Sunday, 28 February 2021

Welcoming the proposed special document for those who had undergone vaccination

Yesterday I commented to our media friends on our state government's plans to introduce a special passport for those who have been vaccinated. The document is aimed to facilitate travel by allowing those who have received the Covid19 vaccine to enter and exit the country. For now we have not implemented the plan yet because the vaccination process in our state and country is still underway at an early stage.

I also welcomed this plan so that our tourism industry will be revitalised and it will gradually recover. Therefore, those who have been vaccinated will be given this special passport to prove that they have been vaccinated so that their movements will be facilitated. Only those who have this special passport will be allowed to go through the border gates for their respective affairs.

Similarly, those who want to enter our country and state, they must have proof that they have been vaccinated. If there is a mutual agreement with any of their parties, only visitors from foreign countries who have been vaccinated will be allowed to enter our state to ensure that they are safe. However, bilateral agreement is important to ensure the effectiveness of this control measure and so that it can benefit efforts to revive the tourism industry in general.





Sharing the optimism on our do­mes­tic trav­els within Malaysia that should slowly re­cover in sec­ond half of 2021

Recently I have expressed optimism on our do­mes­tic trav­els within Malaysia that should slowly re­cover in the sec­ond half of this year. We are also an­tic­i­pat­ing the vis­i­tor’s ar­rival to each 1.1 mil­lion with the es­ti­mated tourism re­ceipt amount­ing to RM2.64 bil­lion and this partly due to the avail­abil­ity of Covid-19 vac­cines.

In pro­ject­ing this, how­ever, we ac­knowl­edged that such tar­get would very much de­pend on the global Covid-19 sit­u­a­tion. While wait­ing for the restart of tourism-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties, to­gether we should be look­ing at hav­ing vi­brant and strate­gic di­rec­tions for our tourism in­dus­try. In line with our Tourism As­pi­ra­tions un­der Sarawak Eco­nomic Ac­tion Coun­cil (SEAC), we hope that by 2030, Sarawak would be a lead­ing des­ti­na­tion for eco-tourism and busi­ness events in Asean.

Through the min­istry, we have un­der­taken short-term re­cov­ery mea­sures that in­clude build­ing con­fi­dence to travel through strin­gent stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures (SOP) en­dorsed by our State Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee (SDMC). We were suc­cess­ful in run­ning the dis­counted travel in­cen­tives through the ‘Sia Si­tok Cam­paign’ in 2020, aimed at pro­mot­ing do­mes­tic in­tra-state trav­els among the lo­cal folk.

I have fur­ther mentioned that the cam­paign had gen­er­ated good re­sponse, in which it had gen­er­ated RM1,569,026 in sales for 941 tour pack­ages, with 5,668 peo­ple havng grabbed the hol­i­day of­fers – to ac­com­mo­date more re­quests, the trav­el­ling pe­riod for the cam­paign had been ex­tended to this March 31.

My min­istry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) would con­tinue the ‘Sia Si­tok’ cam­paign in its ver­sion 2.0, where 60 more pack­ages would be launched soon of­fer­ing a wider range of do­mes­tic tour pack­ages set to cre­ate more in­ter­est among the lo­cals to travel widely in our state – ben­e­fit­ting the tour in­dus­try as a whole.”

I have high­lighted the tourism in­dus­try as a key con­trib­u­tor to the na­tion’s eco­nomic growth and there­fore, he wel­comed the in­tro­duc­tion of Pen­jana Tourism Fi­nanc­ing (PTF) by the fed­eral Min­istry of Tourism, Arts and Cul­ture (Mo­tac) as part of the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts in as­sist­ing tourism in­dus­try play­ers dur­ing the present Covid-19 pan­demic.

I would strongly en­cour­age the tourism in­dus­try play­ers to grab this golden op­por­tu­nity to un­der­take the nec­es­sary in­vest­ments to sus­tain their busi­ness through this PTF, with no col­lat­eral. The state gov­ern­ment, through my min­istry, had sup­ported lo­cal tourism in­dus­try play­ers through­out the Covid-19 pe­riod through the chan­nelling of mil­lions of ring­git via var­i­ous fund­ing and as­sis­tance pro­grammes.

To say there’s been not much ef­fort, fi­nan­cial or other as­sis­tance meant to lessen the bur­den shoul­dered by our tourism trade prac­ti­tion­ers through­out the past 12 months, is an un­der­state­ment. It is also un­fair to de­scribe the al­leged sit­u­a­tion ‘a tragedy and a lack of ini­tia­tive, fore­sight and con­cern’ for the in­dus­try, which had been in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing tourism rev­enues di­rectly and in­di­rectly to the gov­ern­ment of the day.

