Sunday, September 30, 2012

Greater efforts sought in making Brunei's national attractions UNESCO World Heritage sites

By Siti Hajar

With the ambitioned focus in getting the Abode of Peace recognised as an important piece of international history, international expert from the United Kingdom yesterday highlighted that one key aspect stakeholders must take into consideration is the management of the country's most major sites.

As the Sultanate plans to secure key local and national features including the iconic Kampong Ayer, Tasek Merimbun Recreational Park, Bubungan Dua Belas and so on as part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, visiting Emeritus Professor Victor T King from University of Leeds stressed that those involved should "have some sort of management arrangement in place to ensure that the site is not going to be undermined in any way" especially for areas that involve residents such as those who currently identify the Water Village as their home.

"One of the major issues would be where you draw the boundaries around it, what to include, what to exclude and whether you decide to have some sort of core area and then a buffer of some sort around it where development could take place," he said following his delivery of a lecture that took place at the ILIA building on UBD's campus.

By having in place what would be considered as constraints for such inhabitants, the preservation of its authenticity and its legacy will contribute to the "appropriate" maintenance of the area.

Considering the prominence of a UNESCO World Heritage site title, the requirements to be included within the list are equally demanding and the international body pays special attention to the ways in which nominated sites are looked after especially if the development of a certain area becomes a possibility, which could potentially "spoil the site in some way", he explained.

With the signing of the 1972 World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention and the 2003 Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention in November last year, Brunei Darussalam will have to invest a significant amount of effort to become part of a membership reserved for one of the most exclusive societies.

One such way, it was explained, will be the undertaking of "a lot of research, a lot of careful thinking" as well as talks "with as many people as possible" especially with those stationed at the UNESCO regional office in Jakarta, Indonesia as well as with "those who have been responsible in advising other governments in the region" that have been inscribed by UNESCO.

Local high education institute, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, he pointed, can play an important role with this particular endeavour, as he believes that "quite a lot of expertise can be furnished within the state".

"Resources can be drawn up to begin research and the preparation for a case," he opined.

The field of education, too, has special function as with the signing of the conventions, Brunei "has a responsibility to ensure that the population of the country is informed and kept informed of the heritage and its importance" especially the younger generation whom are considered the country's future leaders.

Yesterday's lecture that was attended by students from various institutions, meanwhile, was entitled "UNESCO in Southeast Asia: World Heritage Sites in Comparative Perspective" that highlighted seven Southeast Asian countries in the first comparative three-year research programme funded by The British Academy to consider how sites are being managed and how such sites are coping with the conflicting pressures to which they are subject in a globalising heritage industry and in national policies and development plans.

"In comparing sites within and beyond a particular country, it is hoped to draw out lessons for best practice to feed into UNESCO and national government approaches to heritage, conservation and tourism development," it was stated.

Emeritus Professor Victor T King is the Executive Director of White Rose East Asia Centre (WREAC) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He specialises in, among others, socio-economic development and applied anthropology in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coming home to Danum: a Borneo interlude

The song of the whistling thrush in the cloud-covered mountains. A chill in the air in the hills of the elephants. The river in-between the hills—the Naduar—whose white swells over the rocks he can see through his window, whose rich, sibilant sighs carry through the clear air all the way up to him. To him at his table by the window, from where he hears, he feels, he sees.

The tea estates lie quiet, now. Through the window, he sees the tea bushes stretching away in precise rows, beyond the clustered houses of the town of Valparai, his home for the last twelve years here in southern India. Later, the drone and whine of the motorized pruning shears on the hill across the Naduar will kill the silence and the sounds of the hills. With visor and machine, the workers will swing shoulder and hip, arms tensed, grasping the handle, scything and slicing the green, leafy bushes to a prickly, wounded, brown fuzz. Smarting and stark, the shorn hills.

There is tension in departure. There must be. Bags packed, his and hers, water bottles filled, his and hers, a last glance around the home they leave behind for ten days, laces, sandal straps, pulled tight, the keys snapped onto the key hook in the backpack, they are ready to leave. They must leave the hills for the city—it is from the airport there that they will depart for Borneo. The cat stands above the steps of their home watching them leave, in inscrutable concern. Black-masked and calico, bushy tail flicking from one side to another.

The song of the koel in the swelter of the city. The cuckoo’s poignant refrain is heard through summer and monsoon in Chennai city. They have arrived to take their next flight, but must spend the day here. The heat rises, invisible, palpable, inescapable, from tarmac and pavement, from the concrete walkway in the front yard. The city throbs and growls with the stream of motor vehicles. Voices sound from the houses marking the stream of private lives. This is his home, too. The house was built the year he was born. He lived here for the first fifteen years of his life, before he was led to other places for his studies and his travels—to become, to be, an ecologist. Sitting on the porch, he looks to where the tree stood: the mango tree, now long dead, where the purple-rumped sunbirds built their nests, their downy, pendant homes. He does not hear, now, the lively gossip and chatter of the babblers, but the new, raucous conversation of treepies can be heard from the trees around. Trees younger than him, but taller three times, five times over.

