Charting progress amidst pandemic
Posted on : 27 Dec 2020  Source of News: The Borneo Post

Abang Johari leads a convoy of 100 high-powered motorcycles covering the journey from Sibu to Kapit. — Photo by Chimon Upon

Sarawak continues to roll out people-centric, welfare-focused projects

THE Covid-19 pandemic has brought great uncertainties and disruptions to local and global economies in 2020. Reviving the economy and handling the health crisis at the same time require immense financial resources that often times, would result in cutback or postponement of people-centric infrastructure projects.

For Sarawak, however, its government has remained steadfast in that it continues to roll out numerous projects that focus on the long-term welfare of the people at heart.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has never missed in letting his ambitious aspirations for Sarawak be known – to have the state attain its high-income and developed status by 2030, with average household income increasing from the current RM5,000 to RM16,000 in 10 years’ time.


Connecting rural areas

Abang Johari operates an excavator via remote in performing the groundbreaking ceremony for Sarawak Science Centre. Standing on his left is Manyin.

The setting-up of State Economic Action Council (SEAC) this year, for example, was to drive and formulate strategies towards Year 2030 targets, by focusing on eight key economic sectors to unlock the potential of the state.

One of the long-awaited mega projects is the soon-to-be completed 110km Sibu-Kapit Road, set to connect the sleepy town of Kapit with Sibu that otherwise, could only be linked via express boats.

This milestone was marked with a Sibu-Kapit convoy comprising 100 high-powered motorcycles, headed by Abang Johari himself – serving as a testament of progress being run under the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS)-led government.

The Chief Minister recounted the story of him accompanying his father, Tun Abang Openg Abang Sapiee – the first Governor of Sarawak – on a seven-hour journey from Sibu to Kapit in the 1960s.

“Seven hours – that’s very far during my father’s time. But now, in my time, it takes only one hour and 45 minutes using a motorbike from Sibu to Kapit,” Abang Johari was quoted as having said during a community event in Kapit on Oct 4.

The whole Sibu-Kapit Road stretch is regarded by the surrounding communities as a ‘game changer’ – an infrastructure that is finally coming into fruition after 57 years since the formation of Malaysia.

The people in Kapit can look forward to a great hive of developments coming their way once the tar-sealed roads are fully completed.

Another large-scale infrastructure project is the RM285-million Batang (River) Igan bridge.

The construction of the 1.3km structure was initially cancelled under the then-Pakatan Harapan (PH)-led federal government, but later it was revived by the Sarawak government.

It was originally planned by the Barisan Nasional (BN)-led federal government, and was among the nine major bridge projects in Sarawak slated for completion by 2024, said Abang Johari.

The other eight bridge projects sites were at Batang Rambungan, Batang Lupar, Batang Saribas, Batang Krian, Batang Rajang, Batang Paloh, Batang Lassa, and Batang Kemena.

Abang Johari had assured everyone that all nine bridges would be toll-free, in accordance to the wishes of the late chief minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, the Batang Igan bridge was one of the three main bridges allocated with RM1.2 billion in total under the ‘Coastal Road Network Connectivity’ programme for Mukah, to be constructed to replace the existing ferry services.

The completion of the coastal road development would see the travelling time between Daro and Mukah being reduced to just one hour and 45 minutes, versus the current three hours including the waiting time for the ferries to cross Batang Igan.


Homegrown O&G brand

Photo shows the artist’s impression of a Petros’ three-in-one refuelling station.

Another historic moment was the earth-breaking ceremony for a multi-fuel refuelling station under the brand name Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros), a wholly state-owned petroleum and gas company.

The three-in-one refuelling station would be offering conventional fuels, electric charging and hydrogen refuelling, while its equipment and system would utilise the Internet of Things (IoT), automated sensors, ‘Big Data’ analytics and cashless payment modes integrated with existing platforms such as Sarawak Pay.

