Wednesday, July 6

Damper on state’s Bintulu Port takeover plan

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Loke signs the plaque to officiate the new DAP Miri headquarters, witnessed by Senator Alan Ling (left) and party members.

MIRI: Federal Transport Minister Anthony Loke has poured cold water on the proposal by the Sarawak government to take control over Bintulu Port, saying that the facility belongs to the federal government.

According to him, it would ‘not be easy’ for the state to do so as the port was established through an act of law in Parliament.

“I don’t know what they mean by that. How do they take over Bintulu Port? It is a federal port and we have federal legislation,” he told reporters after officiating at the opening of the new Democratic Action Party (DAP) Miri headquarters in Piasau yesterday.

Loke further stated that it would not be so simple for Sarawak to take over anything it wanted from the federal government. Doing so, he added, would be a long process and would also hinder the state’s progress.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, who was assigned the new portfolio of ‘ports development’ during the Aug 22 state cabinet reshuffle, had recently confirmed that the Sarawak government was studying how it could take over Bintulu Port.

He told news portal The Malaysian Insight last week that Sarawak was ‘now studying ‘our constitutional position as far as ports and harbours are concerned’.

“We just have to get what is ours. We have neglected our rights over the past 55 years,” Masing was quoted as saying by the portal.

Bintulu Port was established on Aug 15, 1981 under the Bintulu Port Authority Act 1981 as a federal body under the Transport Ministry.

Meanwhile, Masing yesterday indicated that the Sarawak government is studying whether the law enacted by Parliament in 1981 for the establishment of Bintulu Port is enforceable in Sarawak.

The Infrastructure and Ports Development Minister said the state government was now looking into its constitutional rights over state assets which over the years have been under the administration of the federal government.

“I am not a lawyer but there are laws, I believe, passed by Parliament which cannot be implemented in Sarawak without the endorsement of the Sarawak State Assembly (DUN).

“The Territorial Sea Act which was recently passed by Parliament, can’t be implemented in Sarawak because DUN Sarawak didn’t endorse it,” he said, referring to the Territorial Sea Act 2012 which sought to amend the boundaries of the state’s territorial waters.

He added: “The federal laws which the Minister of Transport mentioned (concerning Bintulu Port) is maybe one of them (not applicable to Sarawak). As I said, we are looking at our state rights.”