Datuk Idris Buang

Datuk Idris Buang, the first term Muara Tuang assemblyman, won the seat in the 2016 state election, garnering 10,086 votes to beat his rivals from PAS Zulkipli Ramzi who collected 1,508 votes and Amanah’s Abang Abdul Halil Abang Naili, 765 votes. The Parti Pesaka Bersatu (PBB) information chief, in a recent exclusive interview, flays detractors, saying the public have the right to know the truth.

Datuk Idris Buang

Sarawak Tribune: Your constituency is in the Covid-19 red zone…

Idris: You’re quite right. The authorities have been carrying out active contact tracing at Taman Desa Ilmu and Taman Uni Garden. Taman Desa Ilmu is under my constituency. Taman Uni Gardeb is under Stakan.

It could have been worst in the sense that more areas could have been affected if not for the quick action of both the Perikatan federal and the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) state government.

There is a stark difference between a failed government and a capable government, and the Covid-19 outbreak exposed that point.

Now, let’s look back at what transpired before the movement control order was declared on March 18.

A New Straits Times February 15 report said then finance minister Lim Guan Eng announced that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister, would unveil a stimulus package on Feb 27.

Yes, on Feb 27 he announced a RM20 billion stimulus package. By then he was no longer prime minister but interim prime minister.

The stimulus package didn’t provide for preventing the spread of Covid-19 because the PH government did not believe that the virus would spread to Malaysia.

In fact, two days before he announced the RM20 billion package Dr Mahathir said he had no plans to stop the Chinese tourists. His deputy said it was not possible to quarantine all the Chinese tourists and a minister of his called on Malaysians not to shun Chinese tourists.

To top it all, when the RM20 billion was unveiled, much of the fund was meant to encourage economic growth of tourism-related industries such as hotels!

Fortunately, with the grace of God, on Feb 29, Istana Negara broke the news that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would be the new PM. Next Day, March 1Muhyiddin was sworn-in as the 8th PM. On March 16, he told Malaysians the MCO would be enforced beginning March 18.

One can’t imagine what would have happened to Malaysia, or Sarawak or Muara Tuang if the PH government had not fallen.

Lesson learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic?

Well, two things. One, on the one hand you had a government that promised you everything — the moon and the stars. It not only failed to deliver but very nearly exposed the whole nation to the deadly Covid-19 virus!

And on the other hand, you have here a government, call it a backdoor government or whatever, that responds to the needs of the rakyat in consultation with the experts.

Hardly a week into the first phase of the MCO, the GPS state government announced on March 23 a stimulus package worth RM1.15 billion to help the people in the state face the economic uncertainties brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak, and restrictions during the MCO. That package is called ‘Sarawakku Sayang Special Aid’

On March 27 Muhyiddin announced the national economic stimulus package worth RM250 billion to weather the impact of Covid-19.

On April 10, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Open once again announced another package, this time the RM1.12 billion Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) 2.0 to specifically help the business community in the state.

The second lesson learnt from this episode is the vision that the chief minister has been trying to get our people to understand and embrace – that there is a need to wean the state from depending too heavily on its traditional income generator – oil and gas revenue, with something equally economically portent – the Big Data…digitalization…the Internet of things (IoT).

How is that?

It’s happening now. The MCO restricts movement and travel, people can’t go out shopping, traders can’t open their doors like usual, doctors can’t make home visits; only frontliners can move, even that under strict instructions. And this is where your handphones and those applications come useful.

I know not a few people were wondering, Sarawak Pay? For what? Yes, there were skeptics but the situation today is such that so many things you need to do can only be done on the internet. Like it or not, Covid-19 has helped to prove the GPS government is right in emphasising the development of high speed internet connectivity.

This connectivity has helped facilitate traffic flow in and out of the city, made working from home possible for a lot of Sarawakians, and made shopping from home that even a six-year-old can do with ease.

Life will not be the same after Covid-19 and the MCO.

I know that many journalists are working from home since the first day of MCO. You surely show the way forward.

The MCO, is it right to keep extending it?

Datuk Idris Buang

Sarawak is doing the right thing. We do as the federal government does but with modifications to suit our needs and local situation.

Our chief minister has been a pillar of strength in our fight to contain the virus and in ensuring its impact on the people is mitigated.

His deputy Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah has shown that he is the right man to head the SDMC (State Disaster Management Committee). He exudes much confidence and has been able to harness the frontliners – the medical people, the police, the soldiers, Rela personnel, firefighters, the NGOs and many others, including the media people – into a perfect team.

The virus is not going to go away overnight; much of the success to contain it depends on the cooperation of the people in observing the terms of the MCO.

We are into the fourth phase and we’ll just have to wait for expert advice to see what sectors we can open and the rules governing their opening.

Away from Covid-19 and the MCO, what’s your first term as Muara Tuang assemblyman like?