The airports have no songs, only the monotony of announcements. There is the utter silence of a thousand noises—a dulling, meaningless cacophony that is always heard and never listened to. The voices of monotony punctuate the silence referring to destinations—flights delayed, arriving, boarding. Destinations: this is the last and final call, say the voices.

Inelegant but powerful, the bird flies though the air. From darkness to gleaming, ochre sunrise, from black to grey to stunning blue and white. Filled with lives, yet lifeless, the bird flies higher and faster. Another airport: Kuala Lumpur. One has to take a train to reach the next flight. Another journey: he flies now over unfamiliar forests and familiarly-carved landscapes. Far below the aircraft’s wings, he sees swathes of oil palm plantations in unending rows, sliced sharply by boundaries and roads, punctuated with towns and settlements. He falls asleep as the flight to Kota Kinabalu crosses the South China Sea. The destination arrives. Or one arrives at the destination. In half-sleep, he cannot really tell.

The chirp of the sparrow cannot be heard. Thick glass separates the waking, walking people in the airport causeway from the little tree sparrow flitting among the tyres of the vehicles onto which people load their luggage. One cannot hear, surely, the gentle swish of water, the soft rustle of sedge, against the egret’s foot in the roadside marsh, or the cry of the crow, even—the vehicle that takes them to their hotel is too fast, the glass windows are pulled tight-shut to keep the conditioned air in, and the unconditional tropical air, out.

The hotel is old, they say. It carries a certain history, of a certain people, they say, in the city once-called Jesselton, and now Kota Kinabalu. Colony, conquest, capitulation, civilisation: the pulse and passage of time has left its varied imprints. He sees it in the remnants of an older architecture, in the crowd and clutter now in the markets, in the high-rises and steely cars flashing past, in the very faces of the people passing by. As night falls, and the rain-drenched city in Borneo goes to sleep, another marker of time and place and history stands quiet and dark and silhouetted on the street. A cinnamon tree.

The forest is dark, dark. No starlight or moonlight, not even the twinkle of a single firefly. Leafy clusters in exuberant green are all he can see in the artificial light cast by the fluorescent bulbs—a few metres only, then it is dark. Unbroken blackness, yet not empty. He knows there is a forest beyond—a forest of tall trees, where orangutans sleep in their leafy nests. He knows they are there because he has been here before. In Danum.

She sits by his side, looking out into the darkness, too. A dozen others from the city have joined them on this leg of the journey. Their companions on this trip, they are tourists, photographers, nature enthusiasts. Over dinner, they chat and laugh and talk of what they have come to see. There is anticipation in the air.

Through the black window of night, the sounds of the river reach his ears. The river marks a boundary that a certain kind of person carrying a certain kind of intention has not crossed. On the far side, the old side, he knows, is the primary, equatorial, tropical rainforest: a lowland forest that has never been logged, its worth never converted into so many ringgit or dollar for so many cubic feet of timber. It is a forest of diverse dipterocarp trees. The trees that send their their seed whirring through the air on winged fruits. The trees that are among the tallest in the world’s tropical forests. On the near side, the new side, where he sits—as an ecologist in a research facility built partly with timber and oil money and partly with science funds streaming in from afar—here, on this side of the river, the forest is shredded by logging. The flat gravel roads have opened the forest wide for the logging trucks to come through. Now, by night, he and the others sitting there see the forest as lost in its darkness. He wonders, does the forest see them as blinded in their light?

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Coming home to Danum: a Borneo interlude

Kota Kinabalu: The Jewel of Borneo Malaysia

Malaysia, referred to as a golden country for tourism, welcomes visitors with the bright beauty of its capital Kuala Lumpur, and its coastal jewel on Borneo Island, the city of Kota Kinabalu. In Borneo Malaysia’s Sabah State, this is where this island lives up to its exotic reputation, with peaceful beaches and pristine, lush primary forests.

This lively city is a base for adventures of all sorts, such as hiking, conquering waterfalls and discovering caves. You can take on Mount Kinabalu of the Crocker Range which rises to a height of 4,095 meters, the highest in the Malay Archipelago. Mount Kinabalu, within the Kinabalu National Park and recognized as a World Heritage Site, stands dramatically above the surrounding terrain to be rated among the most prominent mountains in the world. Today, the challenge of the Crocker Range attracts trekkers from far and wide. Enclosing 754 square kilometres, Kinabalu National Park is a natural paradise and home to a remarkable variety of plants and animals, including rafflesia – the largest flower in the world.

In addition to these adventures, visitors are attracted by the local produce, fine arts, foods and forestry products sold at the city’s many markets – ideal places to learn about the lives and customs of local people.

Kinabalu’s busy markets are available both day and night. Fruit markets and those selling handcrafted items are usually open all day, closing around 7pm. A wide variety of interesting souvenirs are available, such as masks, puppets and the colourful shawls worn by Muslim women here. After 7pm the night markets open, where you can enjoy hot seafood and other local cuisine specialties. The night markets peter out by 12am and the city becomes quiet.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kota Kinabalu: The Jewel of Borneo Malaysia

Urgent need to study Sarawak's wild primate species

KUCHING: There is an urgent need for more local researchers to study all primate species in the wild.

