Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sabah Parks failed: CM

Kota Kinabalu: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has ordered the immediate suspension of all construction activities on Pulau Sipadan until further notice. A clearly displeased Musa also ordered a full probe on the destruction of pristine corals there by a steel barge early this week, saying Sabah Parks had failed in its duties to monitor all activities and protect the island at all cost.

"Sabah Parks has failed in carrying out its duties. They have been entrusted to look after the island and should monitor all activities there. "This should not have happened. It is unacceptable. I want a full investigation into this matter and Sabah Parks must submit a report soon as possible," he told a press conference at Wisma Innoprise, Friday.

He would also meet with his Deputy, Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister who had requested to see him today (Saturday) on the issue. Chong had on Thursday said Sipadan would be closed indefinitely, if necessary, to restore corals damaged by the barge used by the contractor to build amenities on the island.

According to Musa, who is also Finance Minister, he last heard about the project a year ago when it was submitted to him and the scope of the project was for RM2.6 million. "As usual I gave a memo to the (then) Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary (Datuk S. Abdillah) to check and brief me," he said.

However, the former Permanent Secretary apparently failed to do so and Musa only heard of the project when local newspapers reported it this week. He said as far as he knew, the project was initiated by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry through Sabah Parks. He believed the project received the green light from the Joint-Committee to oversee Sipadan which involved the State and Federal governments.

According to him, the contractor for the project in Sipadan is Kumpulan Surati. The joint-committee is jointly-chaired by State Secretary Datuk K.Y Mustafa and Federal Chief Secretary Tan Sri Samsudin Osman that was formed after Malaysia won sovereignty rights over Sipadan and Ligitan islands at The Hague in July 2003. Following this, the joint-committee recommended to the Government to limit the number of people into the island and imposed a total ban for overnight stay as well as ordering all structures, except those for the security personnel and Sabah Parks staff, to be demolished.

"The reason we asked the (dive) operators to vacate the island a few years ago was because we did not want any major development. We wanted to protect the environment there. The island cannot take any major development," he said.

Musa said any facilities like toilets should be built out of lighter and environmentally friendly materials and not concrete or steel. The barge, which was found beached at Sipadan last week, was off-loading gravel, sand, steel tubes, iron mesh and bulldozer using a giant crane. It scraped off the corals at the famous Dropoff Point.
The incident, which was posted in the Internet by bloggers, received tremendous reactions from the people concerned that the environment on the world famous diving site would be destroyed.

Source: Daily Express

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