Transport minister: Undersea cable project bypasses Malaysia due to lack of data infrastructure

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 15, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong speaks during a press conference at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 15, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Malaysia’s cabotage policy was not the reason why giant technology companies skipped the country in their plans to install undersea cables, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

He said the Echo and Bifrost undersea cables bypassed Malaysia as Facebook has set up a database in the Tanjong Keling Data Centre Park in the republic in 2019.

He said the previous undersea cable projects also bypassed Malaysia such as the South-east Asia-Japan 2 consortium (SJC2) in 2018.

“The data centre is in Singapore and not Malaysia, as we lack data infrastructures. For example, in 2018-2019 (during Pakatan Harapan administration), Malaysia was busy wasting time and money on ancient ideas such as developing flying cars and not a data centre and the Industry 4.0 revolution,” he said in a statement uploaded on his Facebook account, today.

He was referring to a news portal report which quoted the statement of Malaysia Internet Exchange’s (MyIX) entitled ‘MyIX: Facebook’s new undersea cables to Singapore and Indonesia a huge loss for Malaysia due to cabotage issue’ and was shared by former Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook on social media.

Wee said the rising tensions in the United States (US) and China relations had also caused US companies to try to avoid installing cables at the South China Sea following concerns that their communications may be exposed to monitoring by Beijing.

In this regard, he said since 2018, there has been a trend of placing undersea cables through the Pacific Ocean to substitute the South China Sea and this clearly has no relations with the national cabotage policy.

Meanwhile, Wee stressed that the decision to revoke the cabotage exemption on cable repair works was made to reduce the outflow of foreign money in the form of freight payment or charter party agreement and insurance in the country’s balance of payment account.

It also aimed to reduce Malaysia’s dependency on foreign vessels by increasing the participation of local shipping companies in domestic services and increase technical expertise through human resource development among the local people.

According to the statement, the cabotage exemption on undersea cable repair works was introduced by the PH government effective April 1, 2019, before it was revoked by Wee on Nov 15, 2020.

Meanwhile, Wee also expressed his readiness to set up a meeting between Loke and the country’s maritime industry players to find out more about the current cabotage policy. — Bernama

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