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8th May, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR: Kimanis MP Datuk Anifah Aman (pictured right) yesterday raised in Parliament key issues affecting Sabah. And, he said the federal leaders must address these issues seriously. Anifah added that the representation of Sabahans in the federal administration and government-linked companies (GLCs) must be increased to reflect their role at the national level.

By and large, he said Malaysians in Sabah still felt being isolated although they have been in the Malaysian federation for 45 years. Citing Sabah’s insignificant representation in the federal cabinet, he said more Sabahans should be appointed to senior positions in the civil service, GLCs as well as universities.

“Not even a Sabahan is appointed as head of a Malaysian embassy abroad, a secretary-general, director-general, vice chancellor or chief executive of a GLC,” he quipped.

Anifah added that after more than four decades, Malaysians in Sabah could no longer accept the excuse that none of them were qualified to hold important positions at the federal level. “The statement that not many Sabahans are keen to join the federal service too, can’t be accepted. And, there is no reason why Malaysians from Sabah who are qualified could not be appointed on secondment or on contract,” he said. Another issue the Kimanis MP brought up was the planning and management of federal funds and the role of the Sabah Federal Development Department (JPPS).

“The implementation of federal-funded projects must directly involve state planning and implementation agencies,” he said, adding that the functions and roles of JPPPs must be reviewed.

State agencies, he stressed, should be involved in high impact projects like poverty eradication programmes and infrastructure projects. Anifah also said agencies like Petronas, Felda, Felcra which utilised state resources should make fixed payments to the state annually based on a fair formula. He also highlighted the high cost of living and doing business in Sabah.

“The people in Sabah have long been burdened with high prices of goods as compared to other states. “This is due to inefficient logistics and the increase in prices of petrol and diesel which had resulted in higher cost of sea, land and air transportations. “Such a scenario has brought about negative effects to the manufacturing and export sectors,” he said. As such, he proposed that the federal government should scrap the cabotage policy in stages and provide opportunities to Sabah to develop shipping networks with international port operators.

“Also, the shipping licence restrictions should be relaxed for local operators,” he said. Anifah also proposed the creation of Sepanggar Free Zone as identified under the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) with special investment incentives to intensify trade activities.

“A special oil subsidy fund using part of Petronas’ revenue earned in Sabah should be set up to influence the prices of local goods.” And, he also urged the federal government to declare Sandakan as the transshipment hub to boost trade so as to attract international shipping firms. The former deputy federal minister also touched on the provision of scholarships and intake of students by higher learning institutes. “It cannot be denied that education is an effective strategy to eradicate poverty. Sabah’s poverty rate in 2006 was 24 per cent as compared to the national rate of 5.7 per cent.

“In view of the high incidence of poverty, Sabah should be given a quota for scholarships and admissions for Sabah students at the universities. He also said priority in consultancy work and distribution of federal projects in Sabah should be given to local companies. “If no local firms have the required expertise and experience, then companies from outside Sabah could participate on condition they team up with local firms,” he said.

He added that the socio-economic status of the Bumiputeras in Sabah should also be improved. And, Anifah also called for a review of oil royalty for Sabah. The state government, he said, signed an agreement with Petronas on June 14, 1976 to give it full authority to undertake oil exploration and in return, Sabah was given a five per cent oil royalty annually.

But since 2000, several oil and natural gas sites had been discovered off the coast of north-west Sabah and production was estimated at 400-700 million barrels which would Sabah the biggest producer of oil and natural gas in the country. Anifah also asked Petronas to review its project – laying of natural gas pipelines from Sabah to Bintulu – and to expand the Sabah Oil and gas Terminal (SOG) in Kimanis.

He went on saying that a representative from every oil and natural gas producing state should be appointed as a Board member of Petronas and its subsidiary companies.

Meanwhile Anifah also highlighted the illegal immigrant issue, pointing out that it could be not denied that various problems have surfaced as a result of their presence in Sabah.

“This problem must be tackled in a comprehensive manner. We need a better approach,” he said, adding there was also a need to reduce dependence on foreign labour and to provide more job opportunities to the local people.

“I wish to propose that a parliamentary committee be set up to address the matter. MPs and heads of relevant agencies should be appointed to the committee which is answerable to Parliament,” he said.

Towards the end of his speech, Anifah said he believed that the top federal leaders and members of the federal cabinet were prepared to consider the proposals he presented.

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