Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Sabah needs better communication infrastructure: Yee


Sabah needs better communication and content infrastructure in terms of Government to Citizen (G2C) applications to meet the changes in society current lifestyle with the higher cost of living. According to Resource Development and Information Technology Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai, the society has become more demanding and has entered into challenging times due to escalating cost of living. “The recent rise in fuel prices globally has also impacted our society drastically and equally, the Government has not been spared as it has to maintain and to enhance better governance and provide efficient service delivery;” he said. Yee added that according to the 2007 Fourth Quarter Report by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the broadband penetration rate per 100 inhabitants in Sabah is only 2.6, impared to five at the national level. The penetration rate per 100 households is only 11.9 and as for internet dial-up penetration, Sabah is ranked the lowest at 4.3 per 100 inhabitants while cellular penetration rate for Sabah is at 39.6 per 100 inhabitants, compared to 85 at the national level, Yee said. “This simply means that some drastic measures must be made to improve the communication reach to our citizens for Sabah to become an information-rich society,” he said. Yee was speaking during the official opening of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) Conference 2008 for Sabah Government Agencies at the Magellan Sutera Harbour here yesterday. The conference themed “Empowering Societies Through eService Delivery”, was to provide more knowledge and experiences to the participants on the ICT development at the national and global levels and its potential to provide the best delivery services. According to Yee, the ICT can be used as a tool for administrative renewal towards good governance and not simply by having state of the art equipment and applications but rather with the right intent and capability. He added that the Sabah State Agencies CIOs’ in-depth knowledge of the organization’s business processes provides them with a capacity to demonstrate the intent and capability in providing e-enabled services or e-services to the citizens. “A smart partnership among agencies must also be created such as the sharing of geospatial data among relevant agencies which will enhance the value and capability of the applications being developed,” he said. Yee also urged the CIOs to be updated with the latest and best practices providing ICT-enabled services to ensure the competitiveness of Sabah in particular as Malaysia thrusts towards globalization. Meanwhile, the Deputy State Secretary (Development) cum Sabah State CIO Datuk Gregory Joitol said that while the e-service delivery had been implemented at the national and State levels, it is timely that online delivery services is identified such as the information and online form in Government websites. “The information need to be keep updated to ensure the relevancies with the current situations and the Federal Government agencies have provided a few websites that can be used as reference by providing / Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) column,” he said. Gregory also reminded the CIOs on their responsibility and functions as a leader and ICT strategist which is to handle, the p1nning, management and to administer the ICT programmes in their agencies ,’and not only as a caretaker of. the ICT. The two-day conference comprises of presentations from CIOs and managers from various. agencies such as “Understanding Telecommunications Network and IT of the 21st Century” by TM Sabah State General Manager Sukkuriya Masri and “Networked Government” by Cisco Systems (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd Technical Consultant Dalbir Singh.


Penisoners against twice monthy wage payment


The Sabah Government Pensioners Association (SGPA) is against the twice monthly payment of wages for the civil servants as announced recently by the Government following the hike in fuel prices in the country. Its President, Dr Florentius Epin, said the move would not only burden but also create problems for civil servants as they may not be careful in the management of their finance. “Their efforts should be utilised to improve the delivery system to the public instead of wasting time to prepare the twice monthly wage payment,” he said yesterday. On the fuel prices hike, Epin reiterated that it has badly affected the people as its chain effect has pushed up the prices of other essential goods. “The recent increase of pension from seven per cent to 35 per cent last July for pensioners is now meaningless as it could not match the present rising cost of most of the essential goods which rose to between 35 and 45 per cent in Sabah,” he said. Epin expressed his fear that there may be another round of price increase of essential goods, especially foodstuff. “Pensioners are suffering in silence, especially those in the lower income group. We hope the Government will do something to alleviate our plight,” he said.


2,000 Sabah bank workers welcome 17% pay increase


For the 2,000 bank employees in Sabah, the 17 percent salary hike is something they have been eagerly waiting for, with inflation and high fuel and goods prices eating into their disposable incomes. Sabah Bank Employees Union (SBEU) President Margaret Chin yesterday said their hard work and unceasing efforts since last September for the increment had paid off. “We feel happy with the increment after our efforts since September but my question is, why it took so long for the authorities to agree to our demand and why was it only done after the Prime Minister’s intervention?” she said. According to Chin, SBEU had initially sought the assistance of several authorities in Sabah, including the Labour Department for assistance in resolving their plight but was informed that they were unable to do anything. “Then, we approached a Minister in the Human Resources Ministry but to no avail. However we were lucky that our plight and demands were voiced out in Parliament resulting in the increment,” she said. Chin added that the escalating cost of living demanded a salary increment and bank employees would like to have a salary review every three years. Meanwhile, when asked for her opinion of money laundering activities in Labuan, Chin said that all bank employees had been trained to detect any money laundering activity and steps to tackle the problem.


