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Nazri slammed over 'Sabah unsafe'
Published on: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PETALING JAYA: Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz has come under fire for saying that the safety of tourists could not be guaranteed in Sabah until two recent kidnappings were resolved.

Sabah Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun, said his Federal counterpart's statement threatened to undo the hard work undertaken by the Sabah tourism authorities to bring back tourists to the state.

"For him to say that he will not guarantee the safety of tourists in Lahad Datu until the two cases of kidnapping are solved does not make any logical sense.

"It is like saying he cannot guarantee the safety of passengers to travel on our national airline (Malaysia Airlines) 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 Tuesday.

Masidi maintained that Lahad Datu is a safe place despite Nazri's statement that he (Nazri) would not personally visit the district in Sabah troubled by a hostile intrusion by Sulu gunmen last year.

"Lahad Datu town is not exactly a tourist spot and has never been one. But Lahad Datu is safe.

"The United States Ambassador to Malaysia and his wife recently spent the night in Lahad Datu on the way to Danum Valley.

"I am saddened that while a foreign ambassador has full confidence in the ability of our security forces to ensure the safety of tourists in Lahad Datu, our own Tourism Minister thinks otherwise," he said.

Masidi also said that despite a fall in the number of Chinese tourists to the state, there was a significant increase in arrivals from Japan (27.7pc), South Korea (18.7pc) and Europe (13.1pc).

"These figures are for the first seven months of this year. Most island resorts are also still doing roaring business," he added. Nazri told Parliament on Monday that certain places in Sabah were still unsafe for tourists, and said he would not order tourism officials to promote the state.

The Federal Minister said many foreign tourists admitted that the recent kidnappings in Sabah had dented the country's image further than the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

"I do not want to be responsible for guaranteeing the safety of tourists in Sabah because if one gets kidnapped, I will be blamed," he said in reply to a question from Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid when wrapping up the 2015 Supplementary Bill for his ministry.

Nazri said many foreign tourists were not aware of the distance between districts like Kota Kinabalu and Sipadan in Sabah, and believed they were all in the same area.

Gerakan Sabah has come out in support of Masidi, saying Nazri's statement undermined efforts of the State to bring tourists back to Sabah.

"The saddest day for Sabahans and the Sabah tourism industry is when our very own Federal Minister of Tourism, a person whom we thought we could count on, commented that 'I do not want to be responsible for guaranteeing the safety of tourists in Sabah because if one gets kidnapped, I will be blamed'," said Gerakan Sabah chief, Datuk Gordon Leong.

"What is even more disappointing is that he also stated that he would not order tourism officials to promote the State.

"I fully concur and back the stand taken by Masidi, against the attitude, stand and statement of Nazri," said Leong in a statement.

"Ironically, the Federal Tourism Ministry or the Malaysian Tourism Board feel its 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 must not be taken out of context in relation to what he also said about many foreign tourists not being aware of the distance between districts like Kota Kinabalu and Sipadan in Sabah, and 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! As Masidi said, Lahad Datu is not even a tourist spot.

"Instead, Nazri has chosen the easier path by totally not promoting Sabah," he said.

Leong agreed that Nazri's negative attitude which is akin to "rubbing salt to the wound" is undermining all the hard work and efforts which the State Tourism Ministry and Sabah Tourism Board had been trying to carry out, to uplift the tourism industry in the State during these trying periods.

"His statement also undermined the effort by our Prime Minister to boost security in the East Coast of Sabah through Esscom.

"While on this subject, it also makes a lot of sense to move/set up the RMAF Base to the East Coast of Sabah like Tawau, instead of Labuan as planned, to boost further the security there," he said.

It was earlier announced that the RMAF base would be moved from Butterworth to Labuan but this met with criticism from Sabahans as being a short-sighted decision in view of the East Coast being more vulnerable to intruders.

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