ISKANDAR PUTERI: The Federal Government has to respect the rights of Johor, do more for the state and not violate the Federation of Malaya Agreement signed in 1948 and 1957, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said.

In a strong message delivered at the opening of the Johor state assembly, the Sultan expressed disappointment with some Federal Government actions which he said seemed to ignore the state.

“I feel that Johor is being treated like a stepchild even though we are among the top contributors to the national economy,” he said.

“If this trend continues, Johoreans may agitate towards secession from Malaysia. Perhaps Johor can be more developed if we stand on our own,” the Sultan said, adding that the state contributed almost RM13bil annually to the federal revenue.

He pointed out that the Federal Government had decided to cancel the appeal in the Pulau Batu Puteh claim in 2018 without consulting Johor.

“The prime minister then made his own decision by ordering the Attorney General to take a break when the Cabinet had not been formed.

“Johor was not consulted at all although the decision involved the state’s land and sovereignty. I want the government to take stern action against those who violate state power,” he said.

His Majesty also expressed sadness that federal authorities were not carrying out maintenance works on public infrastructure in the state.

“Federal-owned buildings like the Sultanah Aminah Hospital, Sultan Ismail Hospital and Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex are all not well maintained.

“The Urban Transformation Centre in Johor Baru is also in need of upgrades,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim urged the Federal Government to immediately fulfil its promises to upgrade the North-South Expressway to six lanes, the Senai-Desaru Expressway to four lanes and make repairs to federal roads such as the Johor Baru-Mersing route, which is riddled with potholes and posed a danger to road users.

He also wanted the Federal Government to carry out infrastructure projects like the High-Speed Rail and new highways as they would provide economic spillover to local suppliers and contractors besides providing jobs to locals.

Sultan Ibrahim also said that before 2019, the political situation was stable and investments had poured into Iskandar Malaysia and Pengerang.

Since 2019, investments into the state had fallen because of “jealousy” towards the state, he said.

“Investors wanted to build the biggest solar energy plant in Pengerang, but the Federal Government blocked it, claiming there was no quota.

“There are investors wanting to develop an energy centre and deep-sea port in Muar, but a ‘monkey’ has been jumping not knowing that the development will bring more employment opportunities to locals,” he said.

Sultan Ibrahim also said the minimum age limit for eligibility to become a Johor assemblyman remains at 21 and not 18.

In January this year, the Johor state assembly approved amendments to lower the minimum age to vote and contest in elections to 18.

“I have not given consent to this amendment. In my opinion, the proposal to lower the minimum age is not in line with the direction of the government, which wants high quality leaders with enough knowledge,” the Sultan said.

The Sultan also congratulated new Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi and his state executive council members, telling them to carry out their responsibilities well or face losing their position.

“I have appointed more than 70% of them who are under 50. In fact, there are five state executive councillors under the age of 40. I hope that with a combination of various educational backgrounds and experience, they can bring progress and excellence to Johor,” he said.

He ordered the assemblymen to stop their political disputes and do their jobs.

“Just because the government has a large majority, it does not mean it can do as it pleases,” he said.