Sarawak Pakatan Harapan Chairman Chong Chieng Jen (third from left) speaking at a press conference held at the DAP headquarters in Kuching. NSTP/GOH PEI PEI

KUCHING: The Federal Government will form a cabinet committee to look into the devolution of powers to the state.

Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Chong Chieng Jen said this was because Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg had refused to sign a “New Deal” agreement put forward by the coalition before the 14th General Election.

The Stampin member of parliament said the agreement gave the state full autonomy rights in healthcare and education involving three levels of the decision-making process – administrative, policy and fiscal .

“In short, the state government can decide on everything that comes under the two ministries, such as policy, budget allocation, school syllabus, employment of teachers and medical staff as well as building of new schools and hospitals,” Chong told a press conference at the state DAP headquarters here today.

In addition, he said, oil and gas royalties due to the state would be quadrupled from the existing five per cent to 20 per cent. He said half of the tax revenue collected in Sarawak would be handed back to the state.

“We want the state government to have the powers to set up Sarawak’s own ministries to manage education and healthcare. But, they rejected it,” he said, adding that Putrajaya was also looking into devolving powers in trade and commerce to the state as well.

“We cannot and do not want to allocate big sums of money to the state government (without the ministries) as the funds could well be used for other purposes.”

He said the Federal Government would not devolve power to someone who refused to take up the responsibility of managing that power.

“It looks like the Barisan Nasional state government wants the money but not the responsibility,” he said.

“Thus, we are exploring other avenues of power devolution, including setting up a cabinet committee to address the issue.

“The committee will liaise with the Federal Government on the issue of devolution of powers and managing the powers that are decentralised.”

Chong urged the people of Sarawak to reject the BN-led state government in the next state polls, expected to be held within three years.

“Since the state government is not committed to or incapable of managing more ministries or powers, let a PH state government do it,” he said.

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