Sebastian Ting: We should have State-wide “Sarawak Science Week” annually

Datuk Amar Speaker,

1.1      Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to join other Honourable members to debate on the Supply (2018) Bill, 2017. Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Sarawak Government and Chief Minister YAB Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Zohari who is also the Minister of Finance for tabling his first Budget to set the direction and the pace to turn Sarawak into a high income State by 2030. It is a Budget of Development and people-centric Budget with strong emphasis on rural development for the year 2018. With 70 per cent of the total budget is for the proposed development and 53 per cent of the development budget goes to the rural areas.

2.0      MINISTERIAL MOTION TO FORM HIGH-LEVEL SPECIAL TASK FORCE

Datuk Amar Speaker,

2.1      Yesterday we passed the Ministerial Motion for the formation of a high level special task force to negotiate with the Federal Government to resolve all outstanding issues related to the compliance and upholding of the constitutional safeguards and special rights accorded to the State of Sarawak in accordance with the terms, intent and spirit of the Malaysia Agreement. I would like to congratulate our Chief Minister and his two Deputy Chief Ministers for this.

2.2      This motion had caused a lot of excitement among the people because it is seen as the continuation of our late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Haji Adenan Satem, also fondly known as Tok Nan, fighting for the return of our State Rights which had eroded for the past 54 years. We are blessed to have YAB Datuk Patinggi Dr. Abang Haji Zohari as our new captain of the Team Adenan who is fully committed to fulfill the legacy on the Devolution of Power from the Federal to the State left by Tok Nan. The tremendous feeling of unity has never been so strong amongst our people whom our late Tok Nan managed to connect.

2.3      Our Party SUPP had consistently expressed our stance that after the lifting of Emergency Proclamations back on 24th November 2011 by YAB Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No.7 (1969), the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No. 10 (1969), Continental Shelf Act 1966 and the Petroleum Mining Act 1966 would cease to have effect on Sarawak. This means Sarawak’s territorial waters immediately reverted back to its original boundaries before the formation of Malaysia and is no longer limited to just mere 3 nautical miles.

2.4      When the Federal Government introduced and passed the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (Act 750), Sarawak’s territorial waters was limited back to 3 nautical miles. However, I believe the Act 750 law contravenes Article 2(b) of our Federal Constitution which states, ”2(b) Parliament may by law alter the boundaries of any State but shall not be passed    without the consent of that State (expressed by a law made by the Legislature of    that State) and of the Conference of Rulers.”

2.5      Hitherto, I believe that our Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak has never passed any Bill to support the alteration of our State’s boundaries.

2.6      It is not an easy task but I would like to believe that the high level special task force would negotiate with the Federal Government to amend or repeal the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (Act 750) and any Federal Acts which are found to be inconsistence with MA63, the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report and Malaysia Act 1963 (Chapter 35) as part of the process to resolve all outstanding issues related to the compliance and upholding of the constitutional safeguards and special rights enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 for Sarawak.

3.0      SARAWAK MULTIMEDIA AUTHORITY (SMA) AND SARAWAK RESEARCH AND    DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

Datuk Amar Speaker,

3.1      I wish to congratulate the Chief Minister for having 2 extremely important Bills passed as they play important roles of projecting Sarawak into the digital economy and intensify the research and development activities with a view of sourcing new revenue stream to the State such as cess and levy on valuable commodities as well as royalties from patents.

4.0      SARAWAK RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

Datuk Amar Speaker,

4.1      I meant to speak and participate on this Sarawak Research and Development Council (SRDC) yesterday but was denied the opportunity. Therefore I would like touch a little on this. SRDC will play a vital role to initiate, promote, coordinate and advancement of research and development in Sarawak. During the debate of the Bill, Prof. Dr. David Huang, aged 55 was mentioned several times. He and his team developed a revolutionary drug for cancer treatment in Australia. Interestingly, he is a Sarawak born and an ex-Josephian.

