Press Statement By Michael Kong:
It is astonishing that after more than one week of implementation of the current MCO, there still seems to be confusion amongst the leaders on what industries are allowed to operate and what are the procedures in order to apply for a permit (if required). One of the industry would be the construction industry.
The SOPs as approved by the SDMC and NSC as of 29.05.2021 were that those involved in construction to the restrictions as to the workforce capacity. This was updated on 31.05.2021 and reconfirmed to be the SOP applicable for the said industry. With the constant narrative that SDMC calls the shots on all the SOPs within Sarawak, a lot of the construction players abided by this SOP in their operation.
Oddly enough between 01.06.2021 and 03.06.2021, a few construction companies were penalised and issued compound for operating despite having complied with SDMC’s set of SOPs. Instead, these companies were informed that all construction players would have to abide by the Federal Government’s SOPs for MCO and not that as alleged by SDMC. This meant that only critical maintenance and repair works were allowed. It was only on 03.06.2021 that a set of SOPs was issued by JKR Sarawak. According to JKR Sarawak’s guidelines, any firms which would like to operate during the MCO would need to apply for permission from MITI. This was again confirmed by the Minister of Infrastructure and Port Development Sarawak, James Masing, only in his statement yesterday (07.06.2021). Only JKR Sarawak and the relevant minister can explain why they will need 3 days and 7 days respectively to give clear guidelines to the public.
What is perplexing is on the same day as James Masing’s announcement, Douglas Uggah came out to issue a statement that those who need approvals to pass through roadblocks may seek it from any one of five State ministries. The ministries would also include the Ministry of Infrastructure and Port Development Sarawak. At the same time, Douglas Uggah reiterated that the sectors allowed to operate are indicated in the state’s MCO SOP dated 29.05.2021 (updated on 31.05.2021). With this where do the industry players go? On one hand, SDMC’s Douglas Uggah is saying that it is okay for them to operate yet, on the other hand, James Masing is saying that only selected construction companies can operate and that is provided prior approval is to be obtained from MITI.
We have repeatedly emphasised the need for a uniform set of SOPs to be applied across the board. The reason for this request is not only for a simplified set of SOPs but also so that the authorities themselves are not confused by the numerous different versions of SOPs. GPS is part of the PN government and should therefore take all such steps to ensure that they get themselves aligned before rolling out any large scale enforcements. Enough with the confusions and let us all fight Covid-19 together with a clear path laid out for us.
Michael Kong Feng Nian
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen