No follow-up from Minister Wee’s office to discuss his debate challenge on cabotage policy: DAP Sec-Gen Guan Eng

Press Statement By DAP Secretary-General And MP For Bagan Lim Guan Eng In Kuala Lumpur On 15.10.2021:

No Follow-up From Wee Ka Siong’s Office To Discuss His Debate Challenge To Me On His Cabotage Exemption Policy That Resulted In The Apricot’s 12,000 Kilometer-Long Submarine Cable To Bypass Malaysia.

Does Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong regret issuing his challenge to debate me on his cabotage exemption policy for submarine cables repairs after the Communication and Multimedia (KKMM) Minister Annuar Musa’s parliamentary reply that it was Wee’s unresolved cabotage exemption policy that caused the Apricot’s 12,000 kilometer-long submarine cable to bypass Malaysia? Google and Facebook have launched the Apricot project to build an underwater cable system to connect US and Asia through Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Malaysian cabotage law covers submarine cable deployment and repair, which means when the best ship available for a cable repair is a foreign ship, a Domestic Shipping Licence Exemption (DSLE) is required. Before this can be issued, local ship owners are asked for their consent through the Malaysia Ship Owners Association (Masa). In fact, shipowners who think they can handle the repair job can block the issuance of the DSLE. This is the main contention by tech giants and industry players that the foreign repair vessels require consent from their local competitors for up to 3 days to get a DSLE.

On 1st September 2021, tech giants Amazon Web Services(AWS), Facebook, Google and Microsoft together with Malaysia Internet Exchange(MyIX) which is under KKMM, had written to the Prime Minister to reverse Wee’s wrong policy and seek a cabotage exemption for submarine cable repairs. Wee had denied that the Apricot decision to bypass Malaysia was due to Wee’s refusal to grant a cabotage exemption for foreign ships carrying out submarine cable repairs.

However, Annuar Musa stated that it was the unresolved cabotage exemption policy that resulted in Apricot to bypass Malaysia in his written reply to Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim on 5 October 2021 as follows.

“Pemilihan negara bagi menyertai rancangan pemasangan kabel Internet Apricot dasar laut (subsea cables) adalah keputusan syarikat Facebook dan Google. Malaysia tidak tersenarai (bypass) sebagai salah satu negara yang terlibat dalam pendaratan stesen kabel dasar laut tersebut memandangkan isu pengecualian Dasar Kabotaj yang masih belum selesai.”

The decision by Apricot to bypass Malaysia will result in a loss of high-capacity connectivity and investment worth US$300 million-US$400 million. Former Chairman of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) Dr Rais Hussin further added that the revocation of the cabotage exemption policy for submarine cable repairs has also put at risk the loss of some RM12 billion to RM15 billion worth of digital investment.

No Follow-up From Wee Ka Siong’s Office To Discuss His Debate Challenge On Cabotage Policy And Teo Nie Chieng Is DAP’s New Debate Coordinator

Annuar Musa has so far stood by his Parliamentary reply to Steven Sim. Is this the reason why Wee has remained silent after issuing the challenge to me in Parliament on 30 September to debate on his cabotage exemption policy, apart from Wee replying to the Parliament Speaker Azhar Harun’s letter on me referring Wee to the Committee of Privileges for misleading Parliament?

So far there is no follow-up from Wee to discuss his debate challenge to me on cabotage policy and my office has not been contacted on details of the debate as promised. I had announced in Parliament last week that DAP MP for Bangi and former Deputy MITI Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming will liaise with Wee’s office to work out logistics for the debate. Dr Ong had informed me that no one from Wee’s office had contacted him. I had even proposed 23 October Saturday night as the time for the proposed debate.

Since Dr Ong has been tested positive for COVID-19, Kulai MP and former Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Cheng will coordinate the logistics of the debate. I hope that Wee will stop making personal attacks against me but respond constructively to this important issue.

There is too much at stake than the ego of Wee who refuses to admit that he was wrong, when it is not just the opposition but his own colleagues in government who disagree with his cabotage exemption policy. This concerns not just RM12-15 billion of investments but also the digital future of our country.

LIM GUAN ENG

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