Monday, April 07, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Plans to start chartered flights to China put on hold

KOTA KINABALU: Plans to start chartered flights from Kota Kinabalu to major cities in China will be put on hold due to the latest kidnapping case in Sabah and the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft.

Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (Sabah Air) would postpone chartered flights to four cities in China, including Chongqing.

He said the Sabah government would work closely with tour operators from China to create a win-win situation in the tourism industry in the aftermath of the disappearance of MAS Flight MH370 on March 8.

“I think most of the operators and charter service providers are putting things on hold due to what has been happening in Sabah and the country recently. Because, first of all, at times like this, it is very insensitive for us to continue talking about tourism industry plans, especially for the families of those affected. So we are putting things on the back-burner and we will look into it again when things calm down,” he said.

Pang was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing ceremony between Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) and Novotel Kota Kinabalu 1Borneo for the provisioning of TM’s hospitality Entertainment Solution, at Novotel here yesterday.

Pang also said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar should spend more time ensuring the safety of the nation’s borders and not on making unproductive statements.

“He (Wan Junaidi) should be focusing on making sure that we have enough numbers (of security personnel manning the borders), and the facilities and equipment provided for our men in our security forces are the best possible, so that they can do their utmost to protect our borders,” stressed Pang.

Wan Junaidi had proposed that resorts on isolated islands in east coast of Sabah should be closed following the latest abduction case and this should be done for the safety of their customers. He pointed out that no one can guarantee the safety of these places when they are situated far off the coast and added that the police as well as the military cannot be there all the time.

Pang echoed his minister’s and the state’s tourism industry players’ comments on the issue, saying that Wan Junaidi’s statement was uncalled for.

“In times like this, I think the most important thing for us, as a community and the leaders of the country, is to avoid making insensitive statements. The Deputy Home Minister’s statement is totally unnecessary, inappropriate and insensitive, especially coming from him, whose ministry oversees the security of the country,” Pang said.

Wan Junaidi, he added, does not seem to have a total comprehension of the situation, noting that there were eight security personnel stationed on the island when the two women were kidnapped from the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna, in rebuttal to the deputy minister’s comments that there was lack of cooperation between the resort operator and the security forces.

“He may not know that there were eight security personnel staying at the resort, where the operators were providing lodging and accommodation for the eight security personnel. This showed that they (resort operators) were cooperating with the security forces.

“It was just unfortunate and untimely that at the time of the incident, the personnel were making their routine rounds. Maybe that lends credence to the theory that it could have been an inside job,” said Pang, adding that the government is looking into all possibilities in investigating the matter.