Press Statement By Violet Yong:
I wish to shed light on a pressing issue regarding the dire living conditions of many households in Sarawak. Based on 2022 e-kasih database, 97,000 households in Sarawak are currently grappling with poverty. Among them, 39,858 households are classified as “hardcore poor,” while 57,281 are considered “poor.”
Kuching, Simunjan, and Serian emerge as the districts with the highest poverty rates. Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated this year rather than showing any signs of improvement. Even the middle class has been impacted, finding themselves downgraded due to escalating inflation. The rising costs of essential goods and food have burdened the people, and the general populace is feeling the pinch. Consequently, individuals are forced to tighten their belts in order to make ends meet.
Allow me to draw attention to the introduction of the Airbus corporate jet ACJ 319 to this August House. This remarkable private jet boasts an exceptional interior, complete with amenities such as a dining room, living areas, bedroom, a meeting room, an entertainment area, a bathroom with a walk-in shower, and a business class-style seating section. With a seating capacity of about 20 passengers, this jet is exclusively accessible to the most affluent travellers, including corporations, royals, and heads of state. Based on my research, the average hourly rental rate for this private corporate jet is around USD 18,600.
Based on a rough estimation, if one were to utilize the ACJ 319 for a trip to Europe, the rental costs alone could easily amount to millions of Malaysian Ringgit. It has come to my attention of a trip that took place just two weeks ago, involving the Right Honorable Premier, several Ministers, the State Secretary, and their spouses. They travelled to London to attend the London Craft Week 2023 event. What caught my attention was the mode of transportation chosen for this trip – a luxurious Airbus ACJ 319 corporate jet. It is worth noting that the expenses incurred for renting this airline, excluding in-flight food charges from prestige hotel. The expenses solely for the airline rental on this trip, excluding the in-flight food charges from prestige hotel, cost approximately RM4 to 5 million, which is fully borne by the Sarawak Government. Notably, this specific type of aircraft is also used by Russian President Putin.
While I fully support our state leaders in attending significant events in London, and I am aware that our state possesses the means to cover all expenses incurred during overseas trips by the Premier, Deputy Premiers, and Ministers, I question the necessity for such extravagant travel arrangements. Apart from this trip, the Sarawak Government paid out millions and millions of ringgit each year on private jet travel for the YAB Premier, Deputy Premiers, Ministers, and their family members, with these expenses remaining undisclosed to the public.
Furthermore, I have received information that even the VVIP’s son and his family use the private jet for personal travel, just for that month the aircraft rental bill amounted to tens of millions of Ringgit. This is outrageous! If public funds are involved, such massive expenditure raises concerns of abuse and therefore should be put to stop immediately.
Instead of unnecessarily spending millions of ringgit, I implore the Sarawak State Government to redirect these funds toward more meaningful programs aimed at assisting the hardcore poor in our state. The well-being of the people should be given utmost priority and must be the foremost concern.
Most Sarawakians are currently feeling the economic strain, and it deeply saddens me to hear stories from housewives who, in order to save money, resort to feeding their children packaged noodles once or twice a week. These families are well aware of the unhealthy nature of such meals, but they feel compelled to make this compromise due to their limited options. This desperation is a stark reminder of the hardships faced by those in poverty. I sincerely hope our leaders are fully aware of these circumstances and comprehend the true meaning of living in poverty.
Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that even if our Sarawak GPS State Premier, Deputy Premiers, and Ministers were to choose an ordinary airline or opt for business class or First Class, they would still be able to reach London. There is simply no need for extravagant travel arrangements using the Comlux Airbus ACJ 319 Corporate Jet, while expecting the taxpayers of Sarawak to foot the bills amounting to millions of ringgit. It is crucial to remember that this trip could have been planned well in advance, and there is no urgency to rush to London. In any event, it was Prince Charles who was crowned King and not someone from Sarawak GPS.
Although the Sarawak government possesses considerable wealth, taxpayers’ money should never be wasted needlessly. Let us allocate these resources in a manner that truly serves the needs of our fellow Sarawakians.