KUCHING: DAP has suggested that telecommunications towers be erected near the homes of Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders following the announcement that 3,800 new towers are to be installed throughout the state.
Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong today said the state should have some of the towers constructed in close proximity to BN leaders’ homes as a way to reassure the public of their safety.
“If they claim the towers are safe, then I suggest that they be placed in the compounds of the state ministers’ homes to set an example.
“Only then would the public be convinced of the safety of the towers. They would not complain if the leaders also have the towers right beside their houses,” she said in a statement today.
Yong was referring to Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg’s announcement last week that the number of towers will be increased from 1,200 currently to as many as 5,000, as part of a RM1 billion plan to upgrade the state’s ICT infrastructure.
Sarawak DAP had last week criticised the plan as a direct award of a mega project without tender since only one firm, Sacofa Sdn Bhd, is authorised to construct the towers.
Set up in 2001, the company is incorporated as a regulatory body, fully-owned and controlled by the Sarawak government.
Sacofa has said the radio frequency (RF) emissions from the towers are 790 times lower than the maximum levels permitted for safety by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and stressed that all international standards are being complied to.
However, Yong said residents remain concerned about health issues, with worries that infants and children may be vulnerable to long-term exposure to the RF emissions.
She added that residents have also complained about their property valuations being affected by the telecommunications towers which are each 30 metres in height.
“What Sacofa claimed all along, through their advertisements, was that they would engage with the public and respect their wishes in considering the construction of these towers.
“But so far, what they have done is totally the opposite. They have not engaged with the residents,” she said.
Yong claimed that Sacofa constructed towers in Taman Supreme housing estate, the Kenyalang Traffic Garden and the SK Bintawa school compound against the wishes of residents.
“Even though there was strong opposition, the residents were ignored and bulldozed over in the whole matter,” she said.
Yong also urged the state to declare the locations of all 3,800 towers planned state-wide.
In 2002, Sacofa was granted a 20-year concession by the Sarawak government to build, manage, lease and maintain telecommunication towers in the state.
It has leased its towers to Celcom, Digi, Maxis and other local telecommunication players.
Sarawak’s state law was later amended to give Sacofa the authority to also regulate and control ICT infrastructures.
This led to the company being involved in the building of communication towers and other ICT facilities such as fibre optic cable networks laid underground.
In 2015, the state government sold a 50% stake in Sacofa to CMS Group for RM180 million, with the transaction completed the following year.
State DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen claimed on April 5 that the price was below fair market value and that the newly-announced development plan had “rent-seeking and profiteering elements” involving Sacofa.
He has also called for Sacofa’s regulatory powers and monopoly of ICT infrastructure projects to be removed.
He further called for the appointment of a government agency to take charge of the overall planning and tendering processes for ICT infrastructure projects, under the supervision of a committee of elected state representatives from both sides in the state assembly.
Sacofa corporate affairs manager Mohamad Sait had responded by telling FMT that the firm’s management would address Chong’s statements at a later period.
“For now, the (construction) awards have yet to be made,” he said.