FRANCIS PAUL SIAH
COMMENT | I think I want to be a voluntary schoolteacher in Sarawak soon. But wait, I should actually start teaching now because I have a very urgent and important message for students in my class.
To better illustrate the subject I’m teaching, I will hold up two photographs before my students, telling them: “This is your chief minister in Kuching and this is the finance minister in Kuala Lumpur.
“These two very important men have been quarrelling nonstop over money, and how and when to repair our dilapidated schools in Sarawak.
“No, they are not discussing or negotiating anymore. They are quarrelling like you, schoolkids, and throwing punches at each other. It’s getting very silly, petty and childish.
“So dear students, it’s okay for you all to quarrel too, be enemies and not talk to each other. If you feel like throwing punches, go ahead. Ministers, who are supposed to be leaders, are doing that. Follow their ‘great’ example.”
I would also encourage my students to take up politics as a career “because in Malaysia, politicians are paid a good salary for doing nothing except to quarrel and badmouth each other”.
And I must also not forget to tell them too that “you don’t have to be very smart to be a politician; just excel in politicking”.
This is how frustrated I have been over the past months with the ding-dong between Sarawak leaders and Putrajaya over the dilapidated schools issue.
My frustration turned into anger over the last two days with more allegations and accusations being hurled across the South China Sea by our so-called leaders on both sides.
Months ago, we heard of the RM2.352 billion loan Sarawak owes Putrajaya. Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said “settle RM1 billion first, then schools will be repaired”.
Later, it was agreed by both sides to pay RM350 million upfront. Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg revealed he paid the amount in early August but expressed his disappointment that no repairs have been carried out.
Lim then clarified that his ministry issued a letter on Aug 5 and authorised the Education Ministry to begin early works.
Michael Manyin, Sarawak minister in charge of education echoed Abang Jo, declaring that nothing has been done. Manyin, who led the Sarawak committee for talks with Putrajaya on the matter, said he did not hear anything from his federal counterpart, Maszlee Malik, after the RM350 million was paid.
On his part, Maszlee appeared disinterested in the issue and remained mum all along. Indeed, we have not heard from him on the matter for quite a while.
The education minister is probably too engrossed in the Jawi-khat controversy and the salvo from Putrajaya adviser Daim Zainuddin on Aug 10 that “Malaysia has failed because the government, through the Education Ministry, has not gotten its priorities right”.
As if the education minister didn’t have enough of public whacking for his lacklustre performance, Daim’s direct hit at the ministry was yet another new wound for Maszlee to lick. With these distractions, school repairs in Sarawak must be furthest from his mind.
Two Sarawak DAP lawmakers came to the defence of Lim, implying that the finance minister has kept his part of the bargain and had given the green light to get the job started.
Queried on which schools have been repaired, one of them retorted, “Go and ask James Masing.” Masing is Sarawak’s deputy chief minister and also handles infrastructure development. Suddenly, Masing has been dragged into the controversy when he was not a player at all in the past months.
Why the merry-go-round?
I have one important question – why the merry-go-round and constant passing the buck in this urgent project? Is anyone in authority seriously handling the matter? Who is actually in charge?
Right now, it appears that there is no one main person or ministry taking charge. So many ministers and ministries are involved. Who makes the final decision?
If it’s the so-called committee set up earlier, why are members in the dark of what’s going on? Putrajaya claimed the repairs have started but the Sarawak government is not aware of it. What is actually going on here?
As things played out, the suffering students and teachers in Sarawak’s over 1,000 rundown schools are the most affected. It seems that their plight is not being taken seriously by those who are supposed to put things right for them.
What the GPS and Harapan leaders are interested in is to blame each other for this stalemate. They prefer to indulge in politicking and badmouth each other as both sides need to score brownie points as the next Sarawak election draws near.
This is the problem with our politicians. The school repair project is one clear example of the wrong priority of those in power.
They are more interested in winning elections and attaining power. Immediately after an election victory, they will be thinking of how to win the next elections five years down the road.
It’s quite obvious that GPS and Harapan leaders cannot talk to each other anymore. They choose to quarrel and run each other down. I doubt they care for the teachers and students in rural Sarawak.
Shame on you, GPS and Harapan! We have heard enough. We are not interested to hear more of your excuses. It’s time to snap out of your quarrelsome mode and put an end to this tit-for-tat which has dragged on for far too long.
Just get down to repair the rundown schools. We don’t care how you do it. Just do it!
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.