The first such station would be operational at Darul Hana in Kuching by next year, while the second one is expected to be built in Batu Kawah, also in Kuching. It has been proposed that a station would be constructed each in Sri Aman, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri. The project would be implemented by Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC)’s subsidiary SEDC Energy Sdn Bhd and upon being operational, the station could be converted fully to run electric-charging and hydrogen refuelling should the need arise in the future.


Foundation for future workforce

To nurture a future workforce that would stay relevant with the changes, the state government had decided to build a Sarawak Science Centre – modelled after a facility in Singapore – towards motivating youngsters to venture into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The idea behind this came as early as 2017. The proposal included the centre being built on a 10.8-acre land in Petra Jaya in Kuching, equipped with hostel facilities. The earth-breaking ceremony was performed in October.

Initially expected to reach completion by 2024, the project experienced unforeseen delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic – the consultants from Singapore could not come to Sarawak, said Education, Science and Technological Research

Minister Datuk Amar Michael Manyin.

Backed by the federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Sarawak Science Centre would be a part of the Malaysian Collaborative Network of Science Centres (MySCENT), and would extend cooperation via National Science Centre and National Planetarium.

Manyin had expressed his hope that with the centre, upon its completion, would be able to lift the percentage of Form 3 students in Sarawak enrolling into the Science Stream to be on par with the national target of 60 per cent – the current rate in Sarawak is less than 30 per cent.


VR experience

Abang Johari (front, right) joins other guests in trying out the VR ride at the D-Virtual Park in Samarahan. — Photo  by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

The first-ever virtual reality (VR) theme park in Borneo signifies Sarawak’s enthusiastic move towards digital transformation.

Sited in Samarahan, the RM13-million ‘D-Virtual Park’ theme park highlights the state’s digital economy strategy to develop the communities in the rural areas and get them to be abreast with the latest technological advancements at the international stage.

The VR theme park features a rotating globe on the front yard of the building.

The D-Virtual Park features a rotating globe on the front yard of its building. — Photo  by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

Abang Johari had recently expressed his hope that this park would be ‘the spark igniting the spirit of innovativeness among the young generation, while embracing breakthroughs made in the field of technology’.

The VR theme park houses a ‘Creative Studio’ and a Mini Esports Hub D-Arena run in collaboration with Sarawak E-Sports Association – among other facilities.


A TV station of our own

Year 2020 marked the launch of the state’s own television station, TV Sarawak (TVS) – with much fanfare.

It is touted that Sarawak has become the first state in Malaysia to have its own television station.

Officially launched in October, the station meant to open the doors for the state’s content creators to showcase their creative products, as well as to unearth potential local talents in the film and broadcasting industry.

TVS aired live on Astro Channel 122 for the first time, in conjunction with the telecast of Yang Di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s 84th birthday celebration.

Meant as a free-to-air channel, TVS covers news segments, current affairs programmes and also talk shows.

Abang Jobari had stated that Sarawak was granted a 10-year licence by the Ministry of Multimedia and Communications to operate a television station in Kuching – with Sarawak Media Group, a government-linked company, being appointed to manage and operate the station.

Following the launch of TVS, the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) had accepted TVS as a strategic partner and would finance its works through the ‘Creative Industry Immediate Economic Action Plan’.


Symbolising ‘City of Unity’ status

An artist’s impression depicts what the Unifor Complex at Jalan Ong Tiang Swee in Kuching would look like after the completion of works.

One project aimed at symbolising the status of Kuching as a ‘City of Unity’ would be the RM70-million Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) Complex at Jalan Ong Tiang Swee.

Abang Johari said the Sarawak Cabinet had unanimously agreed for Unifor to have a building of its own to serve as a platform meant to preserve the harmonious relations between people of diverse communities in Sarawak.

Unifor, itself, is regarded as the first-of-its-kind agency in the country – set up specifically to look after the welfare and interests of the non-Muslims, including providing assistance in the physical development of their houses of worship.

The 10-storey Unifor Complex would sit on a 3.5-acre land and the whole design and structure would highlight the ‘Green Building Concept’. It would house a two-storey convention space, a banquet hall able to accommodate 1,000 guests, a partially-enclosed rooftop and also a commercial space.