KOTA KINABALU: Joniston Bangkuai, the Kiulu Assemblyman has called on the State government to consider increasing the annual allocation for non-Muslim bodies.
He said a bigger allocation was necessary as many non-Muslim places of worship as well as Mission and independent school buildings are in a dilapidated condition and need urgent repair.
Noting that under the 2018 State budget a sum of RM32 million would be allocated for non-Muslim bodies, Mission schools and independent schools, Joniston suggested that the grant be increased to between RM35 million to RM40 million.
“Sabah has quite a sizeable non-Muslim population and it is heartening that the State government recognised their needs,” he said when debating the 2018 State Budget Tuesday.
He also said that as a non-Muslim Assemblyman, he is thankful to Musa Aman, the Chief Minister for consistently providing annual allocation to non-Muslim bodies.
Joniston said he is aware that the allocation for non-Muslim bodies has increased over the years from only RM7.08 million in 2004 to RM32 million this year.
“I believe the allocation is also a reflection that religious freedom in Sabah is very much alive,” Joniston said.
On another matter, Joniston thanked the Chief Minister for recognising Kiulu together with Kedamaian as pilot project for rural tourism development.
He said the recognition is apt as the number of visitors to Kiulu has seen a drastic increase over the last three years following concerted efforts to promote rural tourism.
Figures provided by the Kiulu Tourism Association showed that a total of 27,000 visitors came to Kiulu last year and between January to September this year nearly 40,000 visitors were recorded generating revenue of RM3 million.
He described the RM12 million special allocation under the 2018 State budget for tourism development, with special focus to rural tourism, as most appropriate.
Considering the booming tourism development in Kiulu, Joniston suggested the expansion of the Kiulu township by building new shophouses and commercial premises.
Joniston said to realise the expansion of the Kiulu township entails the need to speed up the construction of the Bayag bridge.
He also called for a study to determine the suitability of Kiulu to be made a sub-district.
On another issue, Joniston wants the government to upgrade all the roads to remote primary schools in Kiulu which become inaccessible during heavy rains.