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Federal Govt should subsidize Sabah freight charges

KOTA KINABALU, Sep 15, 2011: Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has urged the Federal government to subsidize the freight charges for goods shipped to Sabah, so as to keep the prices of goods in Sabah at par with that of Peninsular Malaysia.

Addressing guests and supporters at the Hari Raya open house hosted by its Vice President Dullie Hj Marie, its President Datuk Yong Teck Lee said this is what the Federal government should do without any further delay if it really cares for the wellbeing of Sabah people.

He contended that if the Federal government could afford to give more than RM250 million per year to subsidise the four main highways in Peninsular Malaysia in order to keep the toll rates low, so as to lessen the financial burden of the people there, it should have no problem applying the same strategy to assist the people of Sabah.

He was also of the opinion that such mitigation was long overdue citing the fact that prices of goods in Sabah were costing more than Peninsular Malaysia ever since the state joined the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia 48 years ago.

"Before Sabah joined to form Federation of Malaysia, cargo ships from all over the world can come in to Sabah and Kota Kinabalu to load and unload goods freely. But this was no longer the case after the formation of Malaysia," he lamented.

He attributed such an unfair-and-depressing situation to the imposition of the controversial Cabotage Policy introduced since 1980, which he reckoned was designed and put in place by the Federal government to safeguard and benefit a privileged few i.e. the shipping companies.

As a result, today it costs the Sabah traders more than RM2,000 to bring in goods and merchandises in a 20-footer container. This thus contributed to higher cost of doing business in Sabah and inevitably contributing to a high cost of living, as the traders have no choice but to pass on the additional cost to the consumers.

"And to make things worse, the average take-home pay in Sabah is currently the lowest in the country," he lamented.

Besides this, the former Chief Minister of Sabah also took a swipe at the centralization of powers by the Federal government which he said had caused great misery to the people of Sabah.

He cited for example, even the conversion of a van into a hearse car has to be approved by the Puspakom headquarters in Putrajaya.

This was found out recently when the party applied for such conversion to carter for the need of the residents in Sepanggar.

Yong then turned around and trained his gun on Bernas (Padiberas Nasional) monopoly, the country's sole rice importer, for hindering Sabah's potential to become a major rice producer in the country, besides resulting in the people of Sabah consuming costlier rice.

This is due to the fact that except Bernas, no one else is allowed to import or export rice.

"If we could plant padi ourselves, not only we could achieve self sufficiency we could even have surplus for export. When I was the Chief Minister and Tan Sri Pandikar Amin was the State Agriculture Minister we had planned to undertake large scale padi plantation to make sure that Sabah could become self sufficient within 3 to 5 years and even have surplus to export rice to other countries.

"Unfortunately, in today's situation, even if we have surplus of rice supply, we have no right to export rice, as such is an exclusive right of Bernas. Even the State government are not allow to import/export rice on its own.

"And on top of that, each and every family in Sabah is subsidizing Bernas as the rice sold in Sabah cost more than the rice sold in Peninsular Malaysia. I have highlighted this many times in the past, but until today Bernas just play dumb," he said.

"My question is, why do our Sabah leaders allow this to happen? This is what I called State-Federal collusion or "bersokongkol" in Malay and "kapsit sama" in Hakka. It doesn't matter if you're corrupt, grabbing people's land etc, no action will be taken by the MACC so long as you listen and kow-tow to the Federal leaders," he said.

He thus said it's time for the people of Sabah to seriously ponder upon the meaning of independence.

"Don't be mistaken that we are fighting for cession from Malaysia. We have already explained this in our fight for political autonomy before. But, lets examine the true meaning of independence for us in Sabah, after being part of the Federation for the last 48 years," he urged.

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