KOTA KINABALU, Sept 17 — Sabah and Sarawak should capitalise on their abundant land if they wish to raise their income, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
When asked about the lack of benefits and “goodies” for Sabah and Sarawak in his Malaysia Day speech in Kuching last night, Dr Mahathir said that the two east Malaysian states were actually richer than many states in the peninsula.
“We want to review our policy on agriculture — modern agriculture which can ensure that people in the rural areas can also become rich,” he said.
He explained that there were no specific “goodies” for the two Malaysian states as they would come together with all the states.
“Now Sabah and Sarawak are actually much richer than many of the states in the peninsula so we want to stress something that Sabah and Sarawak has — a lot of land. We want to review our agriculture policy into modern agriculture,” he said.
When further pressed that Sabahans needed funds in order to develop and deserved more because of its contribution, Dr Mahathir said that the north Borneo state “is not the poorest state” in the country.
“Sabah is not the poorest state. The poorest states are Perlis and Kedah. Sabah is going to become the richest state in the whole country once the oil, deep water wells yield product,” he said.
He said that Putrajaya would like to give more money to Sabah but could not because of its huge debts.
“We have RM1 trillion of debts. Most of our revenue is going towards paying back these debts. Our debts were taken by Datuk Seri Najib. We are lacking funds so we have to spend wisely. We have to prioritise our expenditure, and decide what we give money to, while others we have to give less,” he said.
In last night’s speech, Dr Mahathir said that they were still committed to negotiating rights accorded to Sabah and Sarawak according to the Malaysian Agreement 1963 but did not spell out any specific goodies for the states, which caused a lot of disappointment for both the leaders and the people who were looking forward to some good news.
Last year, Dr Mahathir promised to give Sabah and Sarawak equal status and restore the rights of the two states which have been gradually eroded over the years.
Dr Mahathir is on a one-day visit to Sabah after spending the day in Kuching, Sarawak yesterday in conjunction with Malaysia Day.
Earlier, he met Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal privately before meeting the rest of the state Cabinet.
Dr Mahathir, who is also chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, later had lunch with the party’s Sabah chapter.