Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sabah's CM to US envoy: 2 million tourists can't be wrong

Sabah's Chief Minister Datuk Musa Hj. Aman urged the United States to consider lifting the travel advisory cautioning its citizens to refrain from visiting Malaysia, particularly the east coast of Sabah.

"While I understand that the US Government is just fulfilling its obligations to its citizens, I hope they will consider lifting this advisory," he said during a courtesy call by US Ambassador to Malaysia, Christopher La Fleur, at the Chief Minister's official residence in Sri Gaya, Friday.

He said Sabah consistently received tourists from all over the world including those from Western Europe, Australia, China, Japan, and Korea as well as the US.

"When they visit us, they are quite surprised. The situation here does not reflect what is being implicated in the advisory. They find Sabah to be very safe."

He said if Sabah has a real security problem, the tourists would not come and return for subsequent visits.

"Last year alone, some two million visitors came here and we expect the numbers keep on increasing.

The CM added that the State was actually experiencing a problem of not having enough hotel rooms to accommodate the rising number of tourists.

He said the country's vigilant security forces are constantly patrolling Sabah waters and its surrounding islands and hence the security situation was well under control.

Sabah has a multiracial society whereby at least 32 ethnic groups coexist in peace and harmony.

"I think the United States need to reevaluate the situation and consider lifting the travel advisory."

Musa also took the opportunity to inform Christopher on some of the major projects happening in the State, including the development of the Palm Oil Industrial Clusters and the upgrading of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

He said Sabah offered numerous opportunities to investors due to its abundant natural resources and a strategic plan for economic development by a politically stable government.

"With political stability and unity, it is easier to plan and implement development plans for the benefit of the people."

The Ambassador said he was impressed by the diversity of the environment in Sabah.

"I have seen a little more of Sabah and I am impressed with what I have seen. The range of things to see in Sabah is impressive."

Christopher who is on his first working visit here, said he has met with various government officials and business people as well as members from WWF, Malaysia.

"Personally I want more Americans to come here. We will work on removing the travel advisory."

However, he said the US Government was obligated to caution its citizens from travelling to areas where there were reports of instability.

He also said the United States would like to contribute to the establishment of the proposed transnational park in Borneo.

"Borneo as an island has some of the richest biodiversity in the world. There is potential of greater cooperation not just economically but environmentally too."

Source: Daily Express

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