Abang Johari (centre) receives a memento from Dr Taufiq (second left). Also seen (from left) are Ouyang, Dr Sim, Fatimah and Misnu.

KUCHING (Aug 20): Sarawak is keen to work closely with China to tap into the production of herbal medicine, says Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Abang Johari said Sarawak has a bright prospect in terms of bioprospecting, especially in medicine discovery given the state’s forests that have diverse types of medical plants and biodiversity.

“I hope you can explore and collaborate with us, especially in the field of technology. You know, we are now going for renewable energy, going for natural resources.

“Maybe I would also like to suggest that we explore the question of herbal medicine because Borneo is rich in biodiversity,” he said at the gala dinner held in conjunction with the International Chinese Muslim Conference 2023 (ICMC 2023)  here at the Waterfront Hotel last night (Saturday).

Abang Johari pointed out that while Sarawak has vast and diverse types of medical plants and biodiversity, most of the bioresources for bioprospecting natural products have yet to be tapped.

Thus, he said by tapping opportunities with China in the production of herbal medicine, it would enable the state to leverage its potential in harnessing its biodiversity resource.

This is especially in exchange for technology transfer and scientific knowledge to Sarawak, he added.

“Then scientists among the Muslim community and the non-Muslims coming from China. China is very strong in herbal medicine. We can explore the possibility of having this engagement among us as Borneo is rich in biodiversity.

“We can explore to produce certain medicine that can be, sort of, a way for us to find cure of any potential disease,” he said, adding that the Sarawak government has set aside RM200 million to set up a disease research centre.

“Sarawak is forming what we call Sarawak tropical disease research. We have set about RM200 million to do this research centre under Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian and there are various researchers there. Perhaps this is the area where we can collaborate. I know in China there is one university that is very good in herbal medicine,” he said.

Abang Johari believed that the collaboration will further strengthen the diplomatic relationship between Malaysia and China which has been established for centuries.

He also cited the story of Admiral Cheng Ho’s visit to Malacca in the 15th Century as a significant symbol of the continuation of the old friendship and cultural exchange between the two nations.

“Even our Prophet Muhammad had said ‘seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China’. Why China? Why not Sarawak?

“This is because the civilisation in China has long advanced. The printing press was invented in China. So technology is available in China. So that’s why our Prophet encouraged people to seek knowledge as far as China.

“Even today Sarawak also seeks knowledge from China. Our public transport Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) is from China.

“We are also working with Huawei in order to establish a smart city. In other words, you seek knowledge, you transform our way of life through knowledge and whoever has knowledge for us to learn from that of the old era,” he said.

He also said scientific knowledge exchange would bring tremendous benefit for mankind.

“In this regard, I would like for this conference to explore the possibility of engagement and exchange of knowledge for the betterment of the community,” he added.

Among those present were Deputy Premier Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian; Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah; Sarawak Islam Council chairman Datu Misnu Taha, Malaysia Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) president Prof Datuk Dr Taufiq Yap Yun Hin and Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Malaysia Ouyang Yujing.