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Cabotage announcement smacks of 'election around the corner'
Published on: Wednesday, May 10, 2017
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Kota Kinabalu: While welcoming the abolition of the controversial 37-year-old Cabotage Policy, that has been a thorn in the flesh for Sabah and Sarawak, Sabah Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Chairperson, Christina Liew has expressed some scepticism over its actualisation."Its announcement smacks of 'election is around the corner', and is akin to an election promise to the people of Sabah.

"Euphoria aside, it's only three weeks away to the realisation of exemption of the Cabotage Policy but the terms for abolition are uncertain for now. Is the Transport Ministry fully mandated to implement the change of policy which entails deregulation and putting in place new mechanisms for implementation?

"Are our ports ready? The Ministry must get their act together swiftly for the anticipated outcome with effect from June 1," she said in a statement, Tuesday.

Liew was commenting on the Prime Minister's announcement that exemption of the Cabotage Policy for Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan would start from June 1.

On Sunday, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said beginning June 1, shipment of goods from any port in Peninsular Malaysia to any port in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, and vice versa, would be exempted from the Cabotage Policy.

Liew, who is Api-Api Assemblywoman, wondered what would happen to those international shipping vessels (or foreign container vessels) carrying goods, say for both East and West Malaysia and now making their way to Port Klang.

"Are they supposed to berth at Port Klang or re-route (in view of the exemption) and come direct to Sabah?

In the event of having to re-route, the exercise would incur increased costs in terms of sea freight charges and insurance payments," she contended.

Together with other Opposition elected representatives, Liew had repeatedly raised the matter in the Sabah State Legislative Assembly in recent years, calling on the State Government to follow up with the Federal Government on scrapping the Cabotage Policy.

"Beginning this year, there has been lack of consistency in decision-making on the Policy with the Transport Minister announcing a partial liberalisation of the Policy. And now out of the blue, the Prime Minister flew to Sabah to announce an exemption of the Policy for East Malaysia," she noted.

The Cabotage Policy was introduced in January 1980 with the aim of restricting the carriage of goods and passengers within Malaysian waters to Malaysian-registered vessels. Last Saturday, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the primary aim of the policy was to reduce dependence on foreign vessels, thus increasing the participation of Malaysian-registered vessels in domestic shipping. Conveying goods by ship between Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia is considered domestic shipping.

However, exemptions are granted to foreign vessels to operate in domestic shipping as provided for under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952, according to Liow.

Meanwhile, Liew expressed surprise over the Prime Minister's continued silence over the pathetic condition of the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Sandakan despite the matter having been raised in Parliament by elected representatives from both sides of the political divide since last year.

"He has been to Sandakan twice since the beginning of the year, and this time around, there was still no mention of any allocation for the much-needed upgrading of the hospital apart from announcing an allocation of RM80 million for the Sandakan Airport runway extension project," she pointed out.



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