Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today reiterated his commitment to continue championing national interest and fair distribution of development for every corner of the country, from Perlis to Sabah. (Pix by NADIM BOKHARI)

KUCHING: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today reiterated his commitment to continue championing national interest and fair distribution of development for every corner of the country, from Perlis to Sabah.

In his opening speech at the 14th Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu’s (PBB) 14th Triennial Delegates’ Conference here, Najib said the Federal Government would spare no effort in eliminating development gap.

Najib, who is also Barisan Nasional chairman, said it was his duty to ensure all areas in the country benefited from the government’s development programmes apart from bridging the economic divide.

“If there are any areas that are left behind, then, it is my responsibility to rectify this “kepincangan” (discrepancy) to ensure that no development gap exists (in the country).

“This also applies to Sarawak. You do not have to worry. I am a good friend of Sarawak.

“There should be no development gap in Sarawak and the state deserves the allocation that has been given. And I have never hesitated when approving allocation for Sarawak because the state is big,” he said to loud applause from 5,000 party delegates and observers, who had attended the opening ceremony of the conference held at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching here.

Chief Minister and PBB president Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg was present.

Also present were deputy chief ministers Datuk Douglas Uggah Embas and Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hassan, whose position as the new PBB deputy presidents would be validated later during the conference.

Also in attendance were Deputy Chief Minister and Parti Rakyat Sarawak president, Tan Sri James Jemut Masing; Sarawak United Peoples’ Party president Professor Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also the State Local Government and Housing Minister, as well as Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Anthony Nogeh represented Progressive Democratic Party.

Apart from the billions in allocation for the construction of many bridges in the state, Najib manifested his concern for the rural folks when he highlighted the difficulties faced by the people in Kapit.

He said Kapit was disconnected and noted the absence of an access road from Sibu.

“How can we allow such situation to exist? We cannot allow this.

“That is why I had approved an allocation for Kapit for the area to be connected with the rest of the world,” said Najib referring to the allocation approved for the construction of 120km road linking Sibu and Kapit.

Najib said he wanted to fulfill the aspiration of Sarawakians longing for better road connectivity linking Telok Melano and Lawas when he approved the multi-billion allocation for the construction of the Pan Borneo Highway in Sarawak.

“If the people (in Peninsular) benefit from the North-South Expressway, I want the people in Sarawak to enjoy the same facility. That is why I had approved the Pan Borneo Highway project.

“I had also added the Telok Melano-Sematan stretch for the project based on the request of the late Tok Nan (former chief minister the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem).

“The highway, when its completed is toll-free. There was a previous prime minister who liked (imposing) toll. I do not like tolls as it is a burden to the people,” said Najib in an apparent jab at Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Najib said he agreed with the state government and announced that the Federal Government will form a high-level committee to discuss efforts to restore the rights of Sarawak, which may have been eroded over the years, based on the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

The negotiation initiated over devolution of powers for Sarawak, he said, reflected the Federal Government’s sincerity in returning therights of the state.

“Whenever I make a promise, I will do everything that I can to honour it. If the rights of the state were taken away, by design or inadvertently, the Federal Government will return it to Sarawak.

“We do not need to take away the rights of other people. I want to see happiness among the people in Sarawak.

“There are also a lot of leaders from Sarawak in my cabinet. This is unlike DAP, which only has one person from Sarawak in the party’s Central Executive Committee and yet they are talking about fighting for the rights of the state,” he said.

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