Padungan MP hopes for answers as Sarawak state assembly in May officially opens today

Tun Abdul Taib bin Mahmud arrives to officially open the 19th Sarawak Legislative State Assembly. He has been the state’s Yang di-Pertua since March 2014. Prior to that, he was Chief Minister of Sarawak for 33 years, making him the longest-serving head of government of a Malaysian state. Photo courtesy of UKAS.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 – The second meeting of the first session of the 19th Sarawak Legislative State Assembly was officially opened here today by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Today’s sitting ended before lunch break and the session will continue from tomorrow, May 18 till May 26, according to Speaker Tan Sri Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Padungan Chong Chieng Jen, who is also DAP Sarawak Chairman, in a statement Tuesday, said he has submitted several questions to be answered at the assembly. He has sought written replies for nine questions and an oral reply for one.

The following are his questions addressed to Sarawak Chief Minister:

1.  The present book value of the net assets and net asset per unit of the Amanah Saham Sarawak Trust Fund, the reason for the depletion of the assets of the Fund and total government grants to the Fund since the date of its inception.

 2.  The racial composition of the State Civil service at all respective grades of the service.

3.  The status of implementation of the Automated Rail Transit (ART) in Kuching, the estimated costs of implementation of the whole project and the estimated Return on Investment of the project.

4.  The total acreage of land to be acquired for the implementation of the Automated Rail Transit in Kuching and to provide a map showing the proposed acquisition of the affected land and the estimated costs of such acquisition.

5. To give an account of the balance sheet of Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) and the total deposits collected and loans disbursed since its incorporation in 2017 and the particulars and purposes of such disbursed loans.

6. The total Sales Tax collected by the State Government for the years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 (up to 30th April) and the breakdown of such taxes in terms of the items (eg. petroleum products, oil palm, lotteries, tyres etc.) on which the Sales Tax were imposed.           

7.   The progress of the repair of dilapidated schools in Sarawak and the respective amount of fund used for each of the schools.

8.   The state of economic recovery plan for Sarawak and the respective GDP of Sarawak for the years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and estimated figure for 2022.

9. To state the return on investment on the State Government’s multi-billion acquisition of Bakun Hydroelectric Dam since 2017, the initial outlay, the interest costs incurred, management, maintenance and operation costs over the years and the revenue generated thus far.

His final question, with the request for an oral reply from the Chief Minister, was the rationale for the state to concede on the constitutionality, validity and legality of the Petroleum Development Act, 1976 and the Territorial Sea Act, 2012.

Chong said he was seeking an oral reply for the last question as it was the one that most Sarawakians were concerned with.

“The late (Chief Minister) Adenan Satem has previously in DUN Sarawak questioned the legality and validity of the Petroleum Development Act, 1976 and the Territorial Sea Act, 2012.  Thereafter, actions have been taken by the State Government to nullify the 2 laws.

“If the 2 laws were nullified, Sarawak will assume all rights over the oil and gas extracted in Sarawak and her offshores oil and gas fields. 

“However, in December, 2020, to the surprise and disappointment of all, the State Government reached a settlement with Petronas, thus conceding to the validity of the 2 laws.”

He said the state government must be accountable to DUN Sarawak for its reason and basis to reach the settlement with Petronas and why it conceded to the validity of the 2 laws.

According to the DUN Standing Order, answers to questions seeking written reply will be given to the Assemblyman asking the questions after the DUN sitting while questions seeking oral reply will be arranged by the Speaker to be answered by the relevant Ministers during the DUN sitting. 

Given that only the first hour of each sitting day (excluding those days set aside for ministerial reply to debates) is set for oral replies, for each day, only approximately the first 15 questions will be replied by the ministers concerned, while the remaining questions for the day will lapsed and no reply will be given.

“In light of the importance of the question and the huge public interest involved, I urged the DUN Speaker to have the question listed in the first 10 questions of any of the sitting days,” he said.