Closure of Sabah petrol kiosks only rumours: Shahrir


Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abd Samad has quashed rumours that petrol kiosks in Sabah will be closed for several days as a protest against commission received. He said rumours that the kiosks would be closed for three days caused widespread panic among motorists in Sabah. “They were only rumours. The Ministry assures that Petronas kiosks will be opened for business as usual. The kiosk operators are demanding for higher commissions and this will be discussed with the Finance Ministry,” he told reporters at Parliament lobby here yesterday. He said the rumours involved only petrol kiosks in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Sandakan. Should the kiosks be closed, it would not affect the other operators as other companies like Shell had said they would be opened for business. “I can assure that Petronas kiosks will not be affected including the proposed closure here on Thursday (June 26). “The Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia (PDAM) had been told to keep the kiosks open despite their threat to close on Thursday,” he added. Shahrir also said that reluctance by some petrol kiosks to accept credit cards would burden consumers and reduce their income. He said a weekly report on the sale of fuel by credit cards was needed to facilitate monitoring. “Some kiosks are not accepting credit cards as they make more from making cash sales. The same thing happened when the fuel price increased in United States,” he said. The Minister said there was a need for a fair mechanism so that the operators and consumers benefit. He did not dispel the possibility that the commission would he increased so that consumers continued to use credits cards at kiosks. -Bernama


Mad rush for fuel in East Coast towns


Rumours about petrol station operators staging a strike also caused panic-buying among the motorists in Tawau, Lahad Datu and here yesterday. The long queue at every petrol station here started at 4pm and caused massive traffic congestion during the peak hours. Operators have since denied the rumours and attributed the panic- buying among motorists to a circular that was extended to petroleum dealers in the country. The circular advised dealers to refuse acceptance of all credit cards with immediate effect from June 19 this year for the purchase of fuel until a satisfactory arrangement on sharing of costs is agreed with the relevant parties. A copy of the circular that was extended by an operator here to the media stated that the Petroleum Dealers Association of Malaysia (PDAM) had raised the matter with the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs and it was mutually agreed that card acceptance as a form of payment was a business decision. Dealers have the right to accept or reject these cards as a form of payment. As a result of the recent increase in the prices of fuel, the transaction costs for acceptance of credit cards have risen considerably. For example, the -average of one cent charge imposed by cards issuing banks and fleet cards issued by oil companies has risen correspondingly by almost 50 per cent. The Association claimed that every litre sold by credit cards is a cost to the dealers. There was also a similar mad rush for fuel in Tawau. The panic buying caused a major traffic jam as it happened just before peak hours when people finished work for the day. A petrol kiosk operator, Tan, said the station had sufficient supply of petrol and diesel so there was no need for the motorists to panic. “The situation was so chaotic that I had to instruct my staff to control the traffic flow,” he said. Meanwhile, motorist Siti Aishah said she did not know what were the exact rumours. She rushed to the petrol station because her friend told her to do so. “I was lucky to be one of the early ones at the petrol station and spent only 20 minutes there unlike those who came later and had to queue for hours,” she said.


Petrol station operators caught by surprise


Petrol kiosk operators in the City were caught by surprise when motorists started queuing up at the stations yesterday afternoon following rumours that the operators were planning a three- day strike. The Borneo Post conducted a survey among petrol kiosks in the city area and found that there was no truth to the rumours. The Shell petrol kiosk operator in Jalan Tugu, Juliana Mable Sidin said she was also shocked with the news. - “I was shocked, especially when the rumour spread so fast among the motorists,” Juliana said and added that it is against the law for a petrol kiosk not to sell fuel to the public. “We were instructed by the Ministry concerned not to stop selling fuel and as long as we have supply, we will do as instructed,” she said. A motorist from Inanam, told The Borneo Post that the panic buying also affected petrol stations outside the State Capital as the rumours spread like wild fire. “I was heading for the Yick Nam school but was caught in a traffic jam there and the congestion was all along the road from Kionsom to Inanam,” he said. The situation was also the same areas such as Penampang, Tamparuli and Tuaran where some motorists reported that there were stations which had run out of petrol and diesel because of the panic buying.


Petrol kiosk operators not going on strike
Ministry Director says rumours not true


State Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry Director Jaafar Walad has warned the public against spreading rumours that could create panic among the public. Commenting on the panic buying of fuel by motorists yesterday, Jaafar said the rumours that petrol kiosks operators would be going on strike were not true. “Don’t be easily taken in by the rumours and I assure all that there will be no strike by petrol kiosk operators,” he said after witnessing the destruction of fake goods confiscated by the Ministry’s office here yesterday. He added that those who spread the rumours were not doing any good but instead burdening the public w rushed to fill up their vehicles. Jaafar together with the Ministry enforcement officer here, Abdu Runji Abdul Hamid, visited two petrol stations in the town area as the motorists queued up to buy fuel which caused a major traffic jam. Since 3pm yesterday, the traffic on all roads heading to Tenom, Sook, Kimanis, Tambunan were jammed because of the long queues. In another development, Jaafar urged public transport operators in Sabah to apply for a Fleet Card from the Ministry’s enforcement branch offices throughout the State. He said with the card, they only need to pay RM1.43 per liter of diesel purchased from the petrol station instead of RM2.58.“The application and approval process take only one week,” he said and hope that public transport operators would apply for the card so as to enjoy the subsidy provided by the Government.


