MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Heated argument in Dewan over tech giants bypassing Malaysia


Wee Ka Siong says the issue of the Apricot subsea cable bypassing Malaysia does not arise because the cabotage rule is only for repairs and not for installation. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A heated argument erupted over the country’s cabotage policy in the Dewan Rakyat today over the decision by tech giants Facebook and Google to bypass Malaysia for their new Apricot subsea cable in Asia Pacific.

It started with Lim Guan Eng (PH-Bagan) asking transport minister Wee Ka Siong over media reports in August that said the technology giants are bypassing Malaysia, causing the country to lose billions in investments.

Lim said that even Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chairman Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff had urged the government to restore the cabotage policy or miss out on progress.

He also said there are strong industry sources indicating that three new cables originally planned to be landing in Malaysia are now under review.

“Also under review are potential data centre investments worth RM12 billion to RM15 billion in foreign investments,” he said, quoting Rais’ previous remarks.

The cabotage exemption had previously allowed foreign vessels to perform undersea repair jobs in Malaysian waters. However, in November, Wee revoked the exemption for submarine cable repair, and dismissed claims that it would affect investments.

Lim urged Wee to correct any wrong cabotage policies to attract investors.

Wee, however, said the Apricot subsea project took place after a trade war between the US and China in 2015.

“Before that, there were a lot of old cables from Hong Kong and Japan to Singapore. When the trade war took place, they wanted to use alternative routes, through the Pacific Ocean which does not go through Malaysia.

“It goes through Japan, Taipei, the Philippines and Indonesia to Singapore over about 12,000km.”

Wee also explained that Malaysia’s cabotage policy on installation has remained the same since 1980.

“The Apricot project is about installation. Repair work and installation work are two different issues,” he said, adding that for repair work, the companies will need to inform if they are coming into Malaysian sea, and will get permission in three days.

“What the chairman of MDEC said is not correct because the policy (changes) are only for repair work, not for installation,” he said.

Thus, he said, the issue of investors bypassing Malaysia does not arise.

“I am ready to debate with Guan Eng for one hour in whatever programme (over the matter),” Wee said.

Lim then stood up and said he accepted the challenge to debate.

“You said the MDEC chairman was not right. I want to ask if Rais Hussin will be sacked? Who is right?” Lim said.

Wee replied that it was not about sacking anyone. “This is about being professional.” - FMT

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