PETALING JAYA: Veteran Sabah politician Jeffrey Kitingan said reports about the abolition of the cabotage policy imposed on Sabah and Sarawak have been misleading.
Referring to the announcement by Prime Minister Najib Razak on Sunday that the federal government will exempt Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan from its cabotage policy with effect from June 1, Kitingan said in reality the policy had been liberalised in 2009.
“The announcement by Najib over the weekend is nothing more than a further liberalisation of the cabotage policy and not abolishment of the same.
“If the declared intention is to look after the well-being of Sabahans and Sarawakians, then the federal government ought to be very clear in their policies and objectives,” the Bingkor assemblyman said in a statement today, adding that the cabotage policy is often misunderstood.
“News reports of the purported abolition quoting that foreign ships cannot call at Sabah ports is not correct as there was a partial liberalisation in 2009 allowing such shipping.”
Kitingan, who is STAR president, revealed that the subsequent statement from the transport ministry further confused the issue, by stating that it was just further liberalisation of the cabotage policy and is only for shipping between ports in Peninsula Malaysia and ports in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, respectively, and vice-versa.
“It also covers ports within Sabah for Sabah cargo and ports within Sarawak for Sarawak cargo.
“Therefore, shipping between Sabah and Sarawak appears to be still subject to the cabotage policy and foreign vessels are not allowed to carry such cargo,” he said adding that many things in Sabah and Sarawak related to shipping and cabotage are wrong and need wholesome and holistic approaches in solving.
“Piecemeal liberalisation of the cabotage policy will just not solve the many ills.”
Meanwhile, Kitingan also raised the issue of Sabah producing much of the country’s total crude oil and crude palm oil for export, valued at RM35 billion, as justifying the need for greater focus on manufacturing in the state.
“Sabah is currently the 5th largest contributor to the national GDP and produces some 65% of Malaysia’s crude oil production valued at more than RM35 billion.
“We are also the world’s third biggest producer of crude palm oil (CPO) valued at more than RM20 billion and contributing some 35% of Malaysia’s total CPO output.
“Yet, the manufacturing sector only contributes less than 8% of Sabah’s GDP,” Kitingan said, adding that this makes it obvious that there is very little processing of the crude oil and CPO taking place in the state.
“As a result, huge tankers can be seen berthed in Sabah port terminals to carry the crude oil and CPO.”
He also supports the proposal by the Federation of Sabah Industries to turn Kota Kinabalu Port into the “Dubai of the Far East”, considering the value of the commodities exported.
“Similarly, another port in Sarawak, to be decided by the Sarawak government, ought to be designated as another national load/shipping hub given the volume of oil and gas exported by Sarawak,” he said.
Kitingan accused Najib of taking this “baby-step” in making the announcement purely as an election gimmick to quell the growing Sabah opposition and to please dissatisfied Sabahans.
“Therefore, the federal and Sabah leaders should not be too hasty in claiming credit for the further liberalisation of the cabotage policy.
“As it stands without other measures, its impact will take years before Sabahans get to see the tangible benefits.”