It is easy to make promises – it is hard work to keep them.– Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was on form last Tuesday, officiating at the ground-breaking ceremony of the Batang Lupar bridge.
The bridge – part of a trio of bridges – cancelled by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government was revived by the state government, knowing full and well its importance to the locals.
The Batang Lupar bridge, along with Batang Rambungan and Batang Igan, was supposed to be implemented on a 50-50 basis between the state and federal governments.
However, things changed when the political masters in Malaya at the time decided that they were going to penny-pinch to resolve a purportedly alarming national debt.
The silence was deafening on the supposed Sarawak representatives at the time who were in federal government over the cancellation of the projects, content to see the state government take over all 100 percent of the fiscal responsibilities.
“It is the state government’s responsibility to provide infrastructure to the people”, they would say. Or, “we need to give and take in a federation”. Another would be, “the nation is in debt, we shouldn’t be calculative”.
All these wise people are now back in the opposition and they changed their tune accordingly.
Now the argument is, “why didn’t you ask for federal funding”; or even “why blame the opposition for your failure?”
I mean, you would be demented to believe that these arguments hold logic or reason. We were all there when it happened!
With all the major bridges in the pipelines, the message of the state government to the people is this: What we promise, we deliver.
True, it may take longer that we hoped for; true, all of us would want the bridges completed yesterday and true, we want the road infrastructure on par with our counterparts in Malaya, but we are getting those now.
While the Triso ferry incident at the turn of the year touched many lives and incited a lot of anger due to our dilapidated road infrastructure, the Batang Lupar project has been in the plans long before that.
Plus, when we have all these proper road infrastructure and bridges, Sarawakians will not be at the mercy of toll operators.
Abang Johari, at the ground-breaking of the Batang Lupar bridge, said the state government has decided that all eleven major bridges in the state will be toll-free once they are open to the public.
He said this was in line with the wishes of his predecessor, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.
“There will be no toll and no more ferries. But in Semenanjung Malaysia, all bridges have toll. So, this is what the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has fulfilled,” he said.
Former Batang Lupar resident turned MP and now Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the absence of sufficient connectivity infrastructure has been a major stumbling block for development.
He said it was the dream of the locals to have a bridge to replace the current ferry services which was ultimately delivered by the chief minister.
“That dream was close to being realised when the late Adenan managed to convince then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the need to build bridges – a crucial component for the development of Sarawak coastal region.
“This is a project that is close to the people’s hearts. Yes, the government of the day (PH) at that time may have shelved it but it has never stopped the people of Sarawak from dreaming and hoping that it will one day come true,” he said.
That is how much it meant to Sarawakians and I am sure that it meant much more to those who lugged their agricultural goods from the coast to be sold in inland areas – the small farmers and petty traders, those in search of an honest living.
And just as Abang Johari said, the people shouldn’t be swayed by sweet promises by the opposition that will eventually amount to nothing.
In his words, these are nothing more than “two spoonsful of ashes” – many of those came into mind, to the point that there are too many to list down.
As the famous saying goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
With the upcoming state election now viewed to be a question of “when” and not “if”, I believe the people should keep such in mind.