'Which part of Sarawak did you visit, Rina?'

MUHD AMIRUL FAIZ AHMAD

KUCHING: Sarawak Cabinet ministers are incensed by a statement from Rural Development Minister, Rina Harun, who claimed that Sarawak’s rural residents have rejected infrastructure projects such as bridges.

Sarawak Junior Transport Minister, Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, took aim at the minister by asking where to state which “generous residents” had rejected these projects, which are much awaited in these constituencies.

“I don’t know where she (Rina) went and which areas she ‘turun padang’ (visited). I’m curious as to which residents had said that there is no need for a bridge in their area.

“It is strange for rural folk to reject development in their own areas, it’s quite impossible. This is an excuse to use those in the interior,” said Jerip, who is also Mambong state assemblyman.

Rina, during an event in Kelantan on Thursday, had said there would be a complete review of infrastructure projects under the ministry to see if they have a positive impact on the people or merely serve the interests of a few.

She had said that some people in rural areas had also told her that some projects were unnecessary.

“In some areas in Sarawak, where I personally visited to scope out some projects such as those involving bridge constructions, many of the locals themselves said that they weren’t necessary,” the minister was quoted as saying.

At press time, it could not be ascertained whether Rina, who is also Titiwangsa member of parliament, had traveled to Sarawak after being sworn in as minister at the Istana Negara on May 21.

Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah, who is Sarawak’s Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development, voiced her disappointment with Rina’s statement, which she said did not live up to her role as a minister responsible for development in the rural areas.

“We, the elected representatives of rural areas, desperately need to build new bridges or repair dilapidated ones. These include wooden bridges for flood-prone areas, plus bridges which serve as connections to villages and longhouses.

“Not only that, we are also awaiting projects for upgrading homes and building new homes for the hardcore poor,” she said.

Fatimah, who is Dalat assemblyman, said the sweeping statement that some in Sarawak have said such projects are unnecessary, needs to be explained in greater detail.

“If it is true that some projects are not needed by the people, then it is strange indeed. In my own constituency, for example, there are 300 applications under the Rural Electricity Supplyt Scheme.

“The minister should meet with the locals first,” she said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd