MP: Govt admitted Google, FB bypassed M'sia due to cabotage but Wee in denial

MP: Govt admitted Google, FB bypassed M'sia due to cabotage but Wee in denial
MP: Govt admitted Google, FB bypassed M'sia due to cabotage but Wee in denial

Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim said he has received confirmation from Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa that Google and Facebook had bypassed Malaysia for the Apricot internet subsea cable project due to the unresolved cabotage policy.

He said this was despite Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong, who reinstated the cabotage policy on foreign ships engaged in the repair of undersea cables, insisting that the policy had not impacted internet investments in the country.

"On Sept 30, Wee, in replying to questions from Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng, gave various excuses to deny that his decision to revoke the exemption of cabotage policy on undersea cable repairs had caused Malaysia to be excluded from the Apricot project by tech giants Facebook and Google.

"Wee’s continual denial of the impact from his own harmful and wrong decision, however, runs contrary to the parliamentary reply I received on Oct 5 from the communication and multimedia minister," Sim said in a statement.

Annuar's written reply to Sim read: "The selection of countries to participate in the installation of the Apricot internet subsea cables is the decision of Facebook and Google.

"Malaysia was not listed (bypassed) as one of the countries involved for a cable landing station was in view that the cabotage exemption policy has yet to be resolved."

The tech giants, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, have appealed to the government repeatedly to reinstate the Pakatan Harapan-era cabotage exemption for the repair of undersea cables as they say it is necessary to ensure speedy repairs and stable internet.

Wee had also come under attack by Bersatu's Rais Hussin over the cabotage policy, calling him a "minister with the IQ of a cabbage".

Rais had since quit as the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), maintaining that he won't be a "yes man".

Sim said it was obvious that Wee's colleagues in the ruling coalition understood that the unresolved cabotage policy was hurting Malaysia.

"Such an attitude by the transport minister is harmful and detrimental to our Malaysian economy and the Malaysian people in general.

"Instead of acknowledging weaknesses and rectifying them, Wee stubbornly holds on to his harmful and wrong decision.

"As a result of Wee’s stubbornness, he caused Malaysia to be continually excluded from a project which the communications and multimedia minister deemed as 'much needed' and an 'important element'."

Lim noted that Rais, as the then MDEC chairperson, had estimated RM15 billion losses in high tech investments due to Wee's reimposition of the cabotage policy which his predecessor Anthony Loke had granted an exemption for the repair of undersea internet cables.

"Besides MDEC, another government-linked institution, MIDF, also reported that Malaysia will suffer huge economic and financial losses due to the exclusion from the Apricot project," said Sim.

PM told to intervene

Sim urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to intervene and reverse Wee's decision.

Meanwhile, Lim, who is seeking to debate Wee on the cabotage policy, also questioned the latter's take on the policy impact.

"Wee’s version does not cut any ice with the high-tech industry when international digital giants have repeatedly written to both the former and current prime minister to object to Wee’s stubborn refusal to grant a cabotage exemption for submarine cable repairs," he said.

Lim also maintained that he was prepared to debate Wee and any suggestions otherwise were "lies".

"Wee claims that I will not dare debate him because I had previously refused to debate him on the delayed Penang tunnel project, in which he claimed that payment had already been made through a land swap where a condominium was built on it with all units sold.

"Again, Wee is not telling the truth when the Penang government has repeatedly said that no payment or not a single cent has been paid for the Penang tunnel project. How to debate on a matter built on a lie?

Even on the current debate on the cabotage policy for submarine cable repairs, Wee had claimed that the Cabinet will make a final decision in early October.

"If a decision is to be made by Cabinet in early October, why can’t the debate be held on Oct 23? Or is Wee misleading Parliament when he said that the matter will be decided by early October?" Lim said in a separate statement.

Equally important

He added that Wee should not resort to "toxic" personal attacks.

The shipping industry, which has strongly backed Wee, wants the cabotage policy to stay.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Institute of Malaysia (Mima) also backed the cabotage policy.

"The decision was to improve the shipping industry. Mima is confident that the shipping, telecommunications and digital industries are equally important for the Malaysian economy and jobs.

"The shipping sector needs to be protected...," it said in a statement.