I am concerned about devolution of autonomy to state government of Sarawak who does not uphold integrity and transparency in governance.
It puzzled me all the time when the Sarawak state government talked about regaining autonomy but tuned out the pertinence of transparency and clean governance.
Autonomy works well only with transparency and clean governance. When we talk about autonomy, it is not just about rights but also the rights that come with power. When we talk about power, greater power comes with greater responsibility.
It occurs to me that every time Barisan Nasional (BN) Sarawak talks about autonomy, it is trying to boost its chances of winning elections, be it parliamentary or state. I get this uneasy feeling when nothing on transparency and clean governance is mentioned while they talk about autonomy.
The PH government is determined to return 20 per cent of oil and gas royalties and 50 per cent of taxes collected in Sarawak to the state of Sarawak.
The additional 15 per cent of oil and gas royalties and 50% additional taxes collection to Sarawak is equivalent to at least RM6.5 billion. At present, Sarawak is getting five per cent of oil and gas royalties a year.
How do we quantify the additional RM6.5 billion annually to Sarawak? It is worth noting that the annual budget of Sarawak is only about RM6 billion.
What Sarawakians should be more concerned about is how the Sarawak state government is going to use the extra money when we get it.
The new PH federal government practised transparency and accountability in all level of government authorities.
Despite so, the state government of Sarawak seemed to continue the Umno style of governing.
Parcels of state land are alienated to cornies at a meager price of RM300 per acre, ministers or government officials and their family members are actively involved in business, mega state government projects are awarded through direct negotiations and not open tender, monopoly in various business sectors such as the supply of cement and the erection of telecommunication towers.
Certain quarters who are supporting PH are victimised because state BN no longer grants them government projects, no allocation for opposition ADUNs (state elected representatives) but the PH federal government is granting allocation for BN MPs, wastage of public fund for unnecessary mega projects such as dam projects and the construction of Light Rail Transit (LRT) just to benefit cronies.
With such ‘track record’, I’m worried that the additional RM6.5 billion to Sarawak would go to benefit only BN Sarawak leaders and their cronies instead of Sarawakians at large.
People could easily notice how the state resources had been benefitting the selected ones while leaving many Sarawakians in the state of poverty.
Apart from the 20 per cent of oil and gas royalties and 50 per cent of taxes collected in Sarawak, the PH federal government is also determined to devolve the autonomy in education and health to Sarawak.
I could not help but wonder how such autonomous rights to Sarawak could be handed to the state BN government which showed keen interest on only contract-awarding power.
As such, I believe that all talks about autonomy of Sarawak will not bring any good to Sarawakians should the BN Sarawak continue to rule the land of the Hornbills.
Without overthrowing the regime of BN Sarawak, all talks about autonomy might only end up expediting the exhaustion of Sarawak’s resources and money.