Sarawak’s new RM30 million ‘tourism icon’ flagpole completed

Sarawak’s new RM30 million ‘tourism icon’ flagpole completed

Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg will officiate the monument on Dec 31.

THE construction of the controversial 99m state flagpole project in Kuching that cost a mind-boggling RM30 million is completed. It will be officially unveiled by Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg on December 31 as part of the city’s new year countdown programme, state Tourism, Culture and Talent Development Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said.

He said the pole, which will carry the flag of Sarawak, is set to be a new “tourism icon”.

“It is the highest flagpole in the state and country,” he said. “We will welcome the new year with the unveiling of the new tourism icon during the countdown that will also feature a public concert,” he told the press in Kuching.

The flagpole and its huge cost have been the subject of intense debate with critics, political and non-political alike, slamming it as wasteful. The flagpole was initially supposed to have been ready in time for the Sarawak Day celebration on July 22 this year.

Its construction had started at the end of last year at the monument site located next to the State Assembly Complex in the city centre across the Sarawak River.

On February 1, federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing had offered the ministry’s support for the controversial plan to construct the flagpole. Tiong, who is Bintulu MP and Dudong state assemblyman, had described the project as a “good idea”, and that it would help promote tourism development in the state and country.

The leaders of the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and opposition party Sarawak DAP have regularly had heated public exchanges over the project.

State DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen earlier this year demanded that the state government clarify where the RM30 million allocation for the flagpole was really coming from. “It is high time the state government clear the air on this huge sum of money as the flagpole monument is already almost completed,” the Padungan assemblyman and Stampin MP said in June.

“The rakyat has the right to know who is paying for this project that has taken up so much money.”

Chong decried that Sarawak leaders had not dared to name the party or company that was paying for it when the people had the right to know. Abang Johari had only said that it was being funded by a private company as a corporate social responsibility initiative.

Chong said that no company or individual would spend such money if they did not expect anything in return. Karim had responded by blasting Chong for again challenging the state government on the matter.

“They always criticise the state government in every project we built,” he said. “Do not focus so much on the cost of the project.

“If someone in the corporate sector wants to pay for the project, let them. The flagpole monument is the latest icon for Sarawak. It is a tourism attraction and symbol of Sarawak,” he had said, calling on Sarawak DAP to “focus on more important issues”.

DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Hii had also sought details from state politicians on the details of the expenditure. He criticised the project as unnecessary and said the money could have been used to fund more useful projects such as the repairs of schools.

Parti Bumi Kenyalang president Voon Lee Shan had also criticised it, describing it is a waste of money regardless of whether it came from the government or private sector.

– The Vibes, December 14, 2023.

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