Musa ‘reluctant’ to fight for Sabahans

By Luke Rintod, FMT

KOTA KINABALU: A well-known consumer activist has criticised the Sabah government for lacking the courage to strike a deal with the federal government to bring down the prices of goods, especially food items, in the state.

“This is a long overdue issue. The state government has done nothing to alleviate the sky-rocketing prices of food items in Sabah,” said Patrick Sindu.

“Yesterday, during the State Legislative Assembly sitting, the Sabah government told the house that it was still awaiting the report from Federal Maritime Institute on how to deal with the cabotage policy in reducing the costs of goods in Sabah,” he said.

He said the exorbitant costs of foods and other items in Sabah was an “old story” that has been deliberately kept off the agenda of national leaders because of the lack of will on the part of Sabah state leaders and Sabahans who are ministers in Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s Cabinet.

According to Sindu, Najib could put a stop to escalating prices in Sabah.

“Actually, Chief Minister (Musa Aman) can make a representation to Najib, but our problem is here we have a government which for some reason is reluctant to fight for Sabahan consumers.

“The state government doesn’t have the guts to pass any resolution about this (high prices) in the state assembly; similarly, it doesn’t support the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants and fake ICs in Sabah,” he said.

Sindu singled out the two issues – spiralling prices and illegal immigrants – as among the most obvious failings of the Barisan Nasional government, which, despite insisting it enjoys close ties with the federal government, is unable to solve such basic problems.

“Sabahans have suffered; it is time (the state government) shaped up or shipped out…” he said.

No solution

Sindu, once the president of the now-deregistered Consumer Association of Sabah, said numerous calls have been made for import-export liberalisation to satisfy the needs of the two Borneo states (Sabah and Sarawak).

“Wong Khen Thau (of Sabah Manufacturers Federation) and myself attended numerous seminars and forums on this issue but it is just left aside. The federal and state (governments) are not do their job (ending the cabotage policy),” he said.

The cabotage policy was enforced in January 1980 to protect the local shipping industry.

The downside of the policy, which the government failed to foresee, was that consumers in Sabah and Sarawak would be “subsidising” the already subsidised Malaysian shipping industry.

Under the policy, all goods imported into the state can only be transported by local shipping companies, most of whom operate out of the main port of Klang, which also receives the bulk of the federal allocations each year.