4.2      Sarawak Research and Development Council is formed to retain talented people such as Professor Dr. David Huang to support the State’s advancement and for the promotion of the State’s economic growth and progress.

4.3      The setting up of the SRDC is therefore very timely indeed. We hope this council can ensure the realization of the value of our researches in the State through commercialization to benefit our economy.

4.4      I would like to suggest that each year this Council would offer at least ten scholarships to Sarawakians who wish to further their Master Degrees and or PHD. At this juncture I would like to refer to Malaysia Palm Oil Board, an agency under the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, where it is their policy to offer scholarship to their own staff to help to develop themselves further and the public. MPOB has an excellent Research and Development Centre at Bangi. They have done very well with their number of Masters and PHD staffs, their scientists.

4.5      With 10 sponsored Masters and PHD scholars each year, we hope to see 100 highly qualified scientists researching under this Council in ten years time.  We will then be very proud of this Council and this Council can indeed become a show case for our young students to visit each year.

4.6      Again if I may refer to Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) where each year they would hold a week long commercialization of their scientists’ inventions with the main intention of allowing the private sectors and companies, businessmen to visit and discuss on the possibility of taking up those inventions for commercialization. They had been success stories thus far. A win-win situation for all parties concerned. I would therefore like to encourage this Sarawak Research and Development Council to do likewise, perhaps two days for a start.

4.7      I would like to note here that there is a Bio Valley Park at Curtin University in Miri. I am given to understand that the facility is completed and I hope it will be ready for operation soon. According to the Curtin Website, Bio Valley Park is expected to give a significant boost to R&D and knowledge accumulation in Sarawak to meet the State’s technological needs, particularly in relation to the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), as well as contribute to the State Government’s vision of making Miri a reputable centre of learning and research in the area of biotechnology.

5.0      DIGITAL ECONOMY

Datuk Amar Speaker,

5.1      I had spoken in length on Digital Economy in the last DUN session in May 2017. I will not repeat what I had said, suffice for today I would like to thank The Chief Minister for the allocation RM 1 billion in this 2018 Budget. This allocation will definitely speed up the infrastructure development of ICT in Sarawak and this will have tremendous impact on our journey to transform Sarawak’s economy through digital technology. We hope all Sarawakians would participate in this exciting digital economy. We must also look after our youth, especially those under 30 years old to encourage them to participate fully in this digital economy. They shall be the future leaders of Sarawak in politics and in corporate world.

6.0      DEVELOPMENT BANK OF SARAWAK (DBOS)

Datuk Amar Speaker,

6.1      I had also spoken at length on Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) in the last DUN session in May 2017. For today, I would like to congratulate the Chief Minister for the official launching of our state-owned Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) on the 3rd November 2017. The launching generated tremendous excitement in the banking industry both local and foreign bankers. I share the same believe with the Chief Minister that this is the best way to speed up the much needed infrastructure development for the State so we are in time to be the most developed State by 2030.

6.2      DBOS will have several focuses such as infrastructure development, development in the oil and gas industry, renewable energy, urban transport, telecommunication, digital economy, healthcare and integrated agriculture. May I suggest that institution of higher learning such as colleges and universities be included for consideration by DBOS.

7.0      EDUCATION

Datuk Amar Speaker,

7.1      The State’s vision of advancing into the digital economy presents new challenges and put new demands on our present education system. There is a growing sense of urgency from the Government, educators and the people to push for change and improve the way how we prepare our students to be productive, creative, innovative, relevant and functioning in the new digital and industrialisation era.

7.2      According to two well-known economists and I quote, “The 4th Industrial Revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labour markets”. As automation increases, the demand for highly skilled workers increased but the demand for workers with lower skills or labour dependent decreased.

7.3      If we don’t intervene and manage the situation, it may lend to an issue of inequality and increasing the gap in wealth between the intellectual and physical capital community such as the innovators, investors and shareholders compared to the community that are dependent on labour. Job market may increasingly be segregated into “high-skill/high-pay” and “low-skill/low-pay” segments of society. In the future, talent will represent the critical factor of production.