I have also said the state gov­ern­ment had spent bil­lions of ring­git in help­ing lo­cal folk through its ‘Sarawakku Sayang Spe­cial As­sis­tance’ (BKSS) in­tro­duced last year, with di­rect ben­e­fi­cia­ries hav­ing in­cluded those in the tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. In this re­gard, the fi­nan­cial sup­port and as­sis­tance had, as at Au­gust 2020, reached 788,543 peo­ple – cov­er­ing those work­ing in all eco­nomic sec­tors.

On Aug 24 last year, the Eco­nomic Plan­ning Unit (EPU) un­der our Chief Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment dis­closed that funds amount­ing to RM319.92 mil­lion had been al­lo­cated for spe­cial aid and as­sis­tance pro­grammes meant for our folks in the B40 group. For the record, our BKSS 1.0 was in­tro­duced by our Chief Min­is­ter on March 23 last year and was aimed at help­ing those in the medium-in­come groups re­cover as well as re­gain their mo­men­tum in up­lift­ing their liveli­hood.

Ini­tially, the BKSS ini­tia­tives started with RM1.15 bil­lion worth of al­lo­ca­tions, but by the end of 2020, the funds had breached the RM2.55-bil­lion mark. Un­der BKSS 2.0 which was an­nounced on April last year, the value was at RM1.1 bil­lion – with spe­cial at­ten­tion given to strug­gling busi­ness­men and traders.

Even spe­cial grants were given to reg­is­tered tour guides and na­tional park guides who were af­fected by the pan­demic. The state gov­ern­ment had al­lo­cated (each of the guides) a one-off RM1,500 cash as­sis­tance, with the to­tal amount­ing RM387,000; while a RM500 one­off cash aid was given to each of the 199 own­ers of ‘pe­nam­bang’ (tra­di­tional char­tered boats) reg­is­tered un­der Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB). On top of that, a one-off cash aid of RM600 was also given to each of 959 op­er­a­tors of ‘van penumpang’ (char­tered pas­sen­ger van), 1,976 taxi own­ers and 739 op­er­a­tors of school buses and vans reg­is­tered in Sarawak.

The to­tal amount of as­sis­tance given out was RM2.2 mil­lion, and it was given by the state gov­ern­ment be­cause it was aware of the loss of in­come in­curred by this group who had been pro­vid­ing trans­porta­tion ser­vices ren­dered to lo­cals and also visi­tors to the state.

In ad­di­tion to that, my min­istry had also helped the lo­cal ho­tel in­dus­try by ap­point­ing ho­tel es­tab­lish­ments as Covid-19 quar­an­tine cen­tres for peo­ple com­ing into Kuching from other states since the start of the pan­demic. This has helped the lo­cal hote­liers sus­tain their busi­ness and keep­ing their work­force through­out the pan­demic pe­riod.




Saturday, 27 February 2021

Sarawak will continue to use the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine throughout its vaccination programme

Sarawak will continue to us the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid19 vaccine throughout its vaccination programme and as mentioned by our Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Abang Haji Openg the use of other vaccines such as the Sinovac vaccine from China would only be considered if Malaysia’s regulatory bodies such as the Health Ministry approved its use.

 

This morning our chief minister had said at the moment the state government will just use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but if the regulatory bodies announced the other vaccines can also be used, then we will look into it, and may consider using the other vaccines.

#AbangJo was asked by our media friends if Sarawak would consider using the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from China in its vaccination programme after various online news reports revealed that the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine dropped to about 50 per cent compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has an efficacy of more than 90 per cent even after only the first dose, according to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme handbook. Our chief minister had also assured that the regulatory bodies, especially Ministry of Health (MoH) with its experts, would know what is best for the health of Malaysians, with the aim to break the Covid19 chain of infection.

According to him, if the regulatory bodies say the other vaccines can be used, then we may use them. If not, then we don’t use them and we will leave it to the experts.

On a related matter, #AbangJo said while Sarawak is implementing its own vaccination programme, the state government is also looking at the implementation of similar programmes in other parts of the world.

As far as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is concerned, the state government was given to understand that the vaccine has been cleared for use across North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and vaccination campaigns have begun in at least 99 countries, including Malaysia. Since 26 February, a total of 218 million doses of the vaccines had been administered across 99 countries.

However, Abang Johari had stressed that continued compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions was still essential to achieve the impact because the vaccine is not a cure, but a form of protection against potential infection that should help to break the chain of transmission of the coronavirus.

In relation to this, our Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas had disclosed the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) had previously set up a ‘Covid-19 Vaccine Adversary Group’ to look into matters regarding Covid-19 vaccines in the state.