I relish the challenge. I am here to serve the people. I want to prove to those who believe in my leadership and voted me into office I am worth every vote they gave me.

Water shortage is Muara Tuang’s biggest problem now. Fifteen or sixteen villages still have trickling pipes at best. Most of the times there is just no water. These affected villages are in the middle Samarahan where we have the Iban, Bidayuh, Chinese, Malays and Javanese living side by side.

As a responsible ADUN I have set up a ‘First Response Team’ that delivers water any time we are notified.

My hope is that works to boost the intake of our water source, which is the Slabi Treatment Plant in Serian, will be addressed soon.

Interestingly, nothing negative had been received regarding the distribution of food aid in Muara Tuan.

Confidently, I say we have achieved 100% success, thanks to the Resident Office, the District Office, the Welfare Department, the NGOs, not forgetting the Rela people who helped to distribute the aid, plus our own First Response Team.

What are your grouses?

I have but one grouse. I despise those few people who resort to character assassination. I am saddened by personal attacks on my reputation in the social media.

Look at how they twisted a statement I made in 2017 about the Rohingya. Until today they are still harping on it, apparently trying to score brownie points by representing me as the odd man out in the state government. I can understand why they are doing that to me and not to anybody else – it’s because I am the PBB information chief.

In 2017, I made a suggestion to house the Rohingya refugees in a camp under tight security. You must understand that not everything I said was reported. What was reported was my suggestion but not the grounds to my suggestion.

I made the suggestion after reading a lot about the plight of the Rohingya, how they were mass exterminated, their women and children killed and raped, their boats towed back to the open sea where they were left to die out of thirst and hunger.

While this was taking place, authorities such as the United Nations and the UNCHR were calling for a more humane approach, calling the Khymer government, Bangladesh and several other nations having to deal with boast arriving on their shores to the negotiation table.

It was with this in view that I made that personal suggestion in 2017, in the belief that if they were camped on transit here, every aspect of their presence would be borne by the UN or UNCHR. I never suggested that the refugees be allowed to merge with the citizens and given the freedom to walk our streets and get employed in our plantations or industries.

Look at what they are doing in Malaya. Having the Rohingya in Selayang is a grave mistake. They should have been camped somewhere as refugees and under the care of the UN or the UNHCR, not in the streets and the wet markets, trading like they are citizens of the country.

My suggestion was made in 2017 and the state government had made its stand clear – no Rohingya refugees on Sarawak soil, which should have ended the debate on the issue. But until today, the opposition people are still harping on it.

I have collected posts made in the social media as to how these people are instigating my constituents against me and instigating the rakyat against the GPS government over the issue.

They are trying to mislead the masses into believing that there are camps housing the Rohingya in Tian, which is under my constituency, and in Bau. All these are craps! Falsehood! Irresponsible half-truths!

They have been playing up these lies in their WhatsApp groups – 200 Rohingyas in Tian and 300 in Bau.

It’s a falsehood that I am closely studying now and will address after the month of Ramadan is over. For now, I am giving myself to the fulfilment of what is required of a good Muslim during this time of the year.

How do you see GPS forward?

GPS has made all the correct decisions – ‘Sarawak first’, rejected DAP and helped Muhyiddin form Perikatan government because he was mandated to lead the new government by the Yang diPertuan Agong (Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah). I must add, GPS helped Muhyiddin form Perikatan government in the interest of the nation, in the interest of peace…to cool down a tense political situation.

You see, that’s no small role the GPS government played in helping to stabilise a nation that was shaking in its roots and foundation.

Sarawak went through 22 months of hell when PH was the federal government and DAP was calling all the shots. The finance minister never stopped bullying us over the dilapidated school issue and he looked down at the way we run our state, saying we would be bankrupt in three years.

On top of that, the PH government cancelled several major projects and slashed allocations in the name of austerity and transparency.

Today we know that Malaysia had no need to borrow money from outside and that we were not as poor as projected by the PH government.

Politically, GPS is in a position of advantage because Muhyiddin has given us a fair share in running the government even though GPS says it is there to prop up the Perikatan government as an ally.

Whatever we do it is ‘Sarawak first’ and Muhyiddin accepts that.

Therefore, my call to Sarawakians is: Give your undivided support to GPS. GPS is a complete and wholesome mix of political parties and politicians who represent every Sarawakian.

We have a chief minister who has shown that he is more than capable of running the state, and he has field commanders who are equally dependable – Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, Tan Sri Dr James Masing, Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian and Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing. PBB, along with PRS, SUPP and PDP, will ensure that Sarawak will not ever fall to the wrong hands.

Sarawak is a blessed state where all the races live in harmony and have the utmost respect for one another. We must all unite to preserve this unity and harmony which the oppositions such as the DAP have been trying to undermine.

PRN 12 will surely come, GPS is here to serve you and ensure that Sarawakians are respected and held in high regards.