ON BEHALF of my wife Faridah Haji Tussin, our family and the Sabah State Government, I wish to extend Chinese New Year greetings to the Chinese community in Sabah and in Malaysia. We can stand proud as Malaysians, having achieved great strides since independence with the commitment of citizens that come from diverse backgrounds. There is much that we have in common and such traits allow us to continuously cement ties and to uphold unity and harmony, which serve as pillars of progress.
As we enter the Year of the Monkey, I look forward to extending greetings at open houses hosted in conjunction with Chinese New Year. Visiting one another during festivities has become an accepted culture among Malaysians from all walks of life. There is room for everyone to practice our respective traditions and faiths in this blessed country. Let us strive to always respect one another and overcome difference through amicable ways.
Over the past year, we have continued to see efforts by irresponsible quarters to undermine unity that Malaysians, especially our forefathers, have worked hard to build. Matters get worse when those who instigate Malaysians to be suspicious of one another are able to use social media platforms to get their views across. We must remain vigilant and not allow ourselves to be drawn into actions that may lead to unnecessary tension, especially when these# issues are related to race and religion. There is no room for racial bigotry and religious discord in Sabah, and I pray that the prevailing harmony we have here will remain intact.
Economic growth is vital to Sabah’s long term growth prospects. As we all know, the past few months have been challenging with the weakening Ringgit against the US Dollar, a problem that is also plaguing several other countries. More recently, the drop in the price of oil has also impacted projected revenue and certain projects will face the impact of this. This is a situation that we must face together as a nation. I call on Malaysians in Sabah to be united in supporting measures we are taking both at state level and those taken by the Federal Government to cushion impacts from the phase we are going through now.
Despite some setbacks, Sabah is committed to ensuring the implementation of the Sabah Development Corridor and the State Development Agenda, or Halatuju. We are also supportive of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) which are showing positive results on the ground. Tourism is still an important contributor to the local economy despite some challenges in terms of security. We are also seeing a number of Chinese tourists and other travellers from the north Asian region visiting Sabah.
I wish to also take this opportunity to assure the business and trade community that the Sabah Government is aware of issues raised by chambers of commerce and other groups fromtime to time. We are doing our best to meet requests and suggestions and where possible, these are implemented as part of our efforts to find workable solutions and to facilitate economic growth. Despite some budget cuts, we will ensure that the best is done for all citizens. The government is mindful of the rising cost of goods and services. We are doing what we can to address this and related issues.
I take this opportunity to reassure the Chinese community in Sabah of our continuous support towards the development and growth of Chinese schools, temples and cultural activities. The Sabah State Government will continue to disburse financial aid for Chinese schools and temples. We also support Chinese non-governmental organisations that work towards advancing education and welfare activities. We recognise that education is very important to the Chinese community and we will continue to assist where possible.
Security is of paramount importance in attracting investors and driving the economy, especially one that focuses on tourism. The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) and the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) are now entering their third year and after further streamlining, both efforts are now on firmer footing. Measures such as the curfew at sea are meant to beef up security, and we call on the public to be supportive about our efforts. The public must also do their part by informing us of suspicious activities. I also wish to thank security forces on duty during festive seasons, sacrificing family time to maintain peace and order.
During this festive season, let us remember the less fortunate. I commend groups that share festive cheer by visiting those in need, and I hope that you will continue to do so in future. Let us all close ranks and remain united. I hope that the New Year brings more prosperity and peace to the nation. Gong Xi Fa Chai.