The opposition parties from the peninsula that are still based in Sabah and Sarawak is DAP, whereas PKR is almost extinct and PAS is completely rejected. Their usual political rant and criticism would be that the Sabahans and Sarawakians are sidelined by the BN government for too long.We often hear complaints from these Borneo local residents that the two states economy’s development is rather backwards for decades. Apparently, one of the main reason is identified due to the cabotage policy introduced by Dr Mahathir when he was Trade and Industry Minister and Deputy Prime Minister which took effect since 1980.
And since taking the reins of power as prime minister for 22 years, grievances of the people of Sabah and Sarawak on the issue of cabotage has not been addressed and overcame. Although at first, the National Cabotage Policy is in the interests of the nation but Sabah and Sarawak economy development still remain affected when the importer and exporters in Sabah had to pay more for shipping that led to the price of goods in East Malaysia to increase.
The National Cabotage Policy was introduced to help the development of the local shipping industry and restrict the participation of foreign trade shipping into domestic cargo shipments, but there is a monopoly of local companies who are said to have exclusive control over sea trades in the country. Undoubtedly when the shipping company such as the Konsortium Perkapalan which also owns Diperdana Corp, is said that were bought over from Vincent Tan’s brother Danny and Dr Mahathir’s son Mirzan has enjoyed huge profits from them.
As a Prime Minister who is concerned for his people and never neglecting those in the Borneo, PM Najib has recently announced that the exemption of the National Cabotage Policy to Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan to take effect from 1st June 2017. Upon such announcement, the oppositions in Sabah and Sarawak are stunned when such a brave decision by PM Najib led them to contradict each other.
DAP Sabah chairman Stephen Wong welcomed such exemption announcement by PM Najib but prefers a more holistic approach to liberalise sea trades. But what Stephen has failed to elaborate that the Cabotage Policy was already partially liberalised that foreign vessels are allowed to ship cargo to ports in Sabah direct and the only restriction is that foreign vessels are not permitted to pick up cargo from Sabah and ship to another port within Malaysia.
While DAP Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen assumes that such decision is worthless and believes Sarawak economy will be severely affected when locals working in the shipping industry and forwarding agents might lose their jobs in the near future. He is also unsure if the decision could reduce the goods price difference between the Peninsula and Borneo. How so, Chong did not elaborate further.
What is certain is that the cabotage policy has been a punishing “double taxing” approach that unjustly imposed great hardship on low-income Sarawakians and Sabahans because of the extra tax, charges and unnecessary transport costs for too long. Apart from lower prices for goods due to decreased shipping costs, the exemption could boost the economy especially marine related industries.
Whatever views come from the oppositions, they remain negative. It is better to take the first step than rather left them unresolved forever.
In fact, under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib, he has taken various bold decisions which prioritises the interests of the people above politics. Various actions have been taken to overcome the gap in development and livelihood between Peninsula and the states in Borneo, namely the Pan-Borneo Highway, IPI, increased autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak, and now cabotage.
Is it not that BN-led government put the interests of the people without any discrimination?