Hornbill Unleashed

May 29, 2017

Cabotage exemption a sign of impending GE?

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:01 AM

Junz-WongParti Warisan Sabah has questioned the government’s sincerity in its decision to give Sabah and Sarawak a six-month exemption from the cabotage policy.

Warisan vice-president Junz Wong sees a connection between the coming general election and the announcement of the cabotage suspension.

“It’s an election sweetener,” he told FMT.

Najib made the announcement early this month, saying the exemption would come into effect on June 1. More recently, Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing said a decision on whether the policy would be abolished altogether would be made after six months.

Wong is a frequent critic of the policy, which is said to be the reason goods in East Malaysia are more expensive than in Peninsular Malaysia.

He described the exemption as a “farce” and said Putrajaya shouldn’t take Sabah and Sarawak for a ride with “half baked” promises.

“Why do we need a six-month exemption and then take a wait-and-see approach?” he said. “The policy should just be abolished.

“Why should Sabahans and Sarawakians pay more for goods? To protect some shipping companies? That’s ridiculous.”

Masing has said that abolishing the policy could deprive local shipping companies of business and pose security threats as international vessels could call on local ports.

Wong also questioned why the exemption period was set at six months and not a year or two years.

“The federal government has had 30 years to study the impact of the abolishment of the cabotage policy,” he said. “Why does it want to test the waters only now? Is this a sign that the election may be held within six months since the cabotage policy has always been an election issue?”

Some political analysts have forecast that the 14th general election, which must be held by August 24, 2018, could take place this October with Barisan Nasional expected to bank on the “feel good” factor after the Malaysia Day celebrations, Hari Raya festivities and the South East Asia games.

But there are also analysts who believe that Najib will wait till the end of the government’s current term to call for the election to give his cousin and Umno vice-president Hishamuddin Hussein more time to make his mark as the Minister with Special Functions, a role which some say is to prepare him for the prime minister’s post.

Wong said Barisan Nasional should be sincere in wanting to alleviate the burden of the people and not tease them with “half baked promises”.

He added that if the federal government wanted to do right by the people, it should not only abolish the cabotage policy but also review relevant laws to maximise the impact of the policy’s removal.

The cabotage policy, in force since the 1980s, requires all domestic transshipment of goods to be made using Malaysian vessels. Foreign ships carrying goods for, say, Kuching, have to call at an international port such as Port Klang for transshipment instead of going directly to Kuching.

From Port Klang, Malaysian vessels will take over the shipping responsibility of the goods from the foreign vessel. This results in extra freight charges and handling expenses, which are passed on to the consumer.

Source : FMT Online



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