KUCHING, May 7 — Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg may have suffered a slip of the tongue today in his eagerness to thank Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for sparing Borneo Malaysia from paying double due to the cabotage policy.
“Hopefully the abolition of the policy, effective June 1, will help reduce cost implications because of double handling of goods,” he told reporters here in an immediate reaction to the prime minister’s announcement that Sarawak, Sabah and the federal territory of Labuan will be exempted from the cabotage policy from next month.
Abang Johari has been among the vocal advocates for the abolition of the 30-year-old transshipment policy that requires imported goods to pass Port Klang on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia first before being transported by freight elsewhere.
Malay Mail Online was unable to reach the chief minister to clarify his remark as he left for Kuala Lumpur late this afternoon.
However, Najib was earlier reported saying in Sandakan, Sabah that the cabotage policy only affects the transshipment of cargo from the peninsula to the two Borneo states and the federal territory there and vice-versa, but not the transshipment of goods between Sarawak and Sabah or Labuan.
However, Abang Johari was clearly appreciate of the gesture and thanked Najib for responding to complaints from east Malaysians who have had to pay more for the same goods compared to their peninsulan counterparts.
“We hope that the abolition will help to weather the rising cost of living in Sarawak,” he told reporters after chairing the state Barisan Nasional’s pre-council meeting at the PBB headquarters here.
But Abang Johari also said the Sarawak government is aware that certain sectors will not be happy with the cabotage policy “abolition”.
He was referring to previous objections expressed by the Sarawak and Sabah Shipowners Association and Sarawak Shipping Association who have said the shipping industry would be badly affected.
Abang Jo was not the only one to refer to the cabotage policy exemption as an “abolition”, echoed by State Reform Party president Lina Soo.
“Apart from lower prices for goods due to decreased shipping costs, the abolition will also boost the economy especially marine economy and marine services industry activities such as trade, logistics, ship and rig building, bunkering and port services,” she said in welcoming the removal of the cabotage policy for Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan.
Soo said the cabotage policy had 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.