All permits for LPG sale in Sebatik cancelled



KOTA KINABALU: The Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (MDTCAC) has temporarily cancelled all the permits for the sale of LPG gas cylinders on Pulau Sebatik.

Besides this, the operations of all the distribution stations on the island too are being reviewed.

This was following the exposure of alleged rampant smuggling of gas cylinders, to the neighbouring countries via Pulau Sebatik, as revealed by Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Commander DCP Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun, recently.

In a response to the issue, State Minister of Community Development and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Jainab Ahmad Ayid also revealed that she had instructed the MDTCAC Sabah branch to monitor the situation and to immediately step up enforcement to prevent such leakages.

“We are now gathering more information on the ground,” she added.

It was recently reported that at least 20,000 gas cylinders find their way to Sebatik Island on a monthly basis through valid permits issued by the relevant department and ministry, supposedly for the use of the 8,000 islanders there.

However, most of these gas cylinders would instead be smuggled into neighbouring countries through Nunukan and the Southern Philippines.

In the said report, Rashid claimed to have been told by an officer in Tawau that he just could not buy a gas cylinder. But in Sebatik Island, with its 1,241 households and 8,000 population, they have too many.

He further noted that according to the study done by the Performance Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu), each household would refill their gas cylinders seven times a year.

But in Sebatik Island, there were 16 suppliers and each of them is given 1,500 gas cylinders to be taken to Sebatik a month for a grand total of 24,000 gas cylinders a month. On the island, there are 33 distribution stations. All of these for only 1,241 households.

“We wasted government money to give subsidy there when the money could have been used for the benefits of other Sabahans,” Rashid lamented.

Investigations by the security forces, he said, revealed that thousands of gas cylinders are just lying around in Batu Batu, allegedly to be brought over to Sebatik Island. Instead, the gas cylinders would later end up in Indonesia and the Philippines.

He also claimed that Petronas and Shell reported that they do not know the whereabouts of a million gas cylinders.

“A million! Can you imagine that? Where else could they be? In Nunukan. In the South Philippines.

“We must remember, if agencies are not aware, the society is not aware and we only rely on security forces, then we will never succeed in protecting the peace and sovereignty of our nation. We each must play our respective roles,” he said.

Rashid also criticised the over simplification of permits that allow smugglers to easily bring subsidised goods especially subsidised fuel out of the country.

The details on the permits, he said, are too simple, for example, not specifying the details of the vehicles that are allowed to transport the goods.

“What is so difficult in writing down the vehicle’s number? Or writing down the name of the landing docks? We have dozens of jetties, why is it so difficult to identify one so that enforcement officers can do their job?

“When these perpetrators were caught, we cannot charge them in court. Then what happens? The ‘towkays’ will approach the investigating officers, telling them that they cannot bring the case to the court anyway. So can you blame them if they accept duit kopi?

“They can’t arrest because the permits oversimplify the procedure of taking out all the subsidised goods. I am sorry for pointing this out. I am not being defensive but as a commander, I feel it is my job to point out the weaknesses in the system,” he said.

To date, the MDTCAC Sabah branch has been keeping mum on the issue.

New Sabah Times