ALOR STAR: The Kedah government’s effort to narrow the digital gap between urban and rural areas has hit a snag due to rampant telecommunications cable theft.
In fact, the state recorded the highest losses from cable theft nationwide, at RM8.1 million.
State Science, Innovation, Information Technology, Communications, High Tech and Human Capital Committee chairman Datuk Sabrina Mohd Noor said Sungai Petani recorded the most number of cases, both at the state and national levels, with losses amounting to RM5.6 million.
Sabrina (BN-Bandar Baharu) said the thefts, which are becoming more rampant, have derailed the state government’s digital gap reduction initiatives.
In her winding up speech at the state legislative assembly sitting to debate the 2018 Budget, Sabrina said telecommunications companies (telcos), particularly Telekom Malaysia Bhd, have been replacing the stolen cables – but the thefts continue unabated.
"These theft cases have affected consumers, as the (disruptions) keep occurring despite the telcos cooperating well by replacing (the stolen cable).
"We have recommended that the telcos replace the copper-based cables with fibre-optic cables, but it would take some time, as this would be more expensive than the copper-based cables," she said.
Sabrina said the state government is working closely with law enforcement agencies and that the state police have set a Key Performance Index (KPI) at the district level to curb theft cases.
As for long-term solutions, Sabrina has urged the federal government to amend the Second-Hand Dealers Act 1946 so that only licensed parties can handle the selling of valuable cables to scrap metal dealers.
"We hope that this move would help curb theft cases as currently, anyone can sell stolen cables to scrap metal dealers," she said.
On another matter, Sabrina told the House that the state government has issued a stern warning to a Penang-based job recruitment agency for imposing multiple charges on job seekers during a job fair in Alor Star early last month.
Sabrina said the state government has summoned the company concerned and given them a stern warning over the incident.
She reiterated that the state government and the Labour Department were not involved in the job fair, as it was organised by the private company.
"The state government is drafting a guideline for job recruitment agencies when organising job fairs in the state to avoid the incident from recurring," Sabrina added.