Here is an abridged version of the speech delivered by the president of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, when he officiated at the party’s southern zone’s special conference held at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) last Sunday.
Today I share with you what we have done in the three years since I took over the chief minister’s post from my predecessor, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem (Tok Nan).
First, I want to speak about our infrastructure. With the support of the federal government, we are building the Pan Borneo Highway which is equivalent to the North-South highway and the East-West highway in Malaya.
We want to travel to Limbang from Kuching, but the old road was not so good, so we build the Pan Borneo Highway from Telok Melano to Lawas. This was Tok Nan’s dream which I expanded to include the coastal roads which cross many rivers — Batang Sadong, Batang Samarahan, Batang Krian, Batang Lassa, Batang Paloh, Batang Kemena. Building bridges over these rivers is very expensive. Just as we were about to start, the Pakatan Harapan federal government cancelled our projects. We had no choice but to find ways to get funds.
State sales tax (SST)
Here I tell you that we have the right to implement our sales tax. I worked hard to implement it because we have rights over our own oil and gas. If it is in Terengganu, I don’t care; if it is in Kelantan, I don’t care, but if it is in Sarawak, I care. But what happened? Petronas refused to pay. So, we sued them. The court decided in our favour and we won. Our revenue of RM2.95 billion, combined with others from Shell, Murphy and others, we get more than RM3.2 billion. RM3 billion a year; in five years we’d have RM15 billion to build all our bridges and roads including the Samarahan-Kuching expressway.
In Samarahan, a lot of people have complained, so we will install smart traffic lights and upgrade five roundabouts. It’s like we’re building a new road again. We will build more bridges to cross to Sejingkat and on to Santubong road.
The second thing I want to share concerns agriculture. When roads have been built to provide access to our land, we will use carry out agriculture that uses digital technology. Sarawak’s population is only 2.8 million so we need to sell our products outside. We do this by going digital.
Our exports increased three weeks ago as Singaporeans bought our ‘midin’ which we transported by air. Apparently the midin arrived Singapore still fresh; the leaves are not black. And I think that midin is sold only at Satok market.
Who would have thought that Singaporeans also want tilapia? We send the fish from Batang Ai, and our patin is also exported. That’s how we make money. You can make a living from tilapia and patin. That’s why farmers are encouraged to use technology, and we sell their products abroad.
So, this is the story of our agriculture that has progressed. Our farms are organised according to how new technology is used, so now we have the agricultural parks (or agro parks) which are equipped with digital tools.
When we first started, I used to talk about our digital economy and some people asked, “What did Abang Jo say? Why so busy with digital?” That was in 2017. When Covid-19 struck this year, what are you using as a medium? All is being done online. Buy fish online, buy vegetables online. Even elderly parents can go online.
Sarawakians are good at using digital. For example, many use Sarawak Pay. The first state to have mobile payment is Sarawak. Do not praise me for it; praise PBB that recommended digital. This is the change we have made in three years from a business point of view and also from a relationship point of view.
WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook … we must know WhatsApp, know what social media is. If people use social media to say bad things about PBB, we use social media to fight back. Don’t be scared.
TV Sarawak (TVS)
Sarawak is the first state in Malaysia to have its own television station. No other state has one yet. We looked at the cost, we just set up TVS. We have the money.
We will build five international schools where students compete with each other to achieve excellence. When competing they can reach high standards through the usage of international syllabus. In the end, this system will produce world champions, not village champions. The children of farmers and fishermen will get opportunities to study in these schools.
Children of farmers and fishermen who are smart cannot go to private international schools. The fees are expensive. So, we set up the schools, the first of which is under construction at Semenggok.
The fees for the students will be borne by the government. We will allocate RM1 billion for the schools. This is what we want, but a professor said we would break the law by building the school. The professor is ‘paloi’ (stupid) because in the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report, the current policy of the states in Borneo on the use of English should be continued unless determined otherwise by the state legislature. Our late chief minister, Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, wanted us to master both languages (English and Bahasa Melayu). Malay is mandatory as it is the national language while English also needs to be mastered. Our law is still valid and gave a directive to issue a statement that Sarawak will not violate any when building the school.
The best of our children can study abroad because Yayasan Sarawak already has cooperation with the London School of Economic, Cambridge University, Oxford University and Stanford University in the United States where Bill Gates used to study. Mark Zuckerberg who created Facebook studied at Stanford. What is wrong if we send Sarawakians there? If they are qualified to study there, we will provide the scholarships.
For those who owe high education loans, we will help because they will not be able to leave the country when they have debts. We do this for our children’s education.
