Minister: FB, Google skipping M’sia not related to cabotage policy

Wee Ka Siong says the reason Singapore was chosen because Facebook had built a data centre there.

Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said Facebook and Google’s decision to skip Malaysia for their undersea internet cable had nothing to do with the PN government’s cabotage policy on foreign ships repairing them.

This was in relation to the Echo and Bifrost cables linking Singapore and Indonesia to North America.

Wee (below) said the reason Singapore was chosen because Facebook had built a data centre at Tanjung Kling Data Centre Park in the island city-state.

“The data centre is in Singapore, not Malaysia. We lack data infrastructure.

“For example, between 2018 and 2019 (Pakatan Harapan government’s era), Malaysia was wasting time and money on outdated ideas to develop flying cars instead of data centres and the industrial revolution 4.0,” he said in a statement.

Wee said the Echo cable project was awarded in 2018 while the Bifrost project was awarded recently (last month). However, he said planning for both had begun since 2015.

Tech portal Soyacincau quoted Malaysia Internet Exchange (MyIX) as saying that Google and Facebook skipping Malaysia was a huge loss for the country.

It also attributed the move to the PN government’s decision to reverse a Harapan government era decision that lifted the cabotage policy on a foreign ship engaged in the repair of undersea cables.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and MyIX had last year appealed to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to restore the policy, stressing that they were necessary to ensure speedy recovery of the undersea cables and ensuring minimal internet downtime.

They also said only one local company was capable of doing repairs and the cabotage policy will lead to a monopoly.

However, Wee has remained firm on reinstating the cabotage policy.

In his statement today, the minister disputed the claims of monopoly.

He added that despite the cabotage policy, Malaysia had granted seven cabotage exemptions for foreign ships to repair undersea cables since Nov 15 last year.

Wee said the approval were done swiftly and there was no issue of repairs being delayed.

He maintained that the cabotage policy will help build local capacity and reduce foreign currency outflow.

Wee said Indonesia had also tightened its cabotage policy to provide more opportunities to local players.

He also hit out at Seremban MP Anthony Loke for sharing SoyaCincau’s article on MyIX lamenting about Facebook and Google not linking the cables to Malaysia.

Loke had shared the article and commented: “Thanks to Wee for his ‘brilliant’ strategy of protecting one company at the expense of the nation’s interest”.

Wee called SoyaCincau, which is among the leading tech news portals in the country, a “questionable source”.

“Does Loke has no other source to share from but from questionable ones such as SoyaCincau?” he asked.

Wee said Loke should instead engage with the Malaysia Shipowners’ Association (Masa) and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) for feedback from local players.

The Malaysia Shipowner’s Association (Masa) had hailed Wee’s decision as “patriotic” and touted Optic Marine Group’s capabilities – a privately-owned business by tycoon Lim Soon Foo.


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