Published on: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
They voiced this out at a joint press conference at the Magellan Sutera, Monday, which was held following the hearing in Sabah conducted by Malaysian Anti Competition Commission (MYCC) in response to the application.
The 15 are the Federation of Sabah Manufacturers (FSM); Sabah Timber Industry Association (STIA); Sabah Furniture Association (SFA); Kadazandusun Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI); Kota Kinabalu Forwarding Agents Association; Persatuan Pengusaha Lori Kontena Kota Kinabalu; West Coast Lorry Association; Sabah United Chinese Chamber and Industry; Matta Sabah; Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber and Industry; Kota Kinabalu Hardware, Machinery and Building Material Traders Association; Association of Consulting Engineers Sabah Branch; Institute of Engineers Malaysia Sabah Branch; MICCI Sabah Branch and Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association Sabah Branch.
FSM Honorary Secretary Yap Cheen Boon, who represented them, said they were very frustrated with the hearing as they feel there was lack of transparency, in particular to the justification provided by the applicant (Malaysian ship owners).
"Without proper information or justification provided by them, we have trouble trying to respond to them as well as in raising or simply voicing out our objection or viewpoints," he said.
He said they were also disappointed with the procedures of the hearing, as they felt that MYCC came with the free disposition to speak on behalf of the shipowners (applicant) instead of remaining impartial and trying to gather views of both sides of the divide.
"What we find rather frustrating is that MYCC has not provided enough information for our consideration, but instead today asked the State Government and the private sector to submit or provide viewpoints on the subject matter," he said.
In this case, he said, MYCC should have come more fully prepared or should have consulted them prior to this hearing.
"We feel that should the exemption be granted for any reason it would be against the spirit of free competition in the free marketÉ it will also have tremendous detrimental impacts on Sabah and Sabahans, the state economy, industries, businesses and consumers in general," he said.
"It will actually aggravate the current situation that we have in Sabah as a result of the cabotage policyÉwe believe it will not serve both the state and national interests should an exemption be granted to the ship owners.
"We are baffled and we actually find the application filed by the shipowners to be audacious, in the sense that they have actually enjoyed 33 years of preferential treatment as a result of the cabotage policy, with tax-free status and guaranteed free traffic between West and East Malaysia.
"So to continue to ask for protection, under the disguise of exemption from the Anti Competition Act is unreasonable and uncalled for," he said.
"Despite numerous claims by the shipowners saying they are neither cartel nor engage in any cartel or monopolistic behaviour, we cannot understand why we can allow them to apply for an exemption," he added.
Yap said they believe MYCC should not even have considered their application because under the Competition Act, Section 4 and 5, which the Commission is now considering, it already violates the principles of free competition and as such the application should be thrown out the window.
"Apart from that, we are also disappointed with the emphasis placed by the Commission on us in Sabah, by just simply sending one officer by the name of Raguna Kesavan to conduct the hearing when we believe they should have sent more and place more emphasis on what we want to say," he said.
The stand by these 15 trade chambers and associations also has the full support of the State Government and explicit support from the State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN), he added.
"So they (State Government and UPEN) are also against granting an exemption to the ship owners," said Yap.
Yap said during the hearing session they specifically requested MYCC to forward to them the justification and the application from the shipowners because "we would like to see on what basis they have asked for the exemption."
"When we received the information we will prepare our submission and we will request for a second hearing by the commission. I understand that a decision on this will only be made sometime in June this year, so we think we have ample time to pursue this matter through the proper channel," he said.
"But we are disappointed because, during the hearing held today, we felt we might not have the full information on the said application for exemptionÉif that is the case it was a biased hearing from the start," said Yap.
On what would be their probable next course of action should an exemption be granted after the second hearing, they jointly agreed to opt for a legislative process should the need arise.