Baru Bian: Federal funds cannot be used to pay salaries of politically-appointed community leaders in Sarawak

KUCHING: Politically-appointed community leaders and headmen in Sarawak will no longer receive 70% of their salaries from the federal government starting next year.

Works Minister Baru Bian said the Pakatan Harapan-led government had agreed to continue the practice of allocating a budget for the allowances and salaries of elected community leaders nationwide through the Rural Development Ministry, including those in Sarawak although the state is under the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition.

He said RM35mil had been allocated for this purpose and will be tabled in the upcoming Budget.

"In Sarawak, the total amount disbursed, when evened out, comes to about 70% of each individual community leader's salary," he said in a statement on Tuesday (Oct 23).

However, Baru said the federal budgetary support can only be paid by the Sarawak GPS government to community leaders who are democratically elected by longhouse or village residents.

He said current community leaders, including "tuai rumah" (headmen), who were not elected but politically appointed by GPS politicians against the wishes of longhouse residents cannot receive the 70% portion of their salary from the federal allocation.

"I want to make this crystal clear. Longhouse residents may make statutory declarations to report to the ministry if the GPS government continues using federal funds to pay politically-appointed tuai rumah," he said.

This comes after the state government issued a memorandum directing community leaders to attend functions organised by the state government only.

Dated Oct 11, the memorandum was issued to the Residents (administrative heads) of Sarawak's 12 administrative divisions and was circulated on social media.

GPS politicians have defended the directive by claiming that community leaders' salaries were paid by the state government.

Earlier on Tuesday (Oct 23), Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said the state received a letter from the Rural Development Ministry on May 17 requesting that all matters relating to community leaders, including their appointments and payment of allowances, be suspended following the change in government after GE14.

"Since then, the allowances of community leaders have been paid by the state government," he told reporters after opening an agriculture conference.

Uggah also said federal departments, such as the Information Department and Community Development Department, were no longer providing services to the state government after GE14.

"So I think it's only right that the state also responds in terms of community leaders. That's why the (memorandum) came about.

"I think we are not the ones who started it," he said.

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