KOTA KINABALU: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) has not given up hope that a bridge will eventually be built to connect Labuan to mainland Sabah despite the announcement by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that it was not the government’s priority for now.
Labuan PBS division chief Datuk Peter Mak said he understood why the Prime Minister decided as such.
"Being the country's premier leader, we can understand that he has to consider and accord priority to the overall wellbeing of the nation as a whole first before other needs, especially at a time when the financial situation of the country calls for prudent spending," said Mak, who is also PBS vice-president.
However, he added, that as a caring Prime Minister, Labuan PBS also believed that Anwar will not hesitate to listen to the call of the people for better fulfilment of their basic needs.
"At the same time, we are heartened with the Prime Minister's intention to spur Labuan's development together with Sabah as we believe that such synergy is in the right direction, apart from being pragmatic.
"Nonetheless, we believe and are optimistic that the Prime Minister will not disregard the plight and aspirations of many in Labuan across the board who need better, more efficient and effective non-stop direct connectivity between Labuan and Sabah,” he added.
During his trip to Sabah on Feb 28, Anwar said the proposed Sabah-Labuan bridge was not an immediate priority.
He said he had chosen to avoid big projects such as the MRT and the new Kulim airport, adding he has been attacked for doing so.
“I am a realist and we spend what we are able to," said the Prime Minister.
The Labuan bridge has been a matter of debate, with opposing views being expressed by business groups from the Federal Territory on whether the facility was needed.
The Labuan Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had lauded Anwar’s statement over the issue, saying the shift from the futile chase for a bridge to more realistic matters could better help boost the local economy.
However, the Labuan Chamber of Commerce, while maintaining the bridge was a necessity, proposed the government to relocate the roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) service ferry terminal from Labuan town to the Tanjung Aru area on the island as alternative move so as to cut down travelling time between Labuan and Sabah as well as for cost-saving purposes for the people.
Towards this end, Mak said the proposed bridge was not a luxury but instead a fundamental infrastructure to connect people between two different places.
He added that locals in Labuan view connectivity and industrial growth in tandem, not in isolation, as among the factors for offshore financial island to realise its full growth potential, both in economic and social terms.