Thursday, January 27, 2005

Sipadan: No change in Govt stand

Kota Kinabalu: All the structures on Sipadan Island, except those used by the security personnel, must be removed by tour operators by end of this month, said State Secretary Datuk K. Y. Mustafa.

He said the tour operators would have to move their bases to either the nearby islands or in mainland Semporna since there is no change in the Government's stand on the matter.

Speaking to reporters after handing over contributions to the Malaysian Tsunami Disaster Fund at Wisma Innoprise in Likas here Wednesday, Mustafa said the State Government had forwarded the appeal from tour operators to the Federal Government but the "decision stays".

It was reported that the deadline for the operators to move out was on Dec 31 last year. However, it was learnt that the authorities had given them another three weeks until Jan 21 this year since the operators could not meet the deadline.

It was learnt that the Semporna District Council would be called in to demolish the structures if the operators concerned still fail to meet the deadline given by the authorities.

Nonetheless, Mustafa said none of the six tour operators was going against the Government's decision and that they were giving their full cooperation despite an earlier challenge in court by four operators.

"All of them are giving their full cooperation. Of course they do face problems (but) where it is practical we would address together," he said, adding that he believed the operators challenging the decision were being practical, just like the Government.

"It is for Sabah's interest and not so much for one (or two) companies," he said.

As decided, Sipadan Island would be under the Sabah Parks, while the security is under the Federal Government, he said, adding the Government and the security forces would continue to monitor the situation in Sipadan.

The decision for the six tour operators to vacate the island was made two years ago by the special joint Federal-State Committee co-chaired by the Chief Secretary and State Secretary, aimed at safeguarding Sipadan's pristine environment.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman was reported as saying that people can only visit the island, a world-class diving site, for day trips.

Sipadan Island shot into the limelight in 2000 for the wrong reasons when an Abu Sayyaf group stormed the island and kidnapped more than 20 foreigners and locals.

Since then, the Government had issued a directive to limit the number of people to 80 into the island daily. Malaysia's sovereignty over Sipadan Island was upheld by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2002.

Meanwhile, to a question, Mustafa said so far he had not received any report on any outbreak of dengue fever in Sabah.

"We normally get the latest information and the relevant agencies such as the Health Department has taken steps to make inspections in areas such as Kinabatangan, but so far it is under control in the urban areas," he said.

Courtesy of: Daily Express

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