Television is the triumph of machine over people. 

– Fred Allen, American comedian

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has a way with getting things done. In just under four years since he became chief minister on January 2017, he has achieved so many things for the state which menteris besar or chief ministers of other states can only dream of.

Hardly two months on the hot seat in March 2017 he reached an agreement with the then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to take full control of the massive Bakun hydroelectric dam from Putrajaya.

This meant Sarawak would be fully in charge of its power generation and supply statewide.

Najib travelled to Sarawak a year later to officially hand over the federal-funded RM9 billion dam to state leaders. For the record we paid only RM2.5 billion to acquire the HEP dam.

Other notable achievements of Abang Johari include getting four MPs from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) appointed as ministers in Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Cabinet and several others as deputy ministers. On top of that quite a number of key federal positions went to Sarawakians.

And don’t forget Abang Johari’s role in the federal government’s decision to get Petronas to pay the RM2 billion state sales tax.

All these would not have materialised if not for the chief minister’s close ties with Putrajaya. Abang Johari succeeded where past leaders failed. Think about that!

Also within three years he implemented 80 initiatives which reflect his political determination to bring progress to Sarawak. Some of these initiatives invited criticisms from the opposition and naysayers, but being a visionary leader that he is, Abang Johari brushed them off, knowing such negative reactions come with the job.

Then came the Covid-19 scourge which affected everyone, including the economy. He tackled the issue confidently, introducing several multi-billion-ringgit rescue packages. No one was left out.

His latest achievement was something that caught many by surprise. Recently, he announced Sarawak has been given a licence by the federal government to operate a television station. The station will be the first-ever in the country owned by a state government-linked company.

Sarawak Media Group (SMG) has been tasked with operating the station for a period of 10 years. I was made to understand the TV station might go on air sometime in September.

Now, obtaining a TV station licence is no easy task. Licensing comes under the jurisdiction of the federal authorities. Past state leaders tried to convince Putrajaya to issue one to Sarawak but they were not successful.

You need to have close ties with the federal people to be considered for a permit.

I was made to understand that our chief minister made an application during the Najib administration. The licence would have most probably been issued two years ago, but unfortunately the Barisan Nasional lost and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition took over Putrajaya.

This was when trouble began. The PH government or rather Dr Mahathir himself felt uncomfortable about allowing Sarawak to have its own TV station.

PH wanted to control the flow of information and for nearly two years Sarawak suffered.     

Remember how RTM under PH blacked out news on the Sarawak government activities, especially those involving our chief minister and state ministers. I remember Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah being reported by the local media as saying, “Any functions attended by the chief minister or state ministers will definitely not be aired the next day.”

Believe it or not, the international Asean International Film Awards and Festival hosted by the state last year was not broadcast ‘live’ by RTM! And the PH government had the cheek to claim it practised press freedom!

In fact, most of the Malayan-controlled electronic media are guilty of the same discriminatory act. Their actions only deprive the people of Sarawak and the rest of Malaysia news on developments and events in this state.

You call this national integration? The imbalance in news flow from Malaya to Sarawak and Sabah should be addressed for national integration and for Malayans to understand us better. I am not exaggerating when I say there are still some people in Malaya who think Kota Kinabalu is in Sarawak and Kuching is in Sabah.

Thanks to Abang Johari, we are able to operate our own TV station. We can give our people — and the rest of Malaysians — what they would like to view.

While we understand that we might have to hire a few experienced Malayans to initially help run the station, the operators should give priority to local hosts, moderators, programmers and newscasters.

Most importantly, the station should feature the major ethnic groups so as not to provide ammunition to naysayers. Professionalism is the hallmark of a successful entity.

All the best to SMG!