The group led by our former State Health Department director, Datu Professor Dr Andrew Kiyu and it consists of 11 scientists and experts in the medical field, tasked to also advise the state government on matters related to the vaccines.







 

Sarawak will not rush to hold state election because people’s health and safety should come first

Kudos to our Chief Minister, #AbangJo who had announced that Sarawak is in no hurry to hold the next 12thState Election (PRN12) because at the moment, the state government is focusing on looking after the health of Sarawakians amidst the Covid19 pandemic.

 

According to him, we are still in the state of emergency and the PRN12 can be held later at any time because saving people’s lives cannot (be postponed) anytime. 

 

Our chief minister said these when responding to our media friends inquiries after officiating Sarawak’s Covid-19 Vaccination Programme Phase I for frontliners which was held at Stadium Perpaduan in Petra Jaya this morning. He was asked to comments on whether the state election would be held as soon as the Sarawak Covid-19 Vaccination Programme would be concluded this coming August.

 

Abang Johari however gave assurance that the state government will continue to ensure that the health of Sarawakians and those residing in the state are prioritised to break the Covid19 chain of infection. He mentioned that “That is why we (state government) don’t think of anything else, we prioritise the people’s health first”.

 

In today’s press conference, our chief minister also highlighted some of the efforts by the state government to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Sarawak, including quarantining persons-under-surveillance in hotels and other accommodations around the state which costs 

around RM72 million since last year.

 

He added that apart from providing the accommodation, the state government also paid for their meals. All of it is borne by the state government. Besides that we also help those who are struggling financially due to Covid-19.

 

“Our priority now is the people’s health. Money we can find, but the people’s lives cannot be replaced,” he said and added that coincidentally in the midst of the pandemic, Petronas had discovered gas in the Central Luconia Province just 80km off the Sarawak coast on Feb 10. According to him, our government will negotiate with Petronas while explaining that with the potential funds for Sarawak following the gas discovery, the state would be able to better assist our local folks.

 




Monday, 22 February 2021

Calling creative industry players to continue their passion and be resilient while facing challenges of Covid-19 pandemic

 I have called on those in our local creative industry to continue their passion and be resilient in facing the challenges caused by Covid-19 pandemic which had affected the events and entertainment industry worldwide.

The impacts of the pandemic are not only experienced by our local performers and entertainers but it had also affected the whole entertainment industry on a global scale where many music, film and arts festivals, concerts and shows are postponed or cancelled in order to avoid the spread of Covid-19 virus.  

In Sarawak itself we had to cancel many local and international festivals that involve music, arts, fashion and film events simply to comply with the new normal and to do our part in curbing the spread of Covid-19 whereby these measures are necessary and unavoidable. 

Thus, many of our homegrown artistes, singers and entertainers are bad affected and some had lost their incomes simply because having large gatherings of spectators in the thousands are not allowed under the new normal and to comply with the strict standard operating procedures (SOP).   

The predicaments faced by our local artistes and entertainments are similar to that faced by their counterparts and peer groups from other countries but there are many who had refused to give in the prevailing situations while using the digital platforms in finding the solutions in pursuing their passion, expanding their horizons and showcasing their talents worldwide.

Hence, the rapid development of information technology especially the Online meeting and communication applications had enable all of us to explore and use such platforms in reaching out to others even on a global scale via virtual engagements and interactions.

There are many local well-known artistes and musicians who have done this and they had also shown us that the pandemic should not be the stumbling block for members of the music and entertainment industry to continue their creative passion and reaching out to the masses. There is a necessity for all of us to embrace the new normal while working with others in creating the unique ecosystem that can contribute to the healthy growth of our home grown artistes,  music talents, entertainers and performers.

There is also the need for our local music and entertainment industry to collaborate with their peer groups in developing good strategies and means to go forward with their passion and profession even though doing it from home via popular online platforms such as YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram, and TikTok.

The pandemic had forced us to relook on how things were done before and to move on by exploring the use of digital communication technology in filling the gaps caused by the Covid19 pandemic which have caused many people losing their jobs and sources of incomes from their natural talents.






Big thanks for the wonderful time at Siri Sembang Santai Sarawak

The recent "Siri Sembang Santai Sarawak" live FB streaming program went smoothly and I thank the organizers for the wonderful time we had over the weekend. The list of topics which we had discussed during the show were interesting especially on the current issues which were widely spoken by members of the public in Sarawak and in other states.

The response from Netizens especially on FB was encouraging with over 13,000 views after 24 hours the program was uploaded and I thank those who gave wonderful comments which have motivated the program's organisers to do more in the near future.

I have enjoyed the one-hour programe which is the first of its kind and it is a good avenue for the local folks to get engaged with their community and government leaders who can share their thoughts as well as views on many topics of common interest.

