PETALING JAYA, Nov 23: Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong will elaborate on the revoked cabotage exemption in Parliament tomorrow, after the move came under fire from technology giants like Microsoft, Google and Facebook.
The exemption previously allowed foreign vessels involved in the repair of submarine cables to operate without the need to apply for a domestic shipping licensing exemption.
According to a Malaysiakini report, a letter sent from the tech groups to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said this would slow down any future repairs and create a monopoly as only one local company has the capacity to currently perform the repairs.
Speaking to FMT, Wee said that “many countries like China, the US, Vietnam and Indonesia have a cabotage policy.
“Why should Malaysia be singled out? I will reveal everything in Parliament,” he said.
He also refuted claims by Seremban MP Loke Siew Fook, who questioned the hushed manner in which the revocation was done when he raised the issue in the Dewan Rakyat on Nov 17.
“The accusations made by Loke are not true. This matter went through the due process and even a Cabinet note on the matter had been submitted on Nov 13, before Loke spoke about this in Parliament,” Wee said.
The revocation, which came into effect on Nov 15, was praised by the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association (MASA), which called the move “patriotic” and said it put “Malaysia first”.
Their member, Optic Marine Group, is in the midst of registering a Malaysian-flagged cable laying vessel.
The tech companies said that before the exemption, submarine cable repair times in Malaysia were among the slowest in the region, taking an average of 27 days, compared with 20 days in the Philippines, 19 days in Singapore and 12 days in Vietnam.
“At a time when millions of Malaysians are dependent on the internet for their livelihoods, the restoration of submarine internet infrastructure representing investments of billions of ringgit is being unnecessarily delayed every time a repair needs to be carried out,” they said in their letter to Muhyiddin.