Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sipadan Island Issue - Contract Terminated


KOTA KINABALU: The State Government has terminated the contract of the contractor who caused damage to corals off Sipadan island while carrying out construction work on the island a few months ago.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Hj Aman in making the announcement said the Cabinet reached the decision after a careful and detailed review of the whole development concept of the island.

“The concept was not wise from the outset because of the island’s fragile ecosystem and rich marine biodiversity,” he said during a press conference after chairing the State Cabinet’s weekly meeting at Wisma Innoprise yesterday.

“Any development on the island will now be minimal and environmentally friendly. This was stressed by the Prime Minister,” said Musa who is also the Finance Minister.

He said the government will also take into account the recommendations of the joint committee on the management and monitoring of Sipadan chaired by Chief Secretary, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman.

“I am sure Tan Sri Samsudin will make recommendations to the Prime Minister and get his approval before we can implement the project,” he said.

“A new contractor will be appointed to take over. The development will be very minimal and environmentally friendly. We will build basic facilities for the divers but there will be no clubhouse and restaurant,” he said.

On whether the termination would incur any legal implication, he replied: “I think preserving the environment is more important than any other consequences.”

Following the termination of the contract, the Chief Minister said he would take over the full charge of the project.

He said the government expected the new development concept to be ready in the next two to three months before works could proceed.

He said the decision to minimise development on the island and opt for a more environmentally sound development is very much in line with the Prime Minister’s concern for the environment.

He said the Cabinet has also decided to restructure the management of Sabah Parks following the recent unfortunate incidents in Sipadan island and Mount Kinabalu.

“Among the steps to be taken in the restructuring exercise would be the transfer of officers,” he said.

Recently, the Chief Minister met and explained to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi the status of development on Sipadan island.

The project was suspended temporarily after a barge transporting construction materials to the island caused damage to about 372.94 sq metres of coral reefs on May 14.

On the status of an oil palm project covering 17,000 acres meant for the hardcore poor eradication programme in 2000 at Tongod, near Sandakan, Musa said he had directed Rural Development Minister, Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan to make the explanation.

“He (Pairin) will give you the details. I think it only involves some 3,000-4,000 acres and not some 17,000 acres as reported,” he said.

“I have already asked the minister concerned and he will have a meeting with the agencies concerned like Sawit Kinabalu, the Land and Survey Department and others,” he said.

Musa said the State Government had made its decision to phase out logging activities in the Malua and Ulu Segama forest reserves. We are adhering to the guidelines and there will be no more logging by the end of 2007.

“After that those areas will be developed. As you know our logging practice is endorsed by the Forestry Stewardship Council since 1995 and we have been in compliance all along,” he said.

Courtesy of: New Sabah Times

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