BY ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: The Warisan-led government will be presenting RM35 million in grants to some 956 non-Muslim religious bodies and schools in Sabah starting this Friday (Oct 18).
Speaking to reporters, Assistant Finance Minister Kenny Chua said the approved applications this year recorded the most numbers – 291 for non-Muslim schools compared to 275 last year, and 665 religious bodies comprising churches and temples compared to 279 in 2018.
“We are seeing a significant increase in the applications for financial aid this year, which is more than 100 per cent.
“This shows that recommendations from the government have been heard and responded by the all the non-Muslim religious bodies and schools throughout the state,” he said at Sabah Government Administrative building (PPKS) on Wednesday, adding that the special financial aid this year is maintained at RM35 million, the same as last year.
According to Chua, who is the chairman of the committee in charge of the evaluation, the government is especially paying extra attention to the rural areas this year for the development of non-Muslim religious bodies and schools.
“Throughout our inspection, we noticed that some churches in the rural areas are in dire need of restoration. It has been very difficult for the people in the rural areas to get funds because their income is very different from those in the bigger towns,” he explained.
To ease the burden of the people in the rural areas, he said, the committee members in charge will go down to present the grants.
The presentation will be done in five separate ceremonies namely Kota Kinabalu (October 18), Tenom (Oct 22), Kudat (Oct 24), Sandakan (Oct 29), and Tawau (Oct 30).
He disclosed that in addition to the RM35 million given to the religious bodies and schools, Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Mohd Shafie Apdal has also provided some direct financial assistance from the Chief Minister’s Department.
“I am very thankful to the Chief Minister for his concern. Previously, he (the chief minister) had contributed financial aid to certain places such as churches in Sipitang and dilapidated schools in Papar,” he noted.