KUALA LUMPUR (March 18): When The Edge met Sarawak premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg at his office on the 21st floor of Wisma Bapa, it was surprising that his security entourage was minimal, friendly, almost informal, light-hearted with no sense of self-importance, and knowledgeable.
Most importantly, Abang Johari, as he is fondly known, came across as a man who cares for his people.
These traits are arguably rare in politicians these days, and explains the landslide victory of 76 out of 82 seats his Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) won in the state election in 2021.
The momentum was maintained in the 15th general election late last year, with GPS winning 23 parliamentary seats, and playing a key role in the forming of the unity government.
Being dubbed the kingmaker, Abang Johari has also surprised many with his policies, including the formation of a development bank and a state-controlled oil and gas outfit to protect Sarawak’s interests. These measures paint the premier as forward-thinking, and set the stage for better things in the undeveloped and long ignored state.
While there has been some amount of friction with the likes of national oil company Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), and some within the political sphere of Peninsular Malaysia, Abang Johari has sought to place the betterment of Sarawak as a priority, and it seems to be paying off.
Last year, Sarawak chalked up revenues of RM11.9 billion, which was a record for the oil-rich state.
Abang Johari has said that such high revenue streams can be maintained, with his Post Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030 accelerating development, elevating Sarawak to a developed and high-income state by 2030, growing the state’s economy from RM136 billion in 2019 to RM282 billion in 2030.
Abang Johari is involved in all aspects of developing the state, from the selling of electricity to Singapore, investments by multinationals, and the setting up of data centres, to the building of schools and hospitals.
In a nutshell, he clearly has his work cut out for him.
In The Edge Malaysia’s cover story this week, find out what motivates Abang Johari’s pursuit of a fairer deal for Sarawak, as agreed under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, as well as his plans for the state.
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