KUALA LUMPUR: Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said today the revocation of the cabotage exemption for foreign vessels involved in the repair of undersea cables is in the best interest of local industry players.
He told the Dewan Rakyat this would reduce the dependence on foreign vessels and enhance “technical expertise through human resource development among locals”.
Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that technology giants including Microsoft, Google and Facebook had sent a letter to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on the matter, warning it would slow down any future repairs and create a monopoly as only one local company had the capacity to currently perform the repairs.
Wee’s predecessor, Loke Siew Fook (PH-Seremban) said the exemption was vital to telecommunication companies as repair time took an average of 27 days.
“As told by Google, Facebook, these are among the important factors for people to invest in our country’s data centres. What you have done has impacted these companies, who might lose confidence in investing in the data centres,” he said.
In response, Wee said data from damaged cables could be rerouted to any of the 21 undersea cables in the country and that opportunities needed to be given to local companies under the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association (Masa).
He also dismissed the claim that it would affect investments into the country, saying other countries also had similar policies.
This prompted Gobind Singh (PH-Puchong) to say there was a lack of undersea cable repair experts in the country. He told Wee: “If you think rerouting is a solution to the problem then you do not understand the problem at all.”
Wee disputed this, and while responding, got into a shouting match with Gobind who accused him of misleading the house.
At one point, Wee asked Gobind to sit down, and this led to the DAP leader replying, “You are not the speaker”.
Wee said he could provide the names of local companies which had the expertise, which Loke and Gobind disputed.
Wee, who was running out of time to respond, wrapped up by saying the decision was not unilateral and was decided jointly by his ministry and the communications and multimedia ministry, and “stakeholders”.
“To me, we give an opportunity to Masa, if within a certain period they do not have the expertise, we open it up,” he said.