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Friday, January 22, 2016

Devolution of powers: Sarawak granted 13 wishes

KUCHING - Sarawak gets 13 of its wishes fulfilled under the first phase of negotiations on devolution of powers between the Federal and the State Government, which was held in Putrajaya on Wednesday.
In announcing the outcome of the initial discussions, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said the first phase of the negotiations involved provision on administrative empowerment to the Sarawak Government.

Adenan said negotiations involved three phases of discussions.

"All of the 13 provisions agreed under the first stage of the negotiations will be implemented in phases.

"This is the first stage, which is on administrative matters. We have two more to go, which will take place in due course," he told a packed media conference at his office, here, Thursday.

Adenan said the second stage would dwell on the State's rights (encroachment by the Federal on State power) and on constitutional matters while the third would be on the State's oil and gas royalty request, the validity of the Territorial Waters Act and the Petroleum Development Act.

He said he needed more time to negotiate on the next two.

"That is why I am asking for five more years from the people of Sarawak to govern the State.

A stronger mandate in the coming Sarawak State election will give me an even stronger position to talk and negotiate," he said.

He said the DAP would want to claim credit for initiating and bringing this up.

"But let me tell all, I was the first person to bring up these matters on our autonomy on March 16, 2014 in an interview with the Star newspaper. This was also two weeks after I was appointed the Chief Minister," he said.

He said the DAP's so-called Bintulu Declaration where it claimed the party was the first to bring the issue up was dated October 26, 2014.

"My advice to Chong Chieng Jen, the State DAP Chairman, is not to claim credit for something which he has not done," he said.

Referring to Chong's accusation that he had not been successful in all in the talks, Adenan said he (Chong) should be patient enough to wait for the next two stages.

"If DAP were to talk, the Federal Government might not even open the doors," he said. Adenan again reiterated that the relationship between the State and the Federal Government must be constitutionally correct.

"The relationship between Sarawak and Kuala Lumpur is different from that of between Kuala Lumpur and, let us say, Pahang.

"We are an autonomous state according to the Malaysia Agreement. We did not join Malaysia.

We were an equal partner to the formation of Malaysia. Before the Malaysia Agreement, there was no Malaysia to join," Adenan said.

He said there were some who felt that Sarawak was not an equal partner, but pointed out that "generally we are".

He said Sarawak must insist on its autonomy all along but it depended on how assertive it was with its rights.

The 13 provisions of administrative empowerment to the Sarawak State Government are:

1. Sarawak Legal Officers are to be authorised by the Public Prosecutor under the Criminal Procedure Code to conduct prosecution for offences under the state ordinances from the stage a person is charged in the lower court until the appeal stage.

2. It is agreed for the delegation of power to the State officers to represent the Public Service Commission and the Education Service Commission in the appointment of officers to the Federal Civil Service, including teaching and medical services.

3. Posts in Sarawak Immigration Department will be enhanced to improve the enforcement functions in the State with an increase of 100 new posts, with full deployment by the end of next month.

4. The ratio of Sarawak-born teachers serving in Sarawak will be increased to 90 per cent of the total number of teachers in Sarawak by 2018. To ensure that this target is achieved, temporary teachers from the open market will be considered from time to time and obtain their Diploma in Education while teaching.

5. Traffic warden powers for Sarawak Local Authorities will be given to the Miri City Council, apart from Kuching North City Hall and Kuching South City Council.

6. The Sarawak State Government will be consulted before an application for a Deep Sea Fishing Permit is forwarded to the Deep Sea Permit Evaluation Committee for consideration.

7. The Sarawak State Government will be consulted in the drafting of Federal legislation which has bearing or impact to the Sarawak State Government, where provided by law.

8. The planning of Federal development projects in Sarawak will give priority to the five-year Sarawak State Development Plan based on the approved budget. Implementation of the projects will be referred or negotiated between the Ministry and the Sarawak State Government such as determining the location of schools, hospitals and the implementation of the other development projects.

9. The ministry will take necessary measures to increase the number of student enrolment from amongst Sarawakians into medical degree programmes in public universities. Sarawakians would be given a greater opportunity to enter foundation studies programmes in Unimas.

10. It is agreed that relevant areas that can be deleted will be identified for delegating the power of Director General under Section 49 of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 to the State officers or departments.

11. Development of housing projects in Sarawak to be re-implemented through a Joint Committee Meeting to ensure that State agencies are fully involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring aspects of these projects in Sarawak.

12. It is agreed that the development of sports in Sarawak is jointly managed with the State Government.

The Youth and Sports Ministry is also in the process of enhancing the Sports Development Act 1997 which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

13. It is agreed that the Sarawak Government will carry out all functions under the Social Welfare Department.

All posts will be transferred to State Civil Service. The Federal Government will contribute 50 per cent of the costs incurred as decided by the National Finance Council.

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