Budget 2019 insults Sabah and Sarawak, says activist

Zainnal Ajamain. (Facebook pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah rights activist Zainnal Ajamain has denounced Budget 2019 as an insult to the East Malaysian states.

Speaking to FMT, he said the development funds set aside for the two states – RM5 billion for Sabah and RM4.3 billion for Sarawak – were so small as to make a joke of Putrajaya’s assertion that it regards them as federation partners equal to Peninsular Malaysia.

“They have been throwing around the phrase ‘equal partners’ for a while now,” he said. “I was hoping these words would be translated into a fairer budget, with Sabah and Sarawak getting fair amounts to reflect their status in the federation.

“Unfortunately, all I see is a Malaya-centric budget. They like Sabah and Sarawak enough to take our oil resources, including the taxes, but that’s all they care about.”

He described the total allocation to the two states as an “insulting figure”.

Zainnal also said he was irked to hear in Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s budget speech that Petronas would be paying a “special dividend” of RM30 billion to the federal government.

To him, this gave the impression that the oil found in Sabah and Sarawak were regarded as belonging to the federal government, he added.

“The continental shelf where the oil is extracted is in Sabah and Sarawak, not in Malaya,” he said.

“How is it that they simply take everything that belongs to Sabah and Sarawak?”

He also questioned the fairness of the decision to subsidise fuel purchases for low-horsepower vehicles, saying it shouldn’t be applied nationwide.

By right, he said, revenues from taxes on oil and gas extracted from Sabah and Sarawak should be returned to the two states as provided for under the Federal Constitution.

He said the budget proposals brought back memories from the 1980s and the 1990s, when Sabah and Sarawak were allegedly treated like stepchildren.

“Even the international trade and industry ministry, headed by a Sabahan minister, is given only RM210 million to invest in a spaceport, which the federal government will build in Malaya,” he said.

“From today onwards, Sabah and Sarawak must make it a priority to reclaim the revenues collected from Sabah and Sarawak but were taken by the central government.”