Helming Sarawak in uncharted waters (Video)

Posted on : 13 Jan 2020  Source of News: The Borneo Post

Abg Jo shares his challenges and inspirations with reporters in a special interview on a wide range of issues

KUCHING: It was evident at the recent special meeting with reporters in connection with his third anniversary as Sarawak Chief Minister today, that Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg takes history very seriously.

It was in the annals of history that he found inspiration for the setting-up of the Development Bank of Sarawak, and it was also there that he saw the way forward for Sarawak with the decentralisation of power from the federal government.

In very much the same way, it was in his long political career that the state’s sixth Chief Minister found the confidence to face the challenges as the leader of an opposition state under the Pakatan Harapan federal government – something none of his predecessors has had to face.

The following are among comments gathered from the hour-long interview with Abang Johari at his office here last Monday. They cover a broad range of topics that offer a better understanding of the Chief Minister’s motivations and goals for the state.


Satisfied with the state government’s efforts so far?

“Yes. To a certain extent I think we have fulfilled what we have said. But there are certain grey areas in terms of understanding between the federal government and the state government. And that has to be sorted out. But in terms of our direction, our direction is clear. I think people are accepting what we should do for the future.

What is important is, we are in good hands, and also our policies are in tune with what people want, and at the same time we must keep abreast with the whole ecosystem, what’s going on in this region.”


The biggest achievements yet?

“I think the support that I get from the people as well as the civil servants, because they are the implementers, and they can understand and follow our policy.”


Equipped for the future by long service to Sarawak

“I’m very fortunate because I started early (first appointed assistant minister in 1984)… the only difference now is, the federal government and us are not on the same page. That’s the only difference.”

Abang Johari, who has been Satok assemblyman since 1981, was appointed a full minister in 1987, holding such portfolios as industrial development, housing and tourism.


If China can, why not us?

“So because of that background, in my experience, though we can work within the concept of federation, perhaps we can be on our own in terms of governing.

I’m not talking about independence. I mean in terms of governing, within the context of federation. Therefore the question of decentralisation.

China is the same thing. China was centralised under the Communist system. But they have changed, they give certain powers to their provincial governments.

And that is what happened under its current president Xi Jinping, and he changed the whole system in China, so much so that China is now really developed because the provincial governments can decide on what they want to do with their provinces.

Germany (is) also the same. In Germany, they give the power to their own province also. Italy, also the same.”


‘GPS knows best what Sarawak needs’

“So having looked into all these, I think Sarawak, within the context of federation, can govern ourselves based on the needs of Sarawak. And that is why we formed GPS.

Our rural development last time, we depended very much on the federal Rural Ministry. For instance, their rural electrification programme, their policy is only to provide the cable to the last pole, but not to the house.

I don’t know why that policy, but now we are funding our  own Rural Electrification Scheme as well as water supply, including connecting the rural homes and longhouses to the main grid.

We also provide the basic roads. Now we are rolling out our project under Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda). I have segmented it into three – Upper Rajang Development Agency (Urda), Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA). And then we can focus on our basic infrastructure.”


Policies for the people

“As long as your policies are for the people, that’s the key. If your policy is problematic, then the people won’t respect you. I tell you honestly, it’s the question of sincerity as long as you feel that this is what is being done.”