Following DAP MP Dr Ong Kian Ming’s fact-check on the cabotage debate, Transport Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said he will have no choice but to reveal the truth if Dr Ong insists that his claims were correct. On Thursday, Dr Wee responded on Facebook and attached a snippet of a video conference call with Mr Yoshio Sato to explain his involvement in the Apricot subsea project and position at Orient Link. During the live debate, Mr Yoshio Sato was introduced as the Vice President at NTT Ltd.
The Transport Minister said the cabotage issue was answered quite clearly on debate night. He added, “YB Bangi Dr Ong Kian Ming, the agent for YB Bagan, is still not satisfied yet and started with more questions some 6 days ago. As I told Dr Ong earlier, since he insists on it, he’ll get it. And now the ‘champion’ of debates Lim Guan Eng have also been emboldened to join in calling for Dr Ong’s 5 questions to be answered.”
Mr Yoshio Sato’s position at NTT
Dr Wee said he would have chosen not to reply them but doing so would mean that more people would be misled by their propaganda masquerading as half-hearted attempts at “research” and “fact-checking”. He said Dr Ong’s claims that Mr Sato is not with NTT without fact-checking is “disingenuous” and it is seen as defamatory.
Dr Wee said his ministry had spoke to the initiator of APRICOT and MIST cable projects, not the “subscribers” of the cable. He insists that NTT as the main proponent and license holder of the project holds the view that the cabotage policy did not compromise any of their projects. Dr Wee insists that he has not denied that there were claims made by other stakeholders of the cable system.
In the video, Dr Wee said Orient Link, the joint venture company that’s doing the MIST subsea cable project, has NTT as their major shareholder. Mr Sato also confirmed that he is the CEO of Orient Link. We have reached out to NTT Ltd for clarification on Mr Sato’s current position and have yet to receive an official response from them.
Questions remain unanswered
Besides the ownership status of the Apricot project. Dr Wee has yet to refute other points raised by Dr Ong. The DAP MP highlighted that Orient Link has ties to OMS Group which is said to be a beneficiary of the cabotage policy. He questioned if Mr Sato is in the position to speak independently on his views on the cabotage policy.
During the debate, Dr Wee said Malaysia has DP2 repair ships for submarine cable jobs, however, Dr Ong claims this is not true based on the vessel specification that was published on OMS website. He said OMS’ Lodbrog vessel is a DYNAPOS AM/AT type ship which means that it has DP1 or DP(AM) capabilities. As a comparison, the Singapore-flagged ASEAN Explorer has DP2(AA) which is currently utilised by tech giants to conduct subsea cable repairs in Malaysia.
The cabotage issue has been raised by tech giants as a concern that will affect digital investments as well as internet stability in the country. Several tech giants including Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have written several letters to the Prime Minister to call for the reinstatement of the cabotage exemption for submarine cable repairs so that repair works can be carried out quickly to minimise the impact of cable disruption.
Previously undersea cable repairs took up to 27 days as foreign vessels require a Domestic Shipping Licence. The average time required for approval has been reduced to less than 3 days following the introduction of eDSL during Dr Wee’s tenure. However, the eDSL is still seen as an unnecessary barrier by the tech giants and they are still pushing for an exemption to further minimise duration and economic impact of cable disruptions..