KUCHING, April 18 — Sarawak deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing today stressed that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government is using its own funds to construct the Sarawak-Sabah Link Road (SSLR) project that was approved by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government.
“The alignment, however, is slightly different from what was proposed by the PH government because we want to cater for both rural and urban development,” he said when asked by Malay Mail to respond to a statement issued by Selangau MP Baru Bian earlier this morning.
On the cancellation of the three major bridge projects, among others, in Sarawak by the PH government, he said these projects should have been pursued as they were promised by the federal government under Barisan Nasional (BN).
“Regardless of who is the government, continuity in development must be pursued, otherwise no foreign governments or investors will make any deal with us, if there is no continuity in Malaysia’s development plans,” Masing, who is also the state minister of infrastructure and port development, said.
Earlier, Baru, who was the works minister under the PH government, denied that he cancelled the construction of the Rombongan, Igan and Batang Lupar bridges and diverted the funds to Kedah and Sabah.
He said the over RM900 million allocation for the three bridges was diverted to the northern part of Sarawak for the SSLR project.
“It was merely an exercise in prioritising our limited allocation for infrastructure development in Sarawak,” he said, adding that SSLR is a project comprising Phase 1 from Lawas to Kampung Pa’ Berunut and Phase 2 from Kampung Pa’ Berunut to Long Lama.
He said the 425km-long SSLR project is the first land route connecting Sabah and Sarawak without having to go through Brunei.
“While I was the minister, and being one who comes from the interior of Sarawak, I had to prioritise the ‘last frontier’ which is the northern part of Sarawak that was sorely lacking in road connectivity.
Baru, who is also the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman, said there was a real need to have a road from Miri to Limbang and Lawas that would bypass Brunei, in case Brunei closed its borders to vehicles wanting to pass through.
“This scenario has been borne out during the Covid-19 pandemic, thereby vindicating my decision to initiate the SSLR project to provide a complete road connection for northern Sarawak,” he said.
On the three bridge projects, he said they were to be built along the coastal road, a state road and not a federal road.
“In view of the limited funds available at that time of the economic downturn, our priorities had to be reassessed,” he said.
Baru added that he hoped the GPS government would expedite the construction of the SSLR project as the movement control order (MCO) demonstrated how necessary the connection is.
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