7.4      It is therefore imperative that we change our education system to fit the job skills needed in digital economy. We can transform by training or retraining our current workforce from a user-centric to a developer-centric education. Our aim is to make sure every Sarawakian stays relevant in this new digital economy and able to make a decent living. We must change or we will be left behind.

7.5      With this in mind, our government needs to devise programs and events to encourage students to take up Engineering, Science and ICT programs in the primary, secondary and tertiary education. It is good to start young. We must continue to place higher urgency for more technical education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in schools. Even in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), for most of the courses our students still need to acquire basic understanding in Science and Maths. On that note, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for allocating RM 4.9 billion for the TVET Malaysia Masterplan in the 2018 Budget announced on 27th October 2017 and we hope Sarawak will be allocated a substantial amount from it.

7.6      Should we have State-wide “Sarawak Science Week” annually? I think we should. Why? To encourage an interest in science pursuits among the general public and to encourage young people to be fascinated by the world we live in. To inspire the innovators of tomorrow. During the celebration, universities, schools, research institutions, museums, libraries and science centres will take part in the celebration and be the co-organisers of the different planned activities in their areas. We can have activities such as competition, exhibition, forum with world leading science communicator and many more. Government should come in to provide financial grants to support the Sarawak Science Week events to individuals, universities, research institutes and other organisations to hold events for the public across the State.

7.7      There are many challenges affecting our rural schools such as under-enrolled, unsafe school structure, high transportation costs, lack of IT facilities, lack of science laboratories, lack of internet access and lack of high-quality teachers. These conditions are definitely not conducive for our rural students.

7.8      Therefore, I want to express my support to Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research, YB Dato Sri Michael Manyin for his tremendous commitment to fight for more Federal funds to repair the 1,020 dilapidated schools including 415 critically dilapidated schools and to centralised some schools that are under-enrolled. These two issues had continued to deny our students from accessing comfortable learning environment and from having the high-quality teachers for far too long and we must put an end to it.

7.9      Lastly, we must continue to emphasis the importance of mastering the English language among our students in order for them to be competitive in global stage. Our rural students are suffering due to lack of access to libraries and laboratories. I believe the Chief Minister’s vision of turning the whole Sarawak digital will be a great window opportunity for not only the rural students but also for the urban students to access for more references for their studies through online research papers, online encyclopedia, and online libraries and even be part of the science society. And all this is possible if they master the English language.

7.10      I was disappointed to see a Federal Minister recently said that “We have to protect the national language and stop the widespread advancement of English in Malaysia and English is not a language that guarantees progress”. Not only that this statement contradict our State’s effort to promote English as another widely used language but his sweeping statement to single out English language as the main cause is uncalled for and bias. There are thousands upon thousands of research papers coming out every day, is the Federal Minister suggesting that we translate every one of them? Why do double the work when we can get our students mastered the English language and understand it right away. Our people in Sarawak are fully aware that our late Tok Nan and our present YAB Chief Minister had very clearly said in numerous times that English language shall be an official language in Sarawak in addition of Bahasa Malaysia. I would suggest that the Federal Government to follow Sarawak in adopting both Bahasa Malaysia and English as official languages for the sake of our children and future generation.

8.0      AFFORABLE HOUSING AND SQUATTERS IN MIRI

Datuk Amar Speaker,

8.1      In 2018 Budget, a sum of RM 232 million is allocated for affordable housing projects, Rumah Mampu Milik (RMM) and Rumah Mesra Rakyat (RMR), targeting towards lower income group as a continuation effort to care for the well being of our people. I hope that part of the allocation would go to Miri.

8.2      Back in June 10, 2016 at this August House, I spoke on affordable housing and squatters in Miri. This issue is very important and I would to touch on this again.

8.3      It is the dream of everyone and everyone would love to own a house. Unfortunately, prices of houses have escalated sky high and beyond the reach of ordinary people. Many people are renting houses or rooms. Even fresh graduates are facing challenges of coming up with a sum to pay as deposit to purchase a house.