A MAD rush for dear fuel
Rumours on fuel trigger panic in towns across Sabah


Rumours that petrol kiosks will be closed for 4 days and that fuel prices will go up by another RM1 effective today caused panic among thousands of motorists who rushed and thronged stations in most parts of the State to fill up their tanks, yesterday. Many streets in Kota Kinabalu City and other towns in the State which lead to petrol stations were a virtual standstill as attendants at jammed and crowded stations feverishly tried to ease the situation as incessant number of other motorists awaited their turns. Queues started appearing at about 1pm and by 4pm, there were massive jams stretching up to three kilometres in several areas. A check by The Borneo Post at the Jalan Sulaman Shell Kiosk saw petrol attendants busily controlling traffic under the scorching sun. A cashier at the same station said the crowd started getting bigger at around 2pm and that many vehicle owners had enquired whether there was any truth in the rumour that there would be another fuel prices hike and stations owners were stopping their business for several days as a sign of protest as their commissions have not been raised. The cashier however replied that they had heard nothing about it from their managers and were surprised with the long queues as well. Motorists however insisted that petrol stations would not be in operation starting yesterday. “My boss instructed me to fill up the tank of his van. He told me that petrol stations will stop selling petrol for three days,” said Peter Lim, while another motorist who was standing close by said he received a short text message from a friend to say that stations will be closed for five days. Several others claimed that they received SMS and calls saying that the fuel rates would go up by another Ringgit from midnight. “I rushed here to get petrol because I was told that the price is going up again,” said Stephanie Laura, who works as a clerk. When told that it was just a rumour, she said she decided to fill up her tank anyway because she did not want to take the risk of having to pay more if rates were to really go up. A teacher, Marianne, in her 50s, said she did not receive any information but had queued up anyway because she was running out of petrol. Concerned motorists from Keningau, Tawau and Sandakan called The Borneo Post Offices throughout the State, seeking to clarify the rumour. “I saw a long queue at the petrol station here. Is the fuel price going up again?” asked Emmy Jane, a housewife from Keningau. At the Esso station in the City, some motorists even filled up plastic containers with petrol to avoid from being stranded just in case the fuel ran out due to the massive jams. Another who called The Borneo Post over the chaotic situation was Joanna Kitingan who said: “Consumers should not panic and they should all just avoid buying petrol for a day. “We won’t die ... and petrol stations don’t make any sale from us, they would have no income for a day too. If they want to go on strike, fine, let them as the Government would revoke their permits.” Joanna also said consumers should protest and if they ran out of fuel and could not get to work, the Government would be forced to reduce fuel prices. “This is all a farce, so only the rich get richer and the poor get poorer by being forced to pay more for fuel,” Joanna added. Sabah Petroleum Dealers Association President Charles Soong said he had no idea how the rumour started and was concerned about what was happening. “All we have done is to stop allowing the use of credit cards at the hundred plus petrol stations under our umbrella, in line with the national Petroleum Dealers Association’s directive. “The national association is asking the Government to meet a few more requirements, including raising our commissions to an acceptable level and if that demand is not met, we plan to not sell fuel for eight hours tomorrow (June 26). But so far, I am sure that this eight hour protest will not materialise as the Government is concerned about what is happening and is expected to listen to our plight,” Soong said. He said he first heard about the rumour at 12 noon and had advised motorists not to believe in them, but many had gone ahead to queue up and fill their tanks. In an immediate response, Shell Malaysia Corporate Affairs and Government Relations Head for Sabah and Labuan, Datin Lucy Irene Yong, said there was no truth to the rumours. “Shell would like to assure all our customers that there is no truth to the rumours. Shell retail outlets nationwide were continuing the normal operational hours. It is business as usual,” she said in a statement. The Consumers Association of Sabah and Labuan (CASH) yesterday advised motorists not to panic as it was just a rumour. “We received a lot of calls and SMSes from concerned motorists prompting us to check with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry here. Their officer had informed us that they were aware of the rumour and had ordered their enforcement officers to go down to the kiosks to investigate. “The Ministry had also sent these officers to order all petrol stations to operate as usual. Fuel is a controlled item, therefore any riot or boycott as rumoured now is prohibited, and legal action can be taken against them if they continue with the plan to stage protests,” said Hashima Hasbullah Yahya, CASH Secretary-General, in a statement. CASH urged the public to lodge a complaint with the Ministry or CASH office if they find any petrol station that closes their operation in a show of boycott. “We have also lodged a police report at the City Police Headquarters in Karamunsing to trace down the source of the rumour ... it was such a chaos,” said Hashima.