At the same time, continuous effort must be emphasised for the orang utans.

“In general, the interest to study primates is not many. Many undergraduates prefer to take up courses such as information technology. There are only a handful of primate researchers in Sarawak,” said Sarawak Forestry Corporation biologist Sundai Silang who has been studying primates for over 12 years.

“Sarawak has quite a number of primate species, but very little is known about other species (other than orang utans). We are so lucky that all the areas that have these species are protected because the orang utans are also there, and thus, they are also taken care of.

“But in terms of ecology, habitat and so on of these other species, not much is known. So I really encourage our people, especially undergraduates to take up the challenge.”

He also highlighted that much remains unknown about the orang utans such as their population and geographical distribution in the state, and thus, research needs to be continued in these areas.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Urgent need to study Sarawak's wild primate species

Friday, September 28, 2012

Expedition to gather data for proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park

KOTA KINABALU: An expedition at the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park hopes to gather data to provide a strong basis for gazetting the park into a protected area.

So far, its preliminary results during an expedition from September 6 to 26, found certain species of fish and coral are in fact under threat due to human activities such as fish bombing and overfishing.

The group consisted of marine biologists from Malaysia, Netherlands and Australia who assessed the marine biodiversity and ecology in the park as well as the socio-economic benefits of its marine ecosystems to local communities.

The expedition was organised by the Borneo Marine Research Institute of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Naturalis Biodiversity Centre (The Netherlands), Sabah Parks, and WWF-Malaysia.

The survey covered areas in the proposed Tun Mustapha Marine Park which roughly spans from Kudat to Pulau Banggi.

A press conference was held at the UMS yesterday to announce its preliminary results.

UMS vice-chancellor, Professor Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah said that the marine park, covering an area of 1.02 million hectares, if protected, will help the conservation of marine biodiversity and promote sustainable development of fisheries that provide livelihood to the coastal communities.

“A marine park is generally associated with the development of ecotourism infrastructure which contributes to socioeconomic benefits and offers alternative means of livelihood. When gazetted, this park too will immensely benefit the society,” he said in his speech delivered by deputy vice-chancellor (research & innovation) Prof Dr Shahril Yusof.


Efforts to make Bintulu a tourist destination

BINTULU: The state Tourism Ministry and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) are all out to make Bintulu town one of the must-go-to destinations in the state for local visitors and foreign tourists.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the town has a huge potential to be promoted due to its cultural richness besides being one of the industrial powerhouses in the country.

He also disclosed that within three years the hinterland tourism sector in Sarawak would be further explored.

“Bakun is not far from Bintulu and we have engaged a consultant to study hinterland tourism.

“One of the infrastructures that we have to consider is to zone certain areas in Bakun as an aquatic sports destination.

“There will be a concrete plan for the hinterland tourism sector in three years’ time to develop Bakun area,” he said.

Bintulu, he said, would be developed through its industrial sector, and its recreational facilities would be further boosted to attract more tourists and investors.

He also said the town was capable of organising world class events that could be promoted to the outside world.

He made these remarks when officiating at the opening ceremony of the 8th Borneo International Kite Festival 2012 (BIKF) at the old Bintulu Airport here yesterday.

“Kite flying is a unique and meaningful event in Sarawak as it promotes tourism industry in the state,” he said.

This year, 94 participants from 20 over countries took part in the event.

Abang Johari believed with more aggressive promotion, the event would attract more participants from overseas.

“In this regard, the STB will allocate RM100, 000 every year for promotional activities, just to promote Bintulu as a destination for kite flying,” he said, adding the intention was to make it a world class event like the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching.

Continue reading (Incl.Pic) at: Efforts to make Bintulu a tourist destination

Thursday, September 27, 2012

1937 film, 'Borneo', to debut at Borneo Eco Film Festival

KOTA KINABALU: A FILM by famous American documentary filmmakers Martin and Osa Johnson, Borneo, will be among the international feature films to be shown during the  Borneo Eco Film Festival (BEFF) this week.

The film has been deemed as the Johnsons' "last adventure" together before Martin was killed in a plane crash in California in 1937.

It will have its Southeast Asian premiere at the Sabah National Culture and Arts Department complex auditorium here on Sunday.

The 75-minute film will share expedition footages in Borneo by the Johnsons as they searched for an orang utan.

The three-day festival begins tomorrow with five feature films and seven short films.

There will also be the premiere of a special live film performance featuring two silent movies from the British Film Institute -- Trip to British North Borneo and Possesions Anglaises Dans Le Nord De Borneo (English Possessions of North Borneo).

"These two silent films (dating back to 1907 and 1911) will be accompanied by music from local musician Hezekiah Asim, who has spent months working on a composition specifically for each of the films," said festival board chairman Chris Chong Chan Fui.


Star Cruises operator promises support to promote Sabah as tourism destination

KOTA KINABALU: There is more to traveling than just flying from one place to another and Star Cruises Travel Service (M) Sdn Bhd is offering Sabahans an alternative way to spend their holidