500 out of 600 telcom towers are “naked”? Padungan rep demands explanation

Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING, May 24: Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen has alleged that out of the 600 telecommunications towers built by the Sarawak government, nearly 500 of them are “naked towers”.

He asserted that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government must be truthful and transparent to Sarawakians on the issue of “naked towers” in Sarawak.

“As disclosed by the State Minister of Utilities and Telecommunication early this year, the State Government has allocated RM1.8 billion to build 600 telecommunications towers in Sarawak.  That is on average RM3 million per tower.

“Yet, according to the Federal Communication and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil during his recent visit to Sarawak, notwithstanding that the State has spent RM1.8 billion building the towers, nearly 500 of these towers are ‘naked towers’, i.e. they are not operative as there is no transmitter equipment attached to the towers and no telco companies agree to rent or use the towers,” said Chong in a statement today.

He said this is unacceptable and “a blatant wastage of Sarawakians’ money” as while the Sarawak government is spending RM1.8 billion of State funds, nearly 80 per cent of the towers constructed are not operative and the State government has to rely upon the federal government to help resolve this “white elephant” project.

Chong who is also the Stampin MP thus demands the Sarawak government to give a frank and full disclosure to all Sarawakians on the following questions:

    • Why the State Government did not ensure that the towers are operative and that the telco companies are agreeable to using the towers before spending the RM1.8 billion State fund on the project?
    • What are the rental charges imposed upon the telco companies for the use of these towers that make it (renting) unattractive and what the State Government will do the resolve the problem?
    • What are the average costs of construction of these telco towers in other states in Malaysia and the reason for the much higher costs of construction of these towers (on average RM3 million per tower) in Sarawak?
    • Why the telco towers constructed under the federal government’s Jalinan Digital Negara (Jendela) programme do not have the “naked tower” issue whereas the towers constructed by Sarawak Digital Economic Corporation under the Sarawak Multimedia Authority Rural Telecommunication (Smart) programme are plagued with “naked towers”?
    • What is the process of selection of contractors and the implementation of the Smart programme which has resulted in the much higher costs of construction of the telcom towers in Sarawak?
    • What is the State government’s plan to resolve the “naked tower” issue and the additional costs involved in the rescue plan?

“What is even more worrying is the recent announcement by the Premier that the State Government is planning to have 7,000 telco towers across the State by 2030, which implies that another additional 3,500 towers are to be built in the next few years,” said Chong, who is also Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chief.

Chong asserted that if 600 towers constructed in the past few years costs Sarawakians RM1.8 billion without them being operative, another 3,500 towers will cost more than RM10 billion.

“Therefore, the Premier must assure all Sarawakians the feasibility of the plan and that the benefit outweighs the cost of plan before spending some astronomical amount of Sarawakians’ money,” said Chong. — DayakDaily