Hornbill Unleashed

May 30, 2017

Confusion in East Malaysia over cabotage exemption time frame

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:02 AM

james-catobageConfusion has set in among the public in Sabah and Sarawak over whether the cabotage policy exemption for the East Malaysian states, which takes effect on Thursday, is temporary.

This has come about in the wake of Sarawak Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister Dr James Jemut Masing reportedly saying on May 24 that Sabah and Sarawak were only exempted for six months.

A decision will be made after that period on whether the policy should be abolished or maintained, he had said.

The Sabah-based Daily Express reported today that it had contacted Lim Chau Leng, the press secretary of Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, to seek a clarification on the matter.

According to the daily, Lim said that as far as his boss was concerned there was no mention of a trial six-month period by either the prime minister or transport minister.

When asked if the ministry should issue a clarification, Lim replied that it was not necessary, the report said.

It also quoted the Federation of Sabah Industries president Mohd Basri Abd Gafar as saying that he was made to understand that the ministry needed to make a report to the cabinet in six months on the exemption, and that a committee will also be formed to look into the matter.

“I was there at the briefing organised by the ministry (in Kuala Lumpur) and there was no mention of it being only for six months but it (the time frame) was just to file the developments after the exemption to make a cabinet report.

“So I don’t know why Masing made a statement in the papers that it is only for six months.”

He added that an officer with the ministry had said that any such exemption should be allowed for at least five years before its effects could be assessed.

On May 7, Prime Minister Najib Razak had announced that the federal government had decided to exempt Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan from its cabotage policy with effect from June 1.

He said doing away with the policy would enable foreign ships to bring cargo directly to ports in the Borneo region, thereby allowing people there to access goods from international markets without having them brought via Peninsular Malaysia, as is the practice now.

It is also expected to help reduce the cost of products imported into the region.

The Daily Express report quoted Sabah Employers Association (SEA) president Wong Khen Thau as saying the move needed to have a trial run of at least one or two years before results could be seen.

He said local shippers currently did not face direct competition from foreign ships.

“We have to first attract foreign vessels to come and compete with our local vessels,” he reportedly said. “There is no foreign vessel coming in yet. How can you expect overnight results?”

“So the six months, I feel, is a very short time and unfair to the people of Sabah.

“They already had 37 years’ of cabotage. So how can you say the cabotage exemption will only be for six months?” he said, adding that it was unlikely that there would be any price reductions within such a short period.

Meanwhile, Parti Warisan Sabah vice-chairman Junz Wong was quoted as saying that he saw a connection between the upcoming 14th general election (GE14) and Najib’s announcement.

“It’s an election sweetener as cabotage has always been a hot issue during elections,” he said, adding that the policy was blamed for prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak being more expensive than in Peninsular Malaysia.

He reportedly described the exemption as a “farce” and said Putrajaya should not take Sabah and Sarawak for a ride with “half-baked” promises.

“Why do we need a six-month exemption and then adopt a wait-and-see approach? Why should Sabahans and Sarawakians pay more for goods? To protect some shipping companies?

“That’s ridiculous. The policy should just be abolished.”


Source : FMT Online


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