Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today gave his commitment to speed up development in the rural areas, especially in Sarawak, to keep pace with other parts of Malaysia, which turns 50 today.
“We have an agenda to meet,” Najib said in his address at the ceremony to mark Malaysia Day in the Sarawak capital city of Kuching this morning.
Sarawak and Sabah form a crucial vote bank for Najib's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government, which only won 133 out of the 222 federal seats in the May 5 general election.
In recent weeks, Najib has been promoting an economic agenda that cut fuel subsidies with the savings going to the rural areas where most voters helped his coalition retain power. The Prime Minister has also rolled back on economic liberalisation by extending grants and opportunities to the dominant Bumiputera community.
Today, Najib said even as the government wanted to see Sarawak reach its goal of being a high income state and the nation its developed nation status, development of rural areas needed to be speeded up.
“This is our commitment. The rural areas would not be neglected,” he said.
He said even as the government wants to see Sarawak reach its target of being a high-income state and the nation achieve its developed-nation status, it would not be at the expense of people in the rural areas.
Sarawak has targeted itself to have a high-income economy by 2018 and Malaysia, a developed-nation status by 2020.
The prime minister said the next 50 years would be fruitful for Sarawak under the Barisan Nasional government.
His promise is likely targeted at Sarawak's rural voters that had strongly supported the BN at the 13th general election.
The BN won every rural seat in the state.
The prime minister said the decision by the state's forefathers to support the independence of Sarawak and formation of Malaysia was a correct one.
He said the 50th year celebration was therefore not measured by how grand the celebration is nor how large is the crowd attending it but by the desire made by the people of Sarawak to want to form Malaysia.
This year's Malaysia Day celebration is the largest and grandest. Events to mark the 50th year started in March and would go on until the end of the year.
The presence of the Yang DiPertuan Agong added more significance to the celebration that was in past years marked in rather muted fashion.
Thousands of people braved the morning drizzle to watch the parade at Padang Merdeka in the city centre.
Sixty-three uniformed and non-uniformed contingents took part in the parade. - September 16, 2013.