We don’t simply spend, Sarawak tells DAP over dilapidated school issue

Sarawak says it needs RM3 billion to RM4 billion to repair dilapidated schools in the state. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: A Sarawak assistant minister has hit out at DAP for alleging that the state government wanted to spend RM1 billion meant to repair dilapidated schools according to its whims and fancies.

Assistant Minister of Education and Technological Research Annuar Rapaee described Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen’s allegation that the Sarawak government wanted to spend the money “its own way” as “serious”.

This follows Putrajaya’s refusal to accept the Sarawak government’s offer of a RM1 billion loan to repair the dilapidated schools.

The state had proposed that the money be offset against its debt with the federal government.

However, Putrajaya requested the state government to make an “advance payment” for the repair works instead.

Yesterday, Chong told the state assembly the federal government had agreed in principle to accept the loan offer but the issue reached a “deadlock” because the Sarawak government wanted to spend the money its way.

Annuar Rapaee.

Annuar rubbished Chong’s claim, saying negotiations were ongoing between Putrajaya and the state government.

He also said the request for an “advance payment” did not make sense even if Putrajaya was facing financial constraints.

“That was why the Sarawak government disagreed with their request.

“How sure are you that the RM1 billion would be spent for Sarawak once the money is deposited into the consolidated account?” Annuar said at the assembly sitting today.

He said Chong was also trying to portray the state government as not transparent although three committees comprising representatives from the finance ministry, education ministry and the state government would be formed to ensure that the targeted schools were upgraded.

Annuar, who is the Nangka assemblyman, also said the state government did not have the final say on the list of schools to be renovated.

“They (the federal government) would have the final say, so Chong’s allegation against us for wanting to use the money at our whims and fancies is not true,” he said.

Annuar said that since education came under the purview of Putrajaya, it was important for both the federal and state government to work together so the students did not suffer.

He said RM1 billion was insufficient to repair the estimated 100 dilapidated schools and that “about RM3 billion to RM4 billion” was needed.

Annuar also slammed those who had accused the state government for not helping to raise the standard of education during the past 55 years.

“Don’t forget your history. Who were the ministers of education for the last 55 years? Three of them now are in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. One is a prime minister in waiting, another is the prime minister and the other is a president of a component party of PH.

“We had been monopolised by these three persons for the past 55 years. There was only once when a Sarawakian became the education minister and at that particular time, the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and its medical school were built,” he said.