Minister: Comprehensive programmes a must for Sarawak’s youth development

KUCHING: Preparing Sarawak youths with the necessary disciplines, skills and knowledge in facing future challenges is not an easy task, says Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

Based on records from the Statistics Department for this year to date, the youths make up 42 per cent of Sarawak’s 2.8-million population.

Youths are considered as a great asset to the state � if they are harnessed and utilised in the right direction, said Abdul Karim in his ministry’s winding-up speech at the DUN sitting yesterday.

In this context, he said the government should consider looking at the issue of youth development seriously, adding that the challenges faced by the youths are multi-facet in nature � ranging from socio-economy and politics, to technology.

Today, the issues and challenges commonly faced by our youths, as usually highlighted on social media, are unemployment and under-employment among our graduates and school-leavers, coupled with high cost of living, drugs abuse, influence of social media, underage marriages, teenage pregnancies, divorces, juvenile delinquencies, ‘mat-rempit’ (illegal racers), urban poverty and alcoholism.

Abdul Karim said to ensure that the youths would be more prepared, composed and receptive in facing future challenges, the government should be taking active measures to formulate and implement viable and holistic youth development policies, programmes as well as strategies initiatives.

In this regard, he said for the second half of this year, his ministry would continue to run programmes such as Sarawak-level Youth Day 2018, Sarawak Youth Forum, a roadshow programme ‘Jelajah Belia Sarawak’, Junior and Senior Youth Camp, TedX Kenyalang ‘Outreach to the World’ edition, ‘Youth � Paint the World’, as well as activities related to leadership, entrepreneurship, communication skills, community and volunteerism.

On another note, Abdul Karim noted that a homegrown youth transformation programme ‘Kawan Ku Sayang, Keluarga Ku Kenang’ had been getting encouraging response from local youths.

This programme has been run through a strategic collaboration with Saberkas (Sarawak United National Youth Organisation) since 2014. As a result of this success story, my ministry will continue to implement it as a core annual programme, he added.

Touching on sports development, Abdul Karim pointed out that sports tourism is one of the contributing elements in Sarawak’s economic growth.

He also regarded sports as being helpful in projecting the country’s image at international level, by having world-class facilities suitable for international events.

He said through these activities, Sarawak managed to attract many sports tourists from countries like Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines, China, the US, Canada, Russia, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Korea.

To fully capitalise on Sarawak’s potential in sports tourism, the Sarawak Sports Corporation (SSC) has intensified its effort in bidding for more international sports events to be held in Sarawak (making it) as the preferred venue, he added.

Abdul Karim said his ministry had taken into account numerous ideas and public opinions in making the sports facilities in Sarawak accessible and practical for public usage.

Among the initiatives that we have undertaken is by making it (sports facilities) affordable to the public.

The percentage of usage of these facilities in 2017 recorded an increase of 30 per cent over (the number in) 2016. The amount of rental collection received from the usage of facilities in 2016 was RM442,745; in 2017, we collected RM683,950, he added.

Meanwhile, Abdul Karim said for this year’s Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Perak � running from Sept 12 to 22 � Sarawak is targeting to reclaim the overall champion’s title.

It is known that the Games would host a total of 29 sports spread over 434 events.The minister said Sarawak aims to bring home 77 gold medals.

To achieve this goal, we have been preparing our athletes since Sukma 2016, he said, reminding all that the 50-day Sukma 2018 countdown would be launched at Celebration Square in Petra Jaya near here this July 24.

He also said all Sukma athletes from Sarawak would be housed at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) in Kota Samarahan, from Aug 12 to 16, for their final preparation. Back on the development of sports and social facilities in Sarawak, Abdul Karim said under the 11th Malaysia Plan, a sum of RM229.45 million had been set aside for the construction and upgrading of Youth and Sports (JBS) facilities throughout Sarawak.

The ministry, he added, would continue to build new facilities as well as upgrade and improve existing ones.

I am pleased to report that the upgrading works on the running tracks at Sri Aman, Bintulu and Sarikei sports complexes have reached completion, while upgrading works on the running track at Miri Sports Complex should be completed this year, he said, adding that works on the running track at Kapit Sports Complex in ongoing and are expected to reach completion by this December.

Abdul Karim said with Sarawak having attained good achievements in sports locally and internationally, it is necessary for it to sustain the present performance towards its goal of becoming a sports powerhouse in Malaysia.

Therefore, it is a necessity to have an athlete-centric environment to help Sarawak athletes develop their potential further, while balancing the importance of (having) an academic education, he added.