BY JULIA CHAN
On Monday, Nazri told Parliament that certain places in Sabah remain unsafe for tourists and that their safety cannot be guaranteed. — file picture
KOTA KINABALU, Nov 19 — Sabahans from all walks of life have come out in defence of the state’s security, and called out Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz for his “negative” remark that he will not personally vouch for the safety of tourists in the state.
BN’s United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation said that the Federal Minister’s remarks had disappointed and angered Sabahans.
Describing it as “very shocking and perplexing remarks”, UPKO secretary-general Datuk Donald Mojuntin said this was contradictory to the Prime Minister’s recent reassurance during his visit here that the Federal Government will endeavour to help develop the state as an economic powerhouse in Malaysia.
“This is yet another example of a Federal Minister making statements that seemingly show their lack of concern for the state of Sabah,” he said
“Ministers such as Datuk Seri Nazri should think before they speak. The tourism industry is one of our Chief Minister’s long-term plans, the three-pronged “halatuju”. Apart from agriculture and manufacturing it is one of the main revenue earners for the state.
“Datuk Masidi has been working tirelessly to ensure that the tourism industry in Sabah continues to develop and grow despite so many challenges that are sometimes beyond our control. We are just recovering from one of those challenges and recovering well. The last thing we need is for the Federal Minister for Tourism to spoil it for Sabah”.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) vice president (inbound) Datuk KL Tan also rebuked the Minister’s statement saying it was a blow to the local industry and the “last thing” the state needs when they were trying to recuperate from the loss of business.
“It (the statement) negates the concerted efforts by all tourism stakeholders to promote Sabah. “The recovery process is progressing and the last thing we need is a negative statement from a Minister whose role is to promote and nurture tourism,” said Tan in a statement.
In expressing his disappointment, he said that Lahad Datu was not a tourist destination to begin with and suggested that the Minister should also say he cannot guarantee the safety of any tourist to Malaysia as there are many unresolved cases involving the security of tourists.
“If a tourist is murdered in West Malaysia and the case remains unresolved, can we also say that Peninsular Malaysia remains unsafe?” he said.
Tan also said that Nazri’s statement undermined the Federal Government’s efforts in security in Sabah’s east coast with the setting up of the Eastern Sabah Security Command and the recent budget allocation of RM660 million for the area.
“With the government’s full focus on the safety and security issues in Esszone, it is only a matter of time that full confidence will be restored and travel advisories lifted”, said Tan, adding that they would rather listen to the advice on the safety of Sabah from the Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Defence.
On Monday, Nazri told Parliament that certain places in Sabah remain unsafe for tourists and that their safety cannot be guaranteed until the two kidnappings that took place earlier this year are resolved, and added that he would not order tourism officials to promote the north Borneo state.
“I will not order tourism officials abroad to promote Sabah. Personally, I will not visit Lahad Datu. I do not want to ask for trouble,” he had said.
Yesterday, Datuk Masidi Manjun, who is the state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister, blasted Nazri for what he claimed to be an unfair assessment..
“It is like saying he cannot guarantee the safety of passengers to travel on our national airline until MH370 case is solved or that he cannot guarantee that snatch thieves will not attack tourists in Kuala Lumpur since many cases remain unsolved,” Masidi said, pointing out that the United States Ambassador to Malaysia and his wife, who recently spent the night in Lahad Datu on the way to Danum Valley, had expressed full confidence in the state.
Gerakan Sabah chief Datuk Gordon Leong also expressed his disappointment.
“What is even more disappointing is that he also stated that he would not order tourism officials to promote the state.
“Ironically, the Federal Tourism Ministry or the Malaysian Tourism Board feel it’s all right to use and exploit Sabah’s beautiful scenery, jungles and highest mountain, exotic wildlife and fauna, diving spots, sea creatures and ethnic culture to promote Malaysia as a whole through the advertisement and promotional video clip in the mass media, but yet say don’t come to Sabah,” he said.
Leong said Nazri’s statement does not explain the distance between districts like Kota Kinabalu and Semporna in Sabah, were some kidnappings occur, and tourists believed they were all in the same area.
“But, isn’t it the job of Nazri as the Minister of Tourism and his Ministry and the Malaysia Tourism Board to try to correct the so-called ignorance of the tourists?
“Surely Nazri, as a well-informed and well-briefed Minister, knows there are other very safe places to visit in Sabah. Instead, Nazri has chosen the easier path by totally not promoting Sabah,” he said.
Industry officials in Sabah have also lambasted the Federal Minister’s “insensitive” remarks, saying that the industry was working very hard to regain the confidence of foreign agents and tourists and the statement was a setback that could do permanent damage.
A sales manager with a five-star resort here said that they have had to do some “serious convincing” with foreign travel agents, particularly Chinese groups, but for the most part the agents were receptive.
“I don’t think it’s true that it is unsafe especially now that the security in Semporna and other resort areas has been stepped up,” she said.
Charlie Ryan, a travel agent who focuses on the Western markets said that some travellers did bring up their concern but were placated with the presence of security forces on the east coast and also the eco attractions that they experienced.
“While the kidnappings are a concern, it is still safer here than in many, many places in the states, for example,” he said, adding that petty crime incidents were near non-existent. (The Malay Online)