KUCHING, July 20 — The federal and Sarawak governments today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to pave the way for Sarawak to manage rural air services (RAS) in East Malaysia,
Speaking to reporters after the signing of the MoU, federal Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook said the takeover of the RAS will depend on the conclusion of the negotiation between Sarawak government and Khazanah Nasional Bhd on taking over MASwings.
He said for now the RAS is still being operated by MASwings and that the federal government will continue subsidising MASwings operations in Sarawak and Sabah amounting to RM210 million yearly.
“The subsidy will continue even after the Sarawak government has taken over MASwings from Khazanah Nasional and that is our commitment,” Loke said.
He said a fresh agreement to continue the subsidy will be signed once the state has taken over MASwings, and the current agreement on the subsidy expires at the end of next year.
“The MoU signed this afternoon is about our commitment to provide the subsidy to the rural air services in the event that Sarawak takes over MASwings. This MoU is important to give our commitment to Sarawak,” he said.
Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg also told reporters that the state government can take over MASwings with the support of the federal government, but the negotiation is still in progress with Khazanah Nasional.
“The takeover of MASwings by the state government will not only allow us to take over the Sarawak and Sabah routes, but also the regional routes,” he said.
He said one of the objectives of the takeover is to stabilise the airfares between Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, in addition to providing quality services at reasonably lower fares — rather than raking in profit.
“We want to take over MASwings with zero liability because we want to start with a clean slate,” he said.
Earlier in his speech at the signing of MoU, the premier said taking over the management of RAS will become the first step for the state government to move forward in more aggressive ways to expand rural connectivity and beyond.
He stressed that with the handing over of RAS management and the potential acquisition of MASwings Sdn Bhd, the state government is on the right track in setting up of Sarawak Airlines.
He said the state government is actively engaging with the federal Ministry of Transport and Khazanah for the acquisition.