: Sarawakians want to be on equal standing with their counterparts in Peninsular Malaysia as far as economic development is concerned.
This was the hope and aspiration of their founding leaders when they signed the Malaysia Agreement in 1963, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
"It is also the hope of all Sarawakians yesterday, today and tomorrow," he said at the state-level Malaysia Day celebration at the Sibu Town Square last night.
He believed the bigger implication was that the people in Sarawak and Sabah did not want to be taken for granted not only historically but also economically and politically.
"We believe that Malaysia can be a stronger nation if there is equal economic footing on both sides of the South China Sea. Discontent will only breed discord and disunity among Malaysians," he stressed.
He said it cannot be denied that Sarawak is behind Semenanjung in infrastructure development but the people are thankful that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is aware of the aspiration of Sarawakians that they should have at least one system of roads that is of highway standard after 54 years as part of Malaysia.
"Therefore the construction of the Pan Borneo Highway is very much welcomed," said the Chief Minister.
On the Malaysia Day celebration, Abang Johari said Sarawakians or Sabahans feel that it was important to give due recognition to September 16 and not be forgotten as a part of history because Sarawak and Sabah were not annexed as part of Malaysia.
All the three territories; Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah were the parties to the formation of Malaysia.
It was more important than August 31 to them but it did not mean that Sarawak did not recognise August 31 as an important day which is now known as National Day.
"We respect August 31 1957 as the date when the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from the British government, following that six years later on September 16, 1963 was the formation of Malaysia, which we are celebrating now.
"Our past leaders of various races have agreed to form Malaysia with Malaya and Sabah. We will respect and uphold the agreement forever," he said.
A large crowd of about 7,000 people braved the rain to join the celebration launched by Head of State Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.
Also present at the colourful celebration were Taib's wife Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib, Abang Johari's wife Datin Patinggi Jumaa'ni Tun Tuanku Bujang, state and federal ministers. - BERNAMA