Why is special Sandakan council not headed by new MP, asks party

The Sandakan Economic Re-development Council aims to return Sabah’s second largest city to its glory days.

KOTA KINABALU: A Sabah opposition party has questioned why a council set up to revitalise the economy in Sandakan does not have its new MP Vivian Wong as the head, as promised by DAP.

Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) secretary-general Richard Yong We Kong said the Sandakan Economic Re-development Council is led by acting Sabah DAP chief Frankie Poon instead.

“What has happened to Lim Kit Siang’s announcement during the Sandakan by-election that the council is to be chaired by Wong?

“Lim had promised that he will personally assist the committee. Where is he now? Has he abandoned Sandakan?” he asked in a statement.

Lim had during the by-election campaign in May announced that Wong would spearhead a special council formed to return Sandakan to its glory days if she won by a big margin.

Wong won with a higher majority compared to that obtained by her late father, Stephen Wong Tien Fatt, previously

SAPP secretary-general Richard Yong We Kong.

Poon, who is also the state health and people’s well-being minister, announced recently the government had decided to set up the council to uplift Sandakan’s economy.

The Tanjong Papat assemblyman said the council would consist of three sub-committees, namely the steering, technical and implementation units, to improve the economy in the second largest city in Sabah.

Yong said the first task of the council should be to pressure Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to implement the RM2.28 billion development projects for Sandakan, which he announced just before the by-election.

He said the council should also tell Lim to reinstate the Trans Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP) project so that natural gas can be used in Sandakan for energy generation.

“Without sufficient and affordable electricity supply, the Sandakan economy is starved of crucial resources to generate economic activities,” he said.

Yong said the council should also address the issue of the new levies imposed on dependants of foreign workers in the oil palm sector.

He said that according to media reports, the Malaysian Estate Owners’ Association (MEOA) had appealed to the government to review the imposition of the levies.

Under the on-going regularisation programme from April 1 to Sept 30, a foreign worker is charged RM1,705 for immigration fees and RM1,060 for agency fees, amounting to a total of RM2,765.

A worker’s spouse is charged RM1,365 in fees while a child is charged RM1,065, bringing the cost of legalising the foreign workers and dependants in the oil palm industry to about RM800 million.

“As Sandakan is heavily dependent on the oil palm industry and foreign workers, the new levies on the spouses and children of foreign workers will strangle its economy,” Yong said.