KUCHING, July 18 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg today said that the state government is taking a neutral and friendly position in its relationship with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government.

He said taking such a position is in the interest of the state and the people.

“The formation of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) allows the state government to work closely with the PH federal government, especially on development and economic programmes so that the well-being of Sarawakians can be taken care of,” he said in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak State Assembly here.

He said Sarawak, although under a different political coalition, will still be influenced by the national policies of the federal government.

“These national policies concern the federal budget and the allocation of funds for development, education and healthcare, order and security,  the interest rate, the exchange rate, the bank lending policy, and many others.

“With constant engagement, we wish to convince the new federal government that what it is trying to accomplish at the national level can also be achieved by the Sarawak government at the state level,” he said.

The chief minister added that the state government’s prime target is to safeguard the interest of the State and to protect state’s rights as enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution and Malaysia Agreement, 1963.

He said the state ruling parties, when they were components of the Barisan Nasional, had no complete freedom to speak for Sarawak as they were obliged to observe the decisions by the coalition’s whip.

“This negated the freedom to act on Sarawak’s interests,” he said.

Abang Johari maintained that GPS will not be the old Barisan Nasional encased in new skin, but is a coalition of patriotic Sarawak parties regrouping and adjusting themselves to a new paradigm being set by the PH federal government.