Chong: Is Sarawak govt withholding Covid-19 aid until closer to election?

Chong Chieng Jen

By Chew Lip Song

A SARAWAK opposition leader has questioned why the state government is now dragging its feet in helping those hit by Covid-19 compared with the enthusiasm it declared aid when the pandemic first hit last year.

Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen said last year the government had announced theĀ Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) where the state provided aid to those affected by the economic downturn due to the pandemic, such as hawkers and the elderly.

Since then, many businesses had been operating at a loss and had dug into their reserves to tide themselves over during the past one year, he added.

Despite the dire situation, Chong who is also Sarawak DAP chairman said the Sarawak government still refused to allocate additional funding to hawkers, small traders and the small and medium enterprises.

“Is the Sarawak State Government running out of fund that it is now standing by looking at the sufferings and hardship of businesses of all sectors and refusing to allocate financial assistance to them?

“Rather, is the State Government keeping the money and waiting for the State Elections to dish them out?” Chong asked in a statement.

He called on the Sarawak government not to shut its eyes to the suffering of the business sector and the people, following the enforcement of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in Sarawak, which was not very much different from the MCO put in place nationwide.

“The State Government had always boasted of having RM26 billion reserve fund. To help the people and the business sector at this difficult time, the State Government only needs to allocate 10% of this reserve fund,” Chong who is also Stampin MP added.

He said the state DAP proposed that the Sarawak government provide:

1. RM1,500 cash handout be given to every hawker and petty trader in Sarawak;
2. RM500 million interest-free loans be given to SMEs in Sarawak;
3. RM100 million grant be given to SMEs in Sarawak for transformation into e-commerce and digitalisation;
4. 50% wage subsidy be given to SMEs in Sarawak for 3 months to maintain their workforce;
5. Direct assistance grant for those sectors which have been ordered to close operation and
those in the tourism sector.

Adding that now was the time to help the people, Chong said there was no point for the Government to keep saying that Sarawak was rich if it could not help its people during difficult times.