KUCHING (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) has pledged to give 50 per cent of all taxes collected in Sarawak and 20 per cent of oil royalties to the state government if it captures Putrajaya in the upcoming general election.
This is part of a "new deal" to grant greater autonomy in education, healthcare and fiscal matters to Sarawak, should PH form the next federal government, the opposition pact said.
Sarawak PH chairman Chong Chieng Jen said on Thursday (April 26) this new deal on the devolution of power and restoration of Sarawak's rights would be offered to the state government, which is currently led by ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN).
BN controls the Sarawak state legislature, after state polls in 2016 gave it 72 of the 82 seats in the state assembly.
The state also contributed the largest number of BN lawmakers in Parliament in the 2013 election - 25 of the 222 wards - and is expected to return a similar result in the polls on May 9. Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Democratic Action Party - two component parties in PH - hold the remaining six parliamentary seats in Sarawak.
Mr Chong said the opposition's new deal includes giving Sarawak full autonomy in education, healthcare and fiscal matters.
"In fiscal matters, we promise to give 20 per cent of oil royalty to Sarawak compared with the current 5 per cent, and 50 per cent of all taxes collected in Sarawak to be given to the state government as revenue to undertake education and healthcare.
"Another matter is the restoration of Sarawak's status to one of three territories (within Malaysia) instead of the current one of 13 states.
"Also in the new deal is devolution of power in commerce and trade," he told reporters on Thursday after handing over two copies of the new deal agreement at the offices of Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Greater autonomy in education may ease the return of using English as a medium of instruction in schools, an issue which has been actively discussed in Sarawak. English is one of two official languages of the state, the other being Bahasa Malaysia.
BN's election manifesto has pledged to introduce English-medium schools as pilot projects in Sarawak.
"In the event Pakatan forms the federal government, these powers will be devolved to the state, so the (Barisan) state government must agree to accept them," Mr Chong said, adding that no timeframe would be given to the state government to sign the agreement.
"But I think the sooner the better, because this matter deals with the interests of Sarawak," he said.