MIRI: Locals in rural Sarawak want a "less painful" Budget 2020 to cope with their high fuel cost.
The Government policy under Budget 2019 to only allow fuel-subsidy for cars with engine capacity of 1500 CC and below had hurt locals who rely on four-wheel drive vehicles, with bigger engine capacity, to travel the rugged mountains and jungles.
Some had describe the 2019 subsidy scheme as an insensitive policy for rural folks.
Society for Rights of Indigenous People of Sarawak (Scrips) wants to see full fuel subsidy reinstated across the board for vehicles of all engine capacity.
Scrips secretary-general Michael Jok told The Star on Thursday (Oct 10) that rural folks in Sarawak needed to use four-wheel drives in their daily travel because of the rough terrains, but under the 2019 Budget subsidy, these vehicles owners did not qualify for the subsidised fuel.
"The 2019 Budget only allows fuel-subsidy for cars of 1500 CC and below.
"In rural Sarawak, we need to use four-wheel drive vehicles that are at least 2500 CC and above, in order to ply the tough mountains and jungle terrains.
"This fuel-subsidy cut have hurt us in a big way," said Jok, who is a human rights activist.
There are still about one million Sarawakians who are living in rural longhouses, out of the three million population in the state, he said.
"Most depend on four-wheel drives to travel in and out of the rural districts," he said.
Under the 2019 Budget, only vehicles with 1500 CC and below and motorcycles of 125 CC and below qualify for limited amount of subsidised fuel per month.
Jok said in previous Budgets, there was no cap to the CC of vehicles entitled to subsidised fuel.
"Lets hope that the 2020 Budget will see the reinstatement of full fuel subsidy for all vehicles in rural Sarawak," he said.
Emon Rawing, a native of interior Long Lama town, said he wants Sarawak MPs to bring up this issue in the Dewan Rakyat.
"Our MPs must highlight this, or else the federal people will not understand.
"Our local problems in Sarawak are not effectively highlighted at the federal level by our Sarawak MPs," he quipped.
The reduction in fuel subsidy have seen the cost of rural travel shooting up, as vehicle-owners and passengers have to pay more for diesel and petrol to travel from the interior to the cities and towns and back.
For example, it can cost as much as RM600 just to travel in a Hilux from Lio Mato village in remote Baram to Miri city, which is about 300km away.