The debate on the cabotage policy between DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and transport minister Wee Ka Siong is on.
A suitable date will be decided by Wee at the end of this month, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun said today.
Azhar said he had brought the issue of the challenge to Wee, who told him “a date will be fixed, and he will not run away from it”.
He said Wee will propose a date after a Cabinet meeting, when the cabotage policy will be discussed, and will inform the media on how the debate will be held.
Earlier this week, Lim (PH-Bagan) had asked Azhar for an update on the debate, saying he had not heard from Wee.
Azhar then told him he would follow up on the matter with the transport minister since he had chaired the proceedings when Wee made the challenge to Lim.
This follows an argument in the Dewan Rakyat between the two, with Lim saying it could cost Malaysia RM12 billion to RM15 billion in foreign investments.
Wee, who replaced Anthony Loke (Seremban-PH) as the transport minister last year, had reversed the exemption after taking office.
In 2018, Loke had given an exemption for foreign undersea cable repair vessels to undertake repair works in Malaysian waters.
According to Loke, the time (average 27 days) taken to get a domestic shipping licence (DSL) was too long and had caused unnecessary disruption to internet connections.
As such, the government decided to exempt vessels undertaking such repair works.
But when Wee came into office in 2020, he reversed the decision, noting that there were local companies that could do the job and Malaysia should not need to rely on foreign vessels.
Wee’s decision, however, resulted in a backlash from foreign companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as local telecommunications companies.
Others who complained that the decision had caused Malaysia to lose investments include the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Communications and Malaysia Digital Economy Cooperation (MDEC).
But Wee stood by his decision and although the cabinet was supposed to decide on the cabotage issue in April, nothing happened.
Since then, Wee has changed his argument noting that the Transport Ministry has shortened the time needed to obtain a DSL to three days and has since given 10 DSLs to foreign vessels to repair submarine cables in Malaysian waters.
Lim has suggested the debate be held on Oct 23 and Ong Kian Ming (PH-Bangi) could help organise it.
Earlier today, Lim commented on the resignation of Rais Hussin yesterday as the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chairman.
“He resigned because he does not want to be a ‘yes man’,” he told the Dewan Rakyat.
Rais, who has been critical of the government’s decision to revoke the cabotage exemption, had said Wee should not be talking about the matter, referring to him as a “minister with an IQ of a cabbage”.
This led to shipping associations condemning him for his disparaging remarks and personal attacks against the minister.
Tech giants have written to the government multiple times to restore the Harapan-era exemption to expedite the repair of internet cables.
Wee, however, maintained his decision to reinstate the cabotage, saying it would help the local shipping industry to develop, but the tech giants raised concerns of a monopoly.