Budget funds fail to slake Sarawak thirst for more autonomy

Sim said that he was appreciative of funds for Sarawak, particularly to improve its schools, road network and water supply. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Sim said that he was appreciative of funds for Sarawak, particularly to improve its schools, road network and water supply. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, Oct 28 — Sarawak Barisan Nasional leaders celebrated allocations targeted at the state under Budget 2018, but Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) said greater autonomy would allow the state to better fend for itself.

SUPP president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian told Malay Mail Online that he was appreciative of funds for Sarawak, particularly to improve its schools, road network and water supply.

“Nevertheless, I still want to emphasise my constant stand that the ultimate financial panacea for Sarawak is to seek financial autonomy for Sarawak, like owning our oil fields and petroleum company, banking licences, having more say in regional flight connections,” he said

“I believe with financial autonomy, we can repair our dilapidated schools and hospitals much faster than depending on annual National Budget or Malaysia Plans to take notice of our Sarawakians’ needs,” he said.

Dr Sim, who is also the state local government and housing minister, said he believed autonomy was essential if Sarawak is ever to grow stronger and catch up with more developed states in the peninsula

Separately , PBB supreme council member and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jafaar said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak presented a comprehensive budget.

“Business incentives were given while workers are to be taken care of too. While students and graduates are being taken care, budget also provides for women, children, physically challenged persons, the aged,” he added.

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Masing said the RM1 billion allocation for repairing dilapidated schools in Sarawak showed that Putrajaya was acknowledging Sarawak’s need for quality education.

“Before Najib became prime minister, Sarawak’s education had been sidelined,” the deputy chief minister said.

Masing also said the RM30 million for the surveying of native customary rights (NCR) land in Sarawak demonstrated Putrajaya’s sensitivity in the matter.

“Sarawak Land and Survey Department has to work harder to ensure that the RM30 million is spent for this purpose, and the Natives of Sarawak must not be the obstacles to have their land survey,” he said.

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