For those who missed the show can click this link to know more :

https://www.facebook.com/601893756608637/posts/2334188850045777/?d=n







 

Friday, 19 February 2021

Getting excited with thenew version of our "Sarawak Sia Sitok Campaign 2021"

I am excited with the new version of our "Sarawak Sia Sitok" campaign which is set to be launched next month following the succes of the previous one launched last year.

Our Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak together with our valued partners will roll out the Sia Sitok 2.0 that features 60 packages, which is actually double that in the initial programme launched in July last year and set to end on March 31 2021.

What is interesting is that there will be a wider range of domestic tour packages and this will create more interest among its locals to travel widely in Sarawak. In the our first campaign, it had generated over RM1.5 million in sales through 941 tour packages that had attracted a total of 5,668 vacationers. 

We are equally excited with the availability of Covid-19 vaccination that will help to stimulate recovery domestic travel within Malaysia and Sarawak in the second half of 2021 but the anticipated total number of visitors' arrival is 1.1 million with an estimated tourism receipt of RM2.64 billion receipt. However, this estimated target will depend very much on the Covid-19 global situation as well.

Among the exciting offers that be included are popular destinations such as Bako National Park, Matang Telaga Air and the Kuching Wetlands, with tours on frog and bird watching, Irrawaddy Dolphin watching, and the Sarawak River Sunset Cruise.

Personally, I believe that we still can revive our tourism industry by boosting the domestic tourism activities with our ‘Sia Sitok Sarawak Tour Package’. It will enhance the people’s confidence to travel domestically while the borders are still closed.

The utilisation of Sarawak Travel App as part of Sarawak’s tourism promotion campaign will continue to be vital as it could be a great promotion and marketing tool. By enhancing the Sarawak Travel App under the 12th Malaysia Plan, we can integrate it as an e-commerce platform to enable tour agencies to promote and sell their tour packages online. This will provide a convenient one-stop service for tourist to search info on places and available tour packages for purchase.

Ultimately, this boils down in providing a secure and reliable digital platform for our industry players to boost their income and revive the tourism industry. In addition to this, a comprehensive visitor data is also important for proper tourism contribution assessment and effective tourism policy formulation. Among other digital initiatives planned include the S-MM2H online application, Digital Visitors Landing App, digitalization of Sarawak Tourism Satellite Account (STSA) and Digital Visitor Tracking App.




Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Giving our thumbs up for the newly launched National Unity Policy

Together we should give our thumbs up to the launching of our National Unity Policy which was launched recently by Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin but it is my humble opinion for numerous aspects that need to be looked into including early education and learning reinforcement which can ensure the success of the new policy.

This is because our children must be taught about the importance of diversity from a young age and such education will enable them to understand the plural nature of the Malaysian society.

Malaysians must be taught at a young age to respect and accept that no one race or religion is bigger or better than the others and that Malaysians must learn to live with and accept this. In addition to this, I opined that the National Unity Policy must go hand in hand with laws and enforcement to ensure that it is not breached.

Thus, the judiciary must also play their part to ensure those that breach or break these National Unity laws are being given due punishment as a deterrent to others and any policy which had the objective of building and creating unity among multi-ethnic Malaysians, should be applauded.

Together we must work together to safeguard our unity and social harmony because Malaysia is made up of so many racial and religious groups that a small dispute could lead to a big confrontation. That is why efforts must be done to build up tolerance, respect, and understanding among the races if we want to see a harmonious Malaysia to continue prosper.





Good response to our engagement with tourism industry players and related tourism agencies

It is indeed heartening to see the strong support given by all of our tourism players during the recent engagement session jointly organized by Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak.  

The event was held via Online and I would like to thank everyone for their support this important engagement session which include briefings on “COVID-19: Travel & Tourism Scenario and Economic Impact”, National Tourism Policy 2020-2030 and Skim Pembiayaan Pelancongan PENJANA/ PENJANA Tourism Financing (PTF).

In my speech, I spoke on impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and on our tourism industry which is going through  challenging times where all international borders are closed  and even though our own government is trying very hard to revive domestic and green lane travel, such efforts were dampened by the continuous spikes of Covid-19 cases locally and also in other places.

Nevertheless, we can see some rays of light at the end of the tunnel when the Government has announced plans and schedules for mass vaccination.  While waiting for the restarting of tourism related activities, we should be looking atvibrant and strategic directionsto plan to restart our tourism industry. 

I took the opportunity to congratulate Dato Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri and her team at Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) for the launching of the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030 in December last year. 

I believe this policy is very timely to ensure that the government policies and strategies will continue to help the tourism industry and uplift Malaysia as the preferred tourism destination at the global level.