Rights over oil and gas
Regarding our rights over oil and gas, we have our Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO). As long as our assets are in the land or under the land they belong to Sarawak. If you want to take any of it, you need to get the consent of the people of Sarawak. You would need licences. We have territorial power, which is why I announced another marine park in Bintulu even though other countries don’t agree. They say it is theirs but it is actually ours. In a week or so I will announce a policy that strengthens our rights in this regard.
We will build Petros fuel stations. Three-in-one stations while others sell only petrol. We plan to sell hydrogen fuel and suddenly an opposition leader asked about it. But we in PBB have a vision. Hydrogen gas is expensive but in 15 years, the price of the fuel will be cheaper. It is just like the prices of expensive mobile phones in the past. They are much cheaper now.
The GPS state government wants to promote green or renewable energy. Japan buys some from Brunei and Australia but it is in the form of gas or brown energy. We have green energy produced from water. Sarawak has lot of water in Batang Ai, Murum and Bakun dams.
The opposition asked why hydrogen? So, I asked why Japan would want to invest in it. The price of hydrogen per 1kg is $8. Ten tonnes (1,000kg) times by $8 then add the sales tax, our revenue will increase. This is what I called revenue engineering based on green technology. And after that we can claim the carbon credits.
I want to make a new law on carbon credit which is a trading commodity. We don’t have such a law yet. Our Attorney General is now drafting the law while other states don’t have it yet.
Racial peace and harmony
Sarawak is peaceful and harmonious because the people have mutual understanding and respect for one another. Outside Sarawak, on the other side, they quarrel a lot. Here, a non-Muslim has request for funds to build mosque in his area. Datuk Liwan Lagang — he is the non-Muslim. He asked me for money to build a mosque for the Muslims in Belaga and I immediately approved it. That is our way. We set up the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) because Nabi Muhammad said that there must be fairness between Muslims and the non-Muslims. As chief minister for all races in Sarawak I followed his teaching. Unifor wants to have its own building, we will build it.
Human have many weaknesses, which is why Muslims seek God for guidance 17 times a day. The other side, maybe they don’t ask for guidance. Until today they fight over the prime minister’s post although people are facing the Covid-19 pandemic.
When we supported Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister it was because our country was unstable then. We made the decision because we want a stable government. But after that, they still fight over the prime minister’s post.
12th state election
The people’s health is more important than having an election. But our term will end soon. When our mandate runs out, how are we going to manage the State Disaster Management Committee? So, what do we do? We do not know when the election will be held, but PBB must be ready for it. Last night I was with some frontliners at an event organised by the Sarawak Arts Council.
Imagine how it feels when in my village, a child could not visit a grave because the body of a deceased family member was under the control of a hospital due to Covid-19. Our medical frontliners have to sacrifice a lot. They cannot go home because the standard operating procedures said they cannot do so. That is why we give priority to this matter first, but people on the other side are busy fighting over who should be prime minister. What kind of politics is that? People are disappointed with the politicians.
Thank God, in Sarawak we put the people first over politics. I have released the Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKKS) assistance, and last Friday I added on more. Then today I announce that the moratorium is extended until this December because people are affected by the pandemic. We have the fortune; we will help those who are in difficulties.
When we help others, God watches. We in PBB, the fight for the people is our priority. This has always been our thrust. It’s our duty, and we will be blessed by God.
This is also why we do as much as we can to help those in need including babies. Each baby is given RM1,000. We also help mothers when they are on maternity leave — RM450 each for three months. In addition, a Death Compassionate Assistance (BIK) worth RM3,000 is also provided.
Unity & investments
Another thing that is important is our unity in all fronts so that investors feel safe to come. A company called Taiyo Yuden today wants to expand their operations in Samajaya to the tune of RM5 billion. They see how peaceful and stable Sarawak is.
The first place in Southeast Asia that produces hydrogen together with the cooperation of Japan is Sarawak. In addition, there are also investors from China and Korea. The Korean one wants to produce glass from our silica sand which is of high quality. Currently we export the sand to Japan; they produce the glass and we buy it back from them. Isn’t that stupid? So now we work with this company to make glass.
That’s why we must preserve our political stability so that we continue to be stable while we work hard.
We have been supplying electricity to West Kalimantan. Then when Covid-19 hits, they asked us to supply cooking oil, sugar and rice. With the good relationship we have, we will open a trade office in Pontianak just like the one in Singapore. Now, we supply electricity and we sell liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) gas to them. Besides the trade office in Pontianak, we will also have one in Brunei through which we will collaborate in agriculture including cattle rearing.