'Catamaran in bad condition'
Published on: Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: The catamaran which claimed the lives of four Chinese tourists when it capsized off Pulau Mengalum, early this year, was in bad condition and had insufficient safety equipment, the Tourism Court heard, Wednesday.Jesselton Point Operation Supervisor, Salim Kansung, 56, said he found the boat very dirty and untidy during a check on Jan 17 this year.

"The boat also lacked sufficient safety equipment as there was no life jacket when it should provide 14.

"I also found there were only two lifebuoys provided, instead of six units. The boat also had only one fire extinguisher, instead of six and there was no hand flare.

"I conducted the check requested by Syarikat Golden Sailing Tour Travel Car Rental Sdn Bhd, based on the safety details stated on the boat licence.

"Other than safety equipment, I also checked the cleanliness of the boat and found it needed to be cleaned and repainted," he said.

To a question, Salim said his duty was only to check the safety and cleanliness of the boat, adding that he was accompanied by officers from the Sabah Ports and Harbours Department to conduct the inspection.

Salim said since there were no representatives of the firm present, he informed the boatmen that they will check it again on Jan 21 but there was no follow-up on the firm's part.

He was testifying as the eighth prosecution witness before Sessions Court Judge Noor Hafizah Mohd Salim in the trial of three people charged with involvement in the tragedy.

They are operator Leong Vin Jee, 44, his mother Chung Ket Siew @ Chung Siaw Ping, 64, whose name appears on the company licence and skipper Sharezza Salian, 26.

Chung, the Director of Syarikat Golden Sailing Travel Tour and Car Rental, has four charges against her and one of the charges, she was jointly charged with Leong.

The first charge – causing hurt to 20 Chinese tourists by permitting Leong to manage and use the boat to sea so negligently as to endanger their lives and second charge is negligently caused the death of four tourists by allowing Leong to use the boat and so loaded as to endanger human life.

The second charge – Chung as the registered owner of the boat, is accused of having Sharezza as the skipper without altering and reporting the particulars of a skipper named Leong Vin Jee in the Sabah Small Ship Licence to the nearest licensing authority – Sabah Ports and Harbours Department.

The third charge – she and Leong were jointly charged with failing to keep the boat licence on the passenger boat at all times and allegedly committed the offence under Regulations 9 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) 2008, the punishment for which is as stated under Regulations 21 of the same Regulations.

Leong has another four charges against him and two of them he was jointly charged with Sharezza.

Leong is accused of causing hurt to 20 Chinese tourists by permitting Sharezza to take the boat to sea negligently as to endanger their lives and also allegedly negligently causing the deaths of the four tourists by allowing Sharezza to use the boat to sea in such as state and so loaded as to endanger their lives.

For the first joint charge, Leong and Sharezza are accused of failing to keep on the passenger boat the appropriate safety equipment, the lifejackets and the life buoys as specified in the Fourth Schedule of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licenced Small Ships) Regulations 2008, at all times.

The second joint charge – Leong and Sharezza allegedly embarked two crew and 28 passengers from an undesignated landing point - Kg Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty, here, and that the offence falls under Regulation 13/34 of the Ports and Harbours Regulations.

For Sharezza, he is facing another charge of causing hurt to 20 Chinese tourists by taking the boat to sea so negligently as to endanger their lives and on the fourth count, he allegedly negligently caused the death of the four tourists as stated in Chung's second charge.

All the offences allegedly took place at the Golden Sailing Travel Tour and Car Rental Sdn Bhd premises in Asia City, here, Kg Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty, waters off the Coast of Mengalum Island, off here, between 9.15am and 11am on Jan 28 this year.

Leong is also facing a charge of overloading the catamaran with tourists which endangered the passengers' lives while Sharezza had served the six months' jail sentence for overloading the catamaran with tourists.

During cross-examination by counsel Hamid Ismail who defended Sharezza, Salim said he could not check the boat as it was no longer available after the incident.

He agreed with Hamid that he made the report pertaining to the boat before the tragedy.

Salim also agreed with counsel Edward Paul, who represented Leong and Chung, that he only checked the physical condition of the boat but not its seaworthiness.

To a question during re-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nartiah M. Sambatan who was assisted by DPP Nurun Nazifah Muhammad Iyen from the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency, Salim said if the boat had no sufficient safety equipment, it was not allowed to operate.

The prosecution's ninth witness, Magistrate Jessica Ombou Kakayun, 35, testified that she had recorded deposition from eight witnesses (survivors) who were all from China on Feb 5 through a court proceeding under Section 396 of the Criminal Procedure Code. She said Shareza and Leong were present throughout the depositions.

Meanwhile, Magistrate Cindy Mc Juce Balitus, 36, who is the 10th prosecution witness said she had recorded depositions from five witnesses who were also all from China.

During the proceedings, the prosecution had tendered the Notes of Proceedings (NOP) pertaining to the depositions.

However, when the prosecution requested the NOP to be marked as exhibits, both defence counsels objected.

The court reserved the ruling on the admissibility of NOP on Aug 25 as the prosecution needed time to reply the objection from the defence.

Counsel Elffie Johny also together with Edward defending Leong and his mother, while counsel Michelle Usman and Benazir Japiril Bandarn together with Hamid defended Sharezza and counsel Chong Choi Lin is holding a watching brief for the victims.

Trial adjourned to another date. - Cynthia D Baga


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