In line with our Tourism Aspirations under the Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC), we are sharing similar goals to boost our brand as one of the leading and preferred eco-tourism destination in this region.  We aspire that “By 2030, Sarawak will be a leading destination for eco-tourism and business events in ASEAN Region driven by empowered communities to conserve heritage, culture and biodiversity and to promote investment and development through responsible actions”. Together, we can actally attain the common goal to drive more economic growth and create more employment opportunities for the local communities. 

We fully support the implementation of six main transformation strategies in the National Tourism Policy which include strengthening Governance Capacity, Create Special Tourism Investment Zones, Embrace Smart Tourism, Enhance Demand Sophistication, Practise Sustainable and Responsible Tourism and Upskill Human Capital.

Such strategies can help to articulate strong strategic directions and a comprehensive action plans for the tourism industry to spur both immediate and long-term growth.  

In line with the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, my Ministry is also actively executing our own tourism master plans and policies while establishing product development. The tourism master plans and policies consist of SEAC – Tourism Aspirations, 3rd Sarawak Tourism Master Plan 2021-2035, andmany Regional Development Authorities Plans. All these new policies and directions will continue to steer tourism sector in a more structure and community-based way forward.

Apart from tourism master plans and policies, my Ministry had  implemented short-term support for recovery of the tourism, arts and culture industry with the support and active engagement with various tourism industry players and stakeholders to revive the State tourism sector.  

The short-term recovery measures include building confidence to travel through stringent SOPs endorsed by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), Discounted Travel Incentivesthrough Sia Sitok Campaign to promote domestic intra-state travel, helping the hotel industry by designating them as quarantine centres, incentives to encourage home grown business events, continuous capacity building and research to prepare for the return of tourists.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, we need to develop our digital technology-based tourism industry which can ensured the success of our rehabilitation plans for our tourism industry. The utilization of Sarawak Travel App as part of our Sarawak Tourism Promotion Campaign is vital as it can be a great promotion and marketing tool for our tourism. 

By enhancing the Sarawak Travel App under the 12th Malaysia Plan, we can integrate it as an e-commerce platform to enable tour agencies to promote and sell their tour packages online. This will provide a convenient one-stop service for tourist to search info on places and available tour packages for purchase. Ultimately, this boils down in providing a secure and reliable digital platform for our industry players to boost their income and revive the tourism industry. 

A comprehensive visitor data to Sarawak is also important for proper tourism contribution assessment and effective tourism policy formulation. Among other digital initiatives planned include S-MM2H online application, Digital Visitors Landing App, digitalization of Sarawak Tourism Satellite Account (STSA) and Digital Visitor Tracking App.

In 2020, the number of visitor arrivals to Sarawak had dropped 74% to 1,199,872 as compared to the corresponding period in 2019 (4,662,419) due to the pandemic of Covid-19. The tourism receipt had declined 75% to RM2.88 billion as compared to the same corresponding period in 2019. 

The pandemic itself had caused the tourism industry to suffer an estimated total loss of RM8.69 billion. Nevertheless, I believe that we still can revive our tourism industry by boosting the domestic tourism activities with our "Sia Sitok Sarawak Tour Package". It will enhance the people's confidence to travel domestically while the borders are still closed. 

Syukur alhamdullilah, such initiatives had indeed generated good responses and it was extended to 31st March 2021. As of today, the Sia Sitok campaign has generated more than RM 1,569,026.00 in sales for 941 tour packages and 5,668 pax. 

My Ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will continue Sia Sitok in its version 2.0 where 60 packages will be launched by March 2021. The wider range of domestic tour packages will create more interest among its locals to travel widely in our state while benefiting the tour industry as a whole.

With the availability of Covid-19 vaccination, domestic travel within Malaysia and Sarawak is expected to slowly recover in the second half of 2021 anticipating a total visitor arrival of 1.1 million with an estimated tourism receipt of RM2.64 billion receipt.  However, this estimated target will depend very much on the Covid-19 global situation.

The tourism industry is an important key contributor to the nation’s economic growth. I hope that with the introduction of PENJANA Tourism Financing (PTF) as part of the Government’s efforts to assist the tourism industry players during this COVID-19 pandemic.  I would strongly encourage the tourism industry players to grab this golden opportunity to undertake the necessary investments to sustain your business through this PTF with no collaterals. 

Therefore, my Ministry will continue working closely with the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture to ensure that all our policies, directions and strategies will be in line with the National Tourism Policy and translatethem into viable opportunities and initiatives.  We are especially excited that a few Special Tourism Investment Zones have been identified in Sarawak under the National Tourism Policy, namely, Lundu-Sematan and Miri-Kuala Sibuti-Niah.   We hope that the Federal Governmnet will help to identify and facilitate tourism business initiatives and grants in these areas through public funding or public private partnership.

