LAST weekend marked Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg’s first 100 days in office, and he has certainly been no slouch thus far.
Since succeeding the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem on Jan 13, the new chief minister has pledged to continue his predecessor’s policies while introducing his own style of leadership.
He has made official visits to China and Britain and overseen the acquisition of the Bakun hydroelectric plant from the Federal Government.
He has also announced an array of ambitious plans to accelerate Sarawak’s development, notably a digital economy transformation plan, setting up the Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) and an LRT system connecting Kuching, Samarahan and Serian divisions.
These plans have generated a fair amount of buzz in Sarawak, particularly the LRT proposal which the Abang Johari spoke about at some length at his “100 Days and Beyond” media session last Saturday.
“Our urban areas must be well planned and so I want to have LRT for Kuching, Samarahan and Serian for a start. Now the 10th Mile area is already congested. If you want to go to Samarahan, it’s congested too.
“We don’t want to become like Kuala Lumpur, where people have to leave home at 5am and return at 10pm. This will affect your family time and affect our society too. We want to plan ahead before this happens.
“Hopefully the LRT can be done within the next three years. We will start with a trunk line from Serian to Damai,” he said.
He also addressed critics, saying he was aware of scepticism to his proposal.
“Many people say Abang Jo is dreaming about having LRT. You mark my words, if I do something, I will do it to the end. That is my style.
“If we don’t start doing the LRT early on, the cost will go up. We still have land, we can plan properly and have the LRT on land so the cost will be lower,” he said.
Nevertheless, some reservations have been raised about the proposal.
For instance, Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei said although he had been pushing for better public transport in the state, LRT alone was not the solution without a complete public transport blueprint.
According to him, effective public transport did not begin with having an LRT system but with providing public buses, bicycle lanes and taxis, among others.
“Moreover, the LRT system cannot operate in isolation because its coverage is limited. A public transport system will only be effective if there are dependable bus services, sufficient parking lots, safe bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways and a reliable taxi network,” he said in a statement this week, adding that the LRT was also not meant for long-distance travel.
While the Abang Johari’s ambition should be applauded, these are valid concerns which should be taken into consideration.
Yes, traffic congestion needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, but a feasibility study has to be carried out which looks into all relevant aspects, including volume of passengers and which mode of public transport would be most effective and best serves the needs of commuters, so that what eventually materialises doesn’t end up becoming a white elephant.
The same goes for the digital economy plan and other initiatives in the pipeline.
We should proceed with due diligence and care to ensure that what we implement is feasible, sustainable, cost-effective and purposeful in meeting the needs of the people and the state.