KOTA KINABALU 21/11/2012: A decision on the proposal to construct a bridge linking Labuan and Menumbok, Sabah may be made next year, according to Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
He said the Government is currently carrying out a feasibility study on the project, and it includes effort to find an alternative location.
“There are a lot of things which need to be taken into consideration, including looking for an alternative location from the current proposed area which would cost the Government RM3 billion to build the bridge.
“An alternative would be good to reduce the cost of the project,” he said during the Meet the Civil Servants’ dialogue session here yesterday.
Muhyiddin was responding to a question from a former Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Labuan Campus director on whether the Government was keen to build a bridge between the state and the small island to improve trade and tourism.
He said he used to get negative statements from people in Labuan to stop dreaming.
“I believe this is nothing new. Now they are only depending on ferry services. Whether the project will be executed or otherwise is up to the Transportation Ministry. However, a detailed study is being carried out whether to build the bridge at the proposed site or move it to a more economically viable location.
“There are other matters which need to be taken into consideration such as the socio-economic impact and whether it would really benefit Labuan.
“Would it also mean that more Sabahans would migrate to the island?” Muhyiddin said, adding that the Federal Government was looking into the proposal and that a decision might only be made next year.
To a question from Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Service (Cuepacs) Sabah chairman Pangiran Anak Pangiran Ubin on the need to standardise the federal housing allowance for civil servants working in Sabah with that for those working in Peninsular Malaysia, Muhyiddin said it is under the jurisdiction of the Finance Ministry as it involves a huge allocation.
“But I agree with the principle that there should not be any difference, it should be uniform, because the expenses faced are the same. We will take this into consideration in our Cabinet discussion.
“To date, there is no decision made (on the matter),” he said.
Pangiran Anak also asked for a Sabah Cuepacs office to be set up, to which Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman replied that he would bring the matter up with the Finance Ministry permanent secretary.
On Pangiran Anak’s call that locals should be given priority to fill Grade 41 vacancies in government agencies and below, Muhyiddin said there is such common consideration, but it also boils down to the applicants’ performance and qualifications.
On another issue, Muhyiddin said the Government had no control on 1Malaysia People’s Shops’ (KR1M) customers.
“We do not have a scheme where we need identification to determine our customers. Even other sundry shops are also selling subsidised and controlled goods such as flour, sugar and rice.
“So customers are free to choose wherever they want to go, including non-Malaysians. But if you want to start a ruling, then it would be best to discuss the matter with the cooperatives,” he said in reply to a question concerning foreigners enjoying the low prices offered at KR1Ms.
He said if it is found that foreigners’ buying habit is causing insufficient stocks, retailers would be advised to make sure there is enough supplies to meet their customers’ needs.
On the long-overdue Kota Kinabalu-Sipitang Highway project, Muhyiddin said infrastructure development are the government’s concern and they are working hard to ensure that these needs are met.
“But it will be considered based on priority and the availability of funds,” he said.
On the penetration of broadband coverage in Sabah, he conceded that it is impossible to meet the 50 per cent target by year end, but he would be talking to the relevant authorities on the matter.
“They do have their Key Performance Index and if not met, it would be a loss for Sabah. I will bring the matter up in the next Cabinet meeting. But if it involves technical stuff, such as constructing towers, it will be a problem as it involves high cost. What is important is not just the wider penetration of broadband service, but also its quality,” he said.
Muhyiddin was replying to a question over the poor broadband service in Sabah. To date, its penetration rate stands at only 34 per cent.
Also present at the event was State Secretary Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman.
by Sandra Sokial