While implementing tourism development initiatives, we will ensure that tourism development is inclusive to involve community-based tourism. The local communities can participate in community-based tourism such as homestay, local hosts, craft and souvenirs to reap the benefits from tourism especially in raising their household income. We believe that the strategies we have planned are achievable and together we can do so much more.









Monday, 15 February 2021

Celebrating this year's of the Ox in a special way

This year's Chinese New Year celebration is rather unique when it is being celebrated in the "new norms" where the traditional open house activities are now not allowed in view of the prevailing Covid19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we had our own special gathering with our Chinese friends including the Right Honourable Chief Min­is­ter of Sarawak, Datuk Pat­inggi Abang Jo­hari Tun Openg and his wife Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bu­jang who joined in with other ‘guests’ of a vir­tual open-house event hosted by Sarawak United Peo­ple’s Party (SUPP) on the first day of the the new Lunar year cel­e­bra­tion.

In his brief re­marks for the vir­tual gath­er­ing, Abang Jo­hari called upon all mem­bers of the Chi­nese com­mu­nity to con­tinue work­ing to­gether in the war against Covid-19. #AbangJo also called upon them to join the govern­ment in draw­ing up the best poli­cies aimed at ac­cel­er­at­ing Sarawak’s progress. Together, we per­formed the tra­di­tional toss­ing of the ‘Yee Sang’ si­mul­ta­ne­ously with those par­tic­i­pat­ing on­line, who included our kind host, Min­is­ter for Lo­cal Govern­ment and Hous­ing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also SUPP pres­i­dent.









Heaps of praise to Alena Murang and her friends for their Road To Our Heritage (ROTH) music project

I would like to praise to our very own well known and home grown talent, Alena Murang who will be undertaking the “Road To Our Heritage (ROTH)” music project together with her friends from the Estranged and Stonebay bands. The project is the first of its kind undertaken by Alena and her friends from Sarawak and Sabah in which it will also involve a three music album and a TV documentary series that will be aired on RTM soon.

Alena has once again made us proud for playing her part in promoting native traditional music craftsmen from both of the East Malaysia’s states with the production is scheduled to cover a total of 14 shoots and covering a road trip with a distance of 1,000 KM.

Among the interesting features of this project will be the in-depth interviews with our very own music craftsmen which will lead us to the discovery of local traditional cultures as well as showing the scenic places that are found in Sarawak. 

Their collaboration with ROTH project’s research partner, Dr Nadia Widyawati Madzhi from Faculty of Music at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) will ensure the history of traditional musical instruments and their producers will be well documented for future educational references and archives.

Kudos to Alena and her friends for using the digital platforms in finding the solutions in expanding their horizons and sending the messages across to the communities on the need to preserve as well to promote native traditional music including the wonderful craftsmen who are helping us to conserve such intangible heritage.    They have also shown us that the pandemic should not be the stumbling block for local talented musicians to continue their creative passion in the new normal because there is the necessity for all of us to create the unique ecosystem which can contribute to the growth of our home grown music talents.




Thursday, 11 February 2021

Looking forward to the opening of our new Sarawak Museum Complex

Our State government has yet to decide on the official name for the new Sarawak Museum Complex but I am hopeful we would stick to Borneo Cultures Museum as its official name. I have mentioned this to our media friends during the press conference held 10 February after the launching of the "Sarawak Museum Journal (SMJ) and the Sarawak Museum Apps.

l hope Borneo Cultures Museum is to be maintained because the island of Borneo is much well known by international scholars and researchers. The new museum building is set to be a new landmark in Kuching city. With its striking gold coloured structure, it is an icon. It is the second largest museum in South East Asia – second only to the national gallery in Singapore

We are also looking forward to the opening of the new museum soon and it aims to become a lively place for social and cultural exchange and will also become a center for learning, knowledge and research through collaborations with local and international agencies and institutions.


This is because the new complex will not only be a place to display exhibits of the past but also, a research centre with the setting up of the Sarawak Museum Department’s Research Unit. Even before the official opening of the new museum complex, the department has already received 13 submissions for research projects but which will be firstly vetted and valued by a committee.


I have lauded the development of the Sarawak Museums App which is one of the department’s initiatives to promote all of the museums in Sarawak through digital platforms.This is also in line with the digital initiatives implemented by the state government to make Sarawak as one of the leading tourism destinations in Malaysia.


By using the app, visitors are able to learn and get to know the collections in the museums and also be well informed on their activities and on-going exhibitions. Meanwhile, I have pointed out that the Sarawak Museum Journal (SMJ) publication was in fact reactivated this time around since it has not been published for several years.


