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(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): DAP urges Sarawak voters to seize the historic opportunity that the Sarawak state general elections offered on May 20 by voting for a strong opposition as a check and balance to the BN government to uphold freedom, democracy, justice, integrity and human dignity. For too long the people of Sarawak has allowed BN unfettered, unrestrained and limitless power to do what they like at the expense not only of democracy and justice but also the welfare of Sarawakians.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had expressed confidence that the Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) will win a bigger mandate in the state election. In the last elections, BN had almost swept every seat winning 61 out of 62 seats, with the sole seat won by DAP Chiew Chin Sing in Kidurong. For Sarawak BN to win by a bigger mandate means BN winning all 71 seats or zero opposition in the Sarawak State Assembly.
Sarawak’s 892,537 voters have to decide whether democracy, justice, freedom, integrity and human dignity would be served if there is zero opposition. For too long, development projects have bred rampant corruption resulting in Sarawakians being marginalized economically. The 30 cents fuel hike has only imposed a heavier burden on the hardships and difficult livelihood faced by the people. That Sarawakians have to pay higher fuel prices than those in West Malaysia is unfair and unacceptable when Sarawak is one the oil and gas producing states that allows Malaysia to be an oil exporter.
DAP calls on the Federal government to increase the petroleum and gas royalties 3 times from the present 5% to 15% to help Sarawakians enjoy the benefits of their own oil resources and alleviate the sufferings of Sarawakians. DAP regrets that the Sarawak government headed by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has failed to fight for Sarawak rights and Sarawakians affected by the fuel price hike despite Sarawak being the major contributor of Malaysia being a gas and oil exporter.
Instead Tan Sri Abdul Taib is proud that Sarawak was allocated RM200 million from the oil subsidy savings of RM4.4 billion following the 30 cents in fuel prices to spend on improving its public transportation system and another RM20 million more to buy fuel for rural areas. Such pride is a great disservice to Sarawakians as this RM 220 million to alleviate the impact of the fuel hike is only 5% of the RM 4.4 billion and half of the RM 440 million sought by Sarawak last month.
Is RM 220 million sufficient and fair for Sarawakians to reduce their financial burden as a result of the fuel hike and they have no control over their petroleum revenues and how it is used. The time has come for Sarawak to break the 5% barrier imposed by the Federal government. Unless Sarawakians demand for greater rights especially increasing its share of petroleum royalties 3 times to 15%, Sarawak will be seen as only worth 5%.
This neglect of Sarawak can be seen not only in the poor infrastructure, high incidence of poverty and the reduction in allocation funds under the Ninth Malaysian Plan.
Sarawak was allocated RM 12,817 million in development funds or 7.5% of the total RM 170 million 8th Malaysian Plan (8MP). Such development funds were reduced from 7.5% to 6.7% under the Ninth Malaysian Plan(9MP) when Sarawak was given only RM 13,437 million out of the RM 200 billion in total development funds. If private finance initiatives of RM 20 billion are included RM 15,108 million out of RM 220 billion was given to Sarawak or 6.8%, still 10% less than was given under the 8MP.
Why is there a reduction of 10% in allocation funds for Sarawak under the 8MP and 9MP and more importantly the reasons behind the failure of Tan Sri Abdul Taib to fight for Sarawak rights when Sarawak has contributed so much to petroleum revenues? Sarawak should get an increase in development funds of much more than 10% when according to the 9MP, its incidence of poverty is high at 7.5% compared to only 3.8% in Peninsular Malaysia. In fact the incidence of poverty in Sarawak has almost doubled from 3.8% in 1977 to 7.5% in 2005.
For Tan Sri Abdul Taib to agree to a reduction in the development allocation for Sarawak under the 9MP when poverty has worsened shows that DAP is more qualified than BN in fighting for fairer share from the Federal government. Only DAP MPs, especially Kuching MP Chong Chien Jen and Kidurong ADUN Chiew Chin Sing, has the interests of Sarawakians at heart by speaking up for the plight of Sarawakians in Parliament and the Sarawak State Assembly.
DAP reiterates the social responsibility and moral obligation to distribute Petronas profits to needy Malaysians as such oil revenue belong to Malaysians. For 2004 financial year ending 31 March 2005, RM 35.5 billion in Petronas profits would amount to RM 1,500 per person or RM 9,000 per year for a needy household of 6 persons. For the latest financial year, Petronas profits would amount to RM 2,000 ringgit per needy Malaysians who are not well-off, more than enough to offset the rise in petrol price at international prices.
If a non-oil exporter like Singapore can give S$2.6 billion (RM 6 billion) cash under the 2006 Budged this year to all Singaporeans, especially the poor, why can’t the Malaysian government do so when Petronas has earned nearly RM 500 billion since its inception in 1971? Oil importer Singapore has given $10.675 billion (RM 24 billion) directly to its people since 2000 as compared to Petronas which has not given a single cent.
The natural question that both Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tan Sri Abdul Taib must answer is how come neither Sarawakians nor Malaysians can get a single cent directly from the RM 500 billion oil revenues whilst Singaporeans without a single cent of earning from oil revenue can benefit from RM 24 billion these last 5 years?
Clearly it is important that Malaysians and Sarawakians seek accountability and economic justice from BN to prevent all our oil revenue from being misused by the select few. This coming Sarawak state elections is an historic opportunity for Sarawakians not only to improve their living standards, reclaim their rights to enjoy their natural resources and protect democracy. It will also give Sarawakians an opportunity to articulate their unhappiness together with other Malaysians unhappy with the fuel price hike and the manner our oil resources are handled.