GEORGE TOWN (June 17, 2012): The federal government has dismissed the possibility of reinstating free port status to Penang island.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said the issue of restoring duty-free status did not arise as there were already five free industrial zones in Penang.

“Seeing that Penang now has free zones as stated and the concept of a free port no longer exists, the issue of giving Penang free port status no longer arises,” he said in a written parliamentary response to Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong last Wednesday.

Liew had asked the Finance Ministry whether the National Economic Council had agreed with the suggestion to give Penang island free port status while Seberang Perai was to become an international financial hub.

The reply noted that the state possessed five free zones for trade and industry.

These are the Penang Port Free Zone, Bayan Lepas International Airport Free Zone, Batu Maung Air Cargo Complex Free Zone, Bayan Lepas Free Zone and the Prai Free Zone.

The reply added that the international financial hub proposal was still being studied.

Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the party was stunned by the reply.

“In no uncertain terms, the prime minister cum finance minister is saying the concept of free port no longer exists and hence the question of reinstating free port status to Penang does not arise,” he said.

Chow urged Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, who had raised the issue of restoring free port status to Penang once the BN regains control of the state, to explain the matter.

When contacted, Teng said the BN would explain the issue at a press conference today.

Penang lost its free port status in 1969.