Deliberate Attempt By Opposition To Create Impression Of Favouritism

COMMENT: A number of recent plans and action taken by the Federal Government are deliberately being manipulated to create the perception that the Federal Government practices favouritism towards Peninsula Malaysia to the detriment of Sabah and Sarawak.

I am utterly disappointment at Sim Fui, the Liberal Democratic Party Youth chief for making an inappropriate statement which could potentially pit Sabah and Sarawak against Peninsula Malaysia for no good reason.

It seems there is a concentrated effort to create the perception that the Pakatan Harapan and Warisan political coalition is unreliable and favours development towards Peninsula Malaysia.

I am not sure what the intention is, but I think this sentiment is deliberately being played up despite it being absolutely untrue.

The acquiring of 15 highways in Kuala Lumpur for RM43 billion is merely a ‘plan’ and the same has not been approved yet. He fails to also mention that the Federal Government has also similar ‘plans’ for Sabah and Sarawak, including reviewing the annual grant to the Bornean states, paying the 40% net tax revenues, and also payment of the oil royalties, all of which are still similarly in the pipeline.

It is unnecessary to raise the issue of building the RM44 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in Peninsula Malaysia as being an issue of alleged ‘favouritism’ towards Peninsula Malaysia.

Under the Federal Constitution, in List IIA of the Ninth Schedule which is the Supplement to State List for State of Sabah and Sarawak, item 18 provides that Sabah Railways is a matter that the Sabah government has exclusive jurisdiction. Therefore the Federal Government has no jurisdictional power whatsoever to plan to build rail tracks in Sabah – it is for the Sabah government to plan and spend its own money.

Sim is barking up the wrong tree, and instead of claiming favouritism, he ought to call for fiscal decentralization so that the Sabah government would have more money to invest in train tracks and other development.

Regarding Sim’s allegation that the construction of the RM12.8 billion Pan Borneo Highway project in Sabah has commenced since 2016 but its completion was nowhere in sight due to long delays in awarding the remaining contracts for Pan Borneo Highway Sabah, it ought to be noted that Sabah began its first phase after the launch in April 2016, with 35 work packages worth RM12.8 billion to build 706km of roads, from Sindumin in southwest Sipitang to Tawau in the east coast.

Construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway is expected to be completed by 2025 in Sabah.

It is untrue that for the past one year there has been no new announcement on federal-funded infrastructure projects in Sabah as alleged by Sim. Works Minister Baru Bian had on 22 April 2019 announced that on top of the 12 packages, an additional 3 packages (from Sandakan to Telupid) will be awarded during the 5th rolling plan of the 11th Malaysia Plan (2015-2020) making it a total of 15 packages.

Then in June 2019, Baru Bian said the remaining 20 work packages for the Pan Borneo Highway Sabah will be carried out in the 12th Malaysia Plan (2020-2025).

All these shows that there is proper planning for the 35 packages for the Pan Borneo Highway Sabah all the way up to 2025. Perhaps Sim had unfortunately missed all these crucial announcements.

Regarding Putrajaya’s cancellation of the RM4 billion trans Sabah gas pipeline project which would supply gas to the east coast for power generation and industrialization despite having paid 88 per cent for the project, it should be noted that there is currently no natural gas-powered plant in Sandakan to make use of the natural gas to be fed by the gas pipeline.

Renewables, such as solar, biomass and biogas, should be the option since the east coast is full of big oil palm plantations.

As for the ‘small’ RM31.5 million skybridge in Kota Kinabalu, Sim should understand that it is a matter of principles and the size of the project does not mean that the Federal Government should bail out the developer as it would lead to a bad precedent to other developers who might end up abandoning their Public-Private Sector Collaboration development and expect the government to resolve them.

In any event, Petrofiq Sdn Bhd, the contractor for the KK skybridge project awarded during the BN government, did mention previously that they can complete the skybridge within a week once they have received their outstanding payments. Currently, the suspended skybridge project is under review and the Government would be holding discussions to resolve the matter.

* John Wong Yu Ling is Parliamentary Researcher to the Kota Kinabalu Member of Parliament