Mahathir’s new Look East focus on Sabah, Sarawak

Dr Mahathir Mohamad greets Sarawakians on arrival in Kuching this morning with his wife Dr Siti Hasmah for the Malaysia Day celebrations. (Bernama pic)

KUCHING: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today reinforced the federal government’s commitment to give more focus on developing Sarawak and Sabah in line with its newly-introduced Shared Prosperity Vision policy.

The prime minister acknowledged that not enough attention had been paid to the two states in the past, compared to the Peninsular states. “We are looking at an oil-rich Sarawak, yet development is not equally distributed among Sarawakians themselves and also between Sarawak and the Peninsula,” he said.

“We have to focus more on Sarawak and Sabah so that the people in two states will be treated the same as those in the Peninsula,” he said at a ‘Berambeh (meet and greet) Bersatu Sarawak gathering organised by his party, PPBM.

He urged Sarawakians to change the state government at the next state elections to ensure that they had a strong alliance with the federal government. (Sarawak is run by Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a coalition of four parties who left the Barisan Nasional.)

Dr Mahathir who is chairman of Pakatan Harapan and PPBM chairman reminded party members to maintain their bond with other PH component party members. “On our own we cannot win Sarawak. We need to form a coalition with other parties, because like it or not, only by doing so can we win and form the government,” he said.

He said the federal government’s new additional attention on both states was not based on favouritism, but on “the reality that although Sarawak is very much larger than other states, development here is lagging, except in the urban areas. In the rural areas, we find the situation there is not to what we desire.”

He said the federal government’s new Shared Prosperity Vision policy would result in fair and equal distribution of wealth and shared development.

“This time we want to ensure the underprivileged are given opportunities, on the condition that they work hard and fully use these opportunities, and not just to sell out their licences and contracts,” he said.

“Sadly, they lack skills. We will train them, teach them financial management and ways to manage business so that when they get opportunities, they do not sell them out to the wealthy, and instead will use those opportunities to raise their income. With that, the gap between the poor and rich will be reduced,” the premier said.

Dr Mahathir said the policy had been carefully planned to ensure its successful implementation, and hoped that it would be fully backed by Malaysians.

“If we give out opportunities but the recipients themselves do not want to improve their capabilities, then this (existing) cycle will continue, but if they are willing to work and train hard, be honest by not selling the opportunities given to them, then InsyaAllah, they will go and succeed.

“We have managed to outline and understand how this shared prosperity policy can be achieved. The government is doing this as it is our duty to work for the people, but the people themselves must be ready to embrace this new policy for it to be a success,” he said.