8.4      Miri has the biggest number of squatters in Sarawak, in the thousands and they come mostly from rural areas with the hope of searching for jobs, business opportunities and better living standard for their families.

8.5      Therefore, I would like to request our Government to build more affordable houses in Miri to cater for the needs of Miri people. There are also many young families who are renting rooms who cannot afford to buy the houses in the ordinary market.

9.0      GAS PIPE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR MIRI

Datuk Amar Speaker,

9.1      Sarawak is blessed with abundant supply of oil and natural gas. Being the oil town, Miri has been using the piped natural gas supply service since 1950s and it has become the way of life for the people of Miri. However, there are still some places in Miri, especially the outskirts of Miri that are still without piped gas supply service.

9.2      With the Distribution of Gas Ordinance 2016 approved last year, it is my hope that all relevant parties would play their respective roles in fulfilling the State Government’s aim of establishing a gas distribution industry for the promotion of social and economic development in Sarawak. It would also be necessary for new development to be provided with all the necessary gas pipe infrastructure ready for connection to all gas users.

10.0      ARGO PARK

Datuk Amar Speaker,

10.1      I would like to thank the State Government for introducing a new policy to form Argo Park whereby government leasing land for agricultural purposes to people who are genuinely interested in embarking into agriculture industry. This policy is good especially to the rural people because not only it provides them food but also assisting them to generate additional income through the sale of agricultural produce to enhance their standard of living.

10.2      As the world population increasing every year, the demand for food will only grow bigger especially from countries like China and India. Sarawak has a huge potential to turn into food basket of South East Asia region. We need our agriculture entrepreneurs to start emulate the modern agriculture practices from countries such as United States where each year they produce more than sufficient food for their country’s consumption as well as for export. We can no longer depend on traditional method, we must shift to digital and machines for more production.

10.3      I understand that the first Argo Park will be built in Sarikei next year with 500 acres approved to be leased to people who are interested. I hope that the government will also consider Miri as another potential to have this Argo Park.

11.0      ROAD TO MULU NATIONAL PARK

Datuk Amar Speaker,

11.1      I had also spoken in length on this issue during last sitting, May 2017. Now it is getting more crucial and I would like to touch on this again. Mulu National Park is world renowned, the only world heritage in Sarawak. It is heartbreaking to see that our tourism industry in Mulu expected to suffer loss of RM 5 million revenues next year due to the reduction of MASwings flight frequency to Mulu.

11.2      I concurred with the statement by Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) President, Mr. Philip Yong that the State Government must quickly look into the Mulu flight reduction issue including eliminating the dynamic fare structure and introduce pricing cap on flights fare for flights within Sarawak and to Sabah.

11.3      In the last Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) sitting, I had elaborated on the need and advantages constructing the road to Mulu National Park. For today, I would only add that presently the only access to Mulu by tourists is by air to the small airport of the park. Flights can be cancelled and severely delayed due to poor weather conditions that make it unsafe to fly to the small airport. Furthermore, tourists do not want to travel half way round the world to be told that they cannot get to Mulu National Park due to bad weather.  This leads to bad publicity.

11.4      I welcome the plan by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr. James Masing to build roads leading to our National Parks and I hope that Mulu National Park is one of them. I also agree with Tan Sri James Masing that building roads to national parks does not mean the destruction of Sarawak’s nature. Sarawak has one of the oldest rainforests in the world thus making preservation extremely important. The only way is for our people and the world community to appreciate with what we have in Sarawak and they can only do so if they see it or experience it for themselves, meaning the accessibility to the national park must be there.

12.0      CONCLUSION

Datuk Amar Speaker,

12.1      With this, I wish to express my full support for the Supply (2018) Bill, 2017.

12.2      I also wish to take this opportunity to wish all our Honourable members, political secretaries, heads of departments and staffs who are Christians and all Christians in Sarawak a “Merry Christmas” and a Happy and Blessed New Year 2018 to all Sarawakians.

Thank you.