First published in 1911, the SMJ was one of the leading museum publications in the region, covering wide range of research fields, especially in the studies of archaeology, anthropology, natural history, museology, ethnology and conservation.








 

 

 

My comments on the latest tourist attraction in Kuching - The Round Tower Cafe and Restaurant

I thank our media friends who asked for my comments and reactions to public concerns over the 135-year-old Round Tower here which had recently been converted into a wonderful cafe and Western-cuisine restaurant.

I have told them the changes like the one made to the Round Tower were normal not only in Malaysia but also in many other countries because they added value to old historical buildings. These buildings may be old but whomever we lease them out to will be able to look after them so that they can be appreciated by the future generation.

It is therefore my hope for those who had expressed their concerns on this issue to look at things holistically. There is no intention to lease out the buildings and then leaving it to the tenants to do whatever they want with them. I have added that the critics should not single out the Kuching Round Tower as there were many other heritage buildings that have been converted for other uses.

Such places were previously abandoned but now people could have coffee there while appreciating its historical value. I have cited an old prison converted into a hotel in Portugal as an example of adding value to heritage buildings.

We also have so many buildings that have ‘historical’ and heritage values be they private individuals’ homes or even prison, buildings at Jalan Haji Taha, at St Thomas’ Cathedral and graveyard, and when you walk down the road, a Chinese cemetery. Sometimes buildings should not be left idle otherwise they could just rot away.

Sarawak government throuugh our Ministry of Tourisn, Arts and Culture as well as State Museum Department is committed in ensuring that the leasing our heritage buildings for commercial purposes will not be detrimental to the buildings but such efforts will contribute towards their longevity.

Similarly, the State government through my ministry is also working to improve the existing State Heritage Ordinance 2019 to ensure that the tenants of heritage buidings will maintain their main structure and historical values.

I have mentioned that presently, tenants have to abide by the pre-contract conditions and were not allowed to do anything to the main structure of the heritage building without referring to the authorities.

We have conducted upgrading works on so many forts throughout Sarawak for useful purposes but their main structure or outlook are being preserved. For instance, we may not be able to find Belian tiles now but we can use other types of roofing. However the main structure remains, the history remains.

The Round Tower at Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg was gazetted in 1985 as a state heritage building. The building was completed in 1886 during the reign of the Second Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke. The building was originally intended for military use but became a public dispensary after it was completed.

It had served as a dispensary until 1947 and was later used by the Labour Office and the Subordinate Courts Registry. Previously, it was also the headquarters of the Sarawak Craft Council (SCC). Right now, the Round Tower can also serve as another crowd puller among locals and to serve as the latest attraction for domestic and foreign tourists.






 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

We are not in favour of the idea for non-Sarawak based political parties contesting in the next state's 12th election (PRN12)

As far as the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) ruling coalition is concerned, we are not in favour of the idea for non-Sarawak based political parties contesting in the next state's 12th election (PRN12).

As Vice-president of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersaru (PBB), I have mentioned to our local media friends that the interest of GPS is only confined within the boundaries of Sarawak. We have no intention whatsoever to contest in Sabah as well as Peninsula Malaysia, as we want to only take care of Sarawak.

If possible, other political parties that did not originate from Sarawak, whether they are from the ruling coalition or the opposition, there is no need to contest in our state. Let the Sarawak-based political parties look after the state. Whether it’s the political parties Umno, PAS, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), Democratic Action Party (DAP) or Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), I opined these parties should instead focus on other states and not contest in Sarawak.

However, I have also pointed out on Section 13 of the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 had stated clearly that no elections are to be held until the Emergency Order is lifted by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. I had also commented on a viral video showing political parties’ shirts and flags were being printed, seemingly in preparation for an election. It is also my opinion for our Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who eventually need to seek a fresh mandate from the people due to the political uncertainty faced by the Federal government. The present state of emergency that was proclaimed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 12 was a proactive measure to contain the Covid-19 outbreak in the country and it only will stand until Aug 1.



Thumbs up to our Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYSS) for their "Pri­hatin Youth Pro­gramme 2021"

Kudos to our Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYSS) for undertaking their "Pri­hatin Youth Pro­gramme 2021" which was meant to en­hance Sarawak’s youth de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives while in­cul­cating virtues of re­spon­si­bil­ity and car­ing attitude for the dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­nity in the spirit of vol­un­teerism.

Our youths can also play the im­por­tant role in re­al­is­ing the agenda of a united and bal­anced so­ci­ety, in line with our min­istry’s vi­sion of having ‘World Class Youth and Sports for All by 2030’. I also thanked the acting permanent secreatry to MYSS, Puan Nancy Haji Jolhie for leading her team in making it happen this year even though we are still the challenges caused by COVID19 pandemic.

My appreciation to MYSS for having invited me to grace the handing over ceremony of grants amount­ing RM120,000 to 12 wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tions at my office yesterday with the presence of representatives from  Pusat Ja­gaan Nur Murni, Rumah Kanakkanak Toh Puan Ha­jah Norkiah, Lem­baga Ke­ba­jikan Anak-Anak Ya­tim Sarawak, The Sal­va­tion Army Kuching Boy’s Home, Pusat Pemuli­han Dalam Ko­mu­niti (PDK) Sama­ra­han, PDK Harmoni Asajaya, Sarawak Society for the Deaf, Sarawak Society for the Blind, Persatuan Kebajikan Kanak-kanak Terencat Akal Sarawak (Perkata), Society for Kuching Urban Poor, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Baiturrahmah Kuching and Pusat Pemulihan Penagihan Narkotik (Puspen) Kuching.

A total of RM80,000 was also presented to 8 boarding schools, which are SMK Asajaya, SMK Hajjah Laila Taib, SMK Tun Abang Haji Openg, SMK Agama Tun Ahmad Zaidi, SMK Agama Sheikh Haji Othman Abdul Wahab, SMK Agama Matang 2, SMK Balai Ringin and SMK Toh Puan Datuk Patinggi Hajah Normah. Our ministry would also be donating face masks and hand sanitizers to the eight boarding schools. Among those who attended the same function with was our Assistant Minister of Youth and Sports ,Datuk Snowdan Lawan, State Assemblyman for Daro, YB Safiee Ahmad and State Assemblyman for Tupong, YB Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman.





Still not the right time to lift interstate travel ban

I have ex­press­ed my con­cern over the num­ber of daily Covid-19 cases and thus, it is still not the time to lift the in­ter­state travel ban be­tween Sarawak and other states in a bid to re­vive the tourism in­dus­try. Even if the ban was lifted, peo­ple would still be re­luc­tant to travel due to re­stric­tions that have been put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

I have mentioned this to our local media friends yesterday and it is not ap­pro­pri­ate to open our bor­ders because even if you open the bor­ders, I don’t think trav­ellers or for­eign­ers will be com­ing due to the re­stric­tions in place, such as the re­quire­ment to be quar­an­tined first.

I have spoken on this issue to the media who asked for my com­ments on for­mer min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment, Datuk Seri Ab­dul Rah­man Dahlan’s ap­peal to the gov­ern­ment to lift the travel ban be­tween Penin­su­lar Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak in or­der to re­vive the tourism in­dus­try in the eastern states.

As much as I would love to see the open­ing of bor­ders, where for­eign­ers and those from other states could visit to boost the tourism in­dus­try, we must also as­sess the Covid-19 sit­u­a­tion we are fac­ing, with daily new cases be­ing in the thou­sands registered in Malaysia. Sarawak through our SOP had insisted on the plac­ing of in­di­vid­u­als en­ter­ing the state in ho­tels for their manda­tory quar­an­tine procedures as part of our ef­forts to as­sist the hard-battered ho­tel in­dus­try by in­creas­ing their room oc­cu­pancy rate.

However, through our Min­istry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) we would be launch­ing new tourism pro­grammes to pro­mote tourism in the state once the Covid-19 sit­u­a­tion comes un­der con­trol.



Announcing my willingness to be among first in the state to be given the Covid-19 vac­cine jabs

I have expressed my willingness to be first in the state to be given the Covid-19 vac­cine jabs in answering the calls for politi­cians and elected peo­ple’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives to be vac­ci­nated first to en­sure the vac­cine’s ef­fi­cacy.

I have mentioned this to our local media friends during our engagement in yesterday's function at the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYSS) office in Bangunan Baitul Makmur II, Petra Jaya and I have told them it was a good sug­ges­tion since politi­cians were the ones who would al­ways have pub­lic en­gage­ments and meet­ings with the peo­ple.

Apart from the front­lin­ers like health­care work­ers, the po­lice and also teach­ers to be among the first to be vac­ci­nated, I would love to have the vac­cine first as a politi­cian but I also hoped for the op­po­si­tion  not to make an is­sue or “spin the matter” out of the calls for politi­cians to be among the first to be vac­ci­nated.

Re­cently, our Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Hous­ing, YB Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian had had said the first batch of Covid19 vac­cines from Pfizer will be re­ceived at the end of this month and in March and the vac­cines shots will go to some 90,000 front­lin­ers in the state first. According to him, the whole process of the vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme in the state might take at least six months due to the state’s large land size. Of course the pri­or­ity would also be given to high-risk groups, in­clud­ing the el­derly as well as those suf­fer­ing from di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and other pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions.