its rights.
He said Article 60 defined the states of the federation as being the states established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957 and thus might make MA63 irrelevant in the court of law.
Kapit MP Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi and Petra Jaya MP Dato Sri Fadillah Yusof who co-chaired the organising committee also spoke.
Also present were Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Integrity and Ombudsman) Datuk Talip Zulpilip and other MPs from GPS.