Don’t dream of decentralisation, activist tells Sarawak, Sabah

Political activist Zainnal Ajamain. (Facebook pic.)

PETALING JAYA: Political activist Zainnal Ajamain has dismissed Sarawak’s hope of autonomy over health and education as a dream that would not be realised.

He said the same would hold true for Sabah.

He told FMT he could not see Putrajaya decentralising its authority over health or education because it would mean surrendering to the two states revenues accounting for a huge portion of federal revenue.

“The federal government just does not have the money to do this,” he said.

Zainnal, who is based in Sabah, was commenting on reports that Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg was seeking the decentralisation of authority over education and health in the state.

Referring to the concurrent list of the Federal Constitution, he noted that health and medicine in Sabah are two of the items.

“The constitution says that as long as medicine and health are in the concurrent list, then the expenses are borne by Sabah.

“It also says that 30% of all customs revenues go back to Sabah, other than duties on petroleum products, timber and royalties on minerals.”

He said the same could be said about the 40% tax revenue from Sabah.

Under the Federal Constitution, Sabah is entitled to receive 40% of the revenue derived by the federal government in the state.

In November, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said Putrajaya had wanted to give Sabah this 40% but did not have enough funds to do so.

As for Sarawak, Zainnal said, Putrajaya would need to provide funding to the state because the constitution does not provide for the return of tax revenue as in Sabah’s case.

“It cannot give to Sabah revenue owed to it without giving around the same amount to Sarawak to run its own health and education systems. All this means a lot of money, easily billions.”

He said as long Putrajaya controlled the purse strings, the Sabah and Sarawak state governments would not be able to enjoy “real autonomy” over health and education.

“How can you have autonomy without funding? How can you control what you do without the resources or a plan for the years ahead?

“This is why I think these are a pipe dream. I really cannot imagine Putrajaya giving up so much revenue,” Zainnal said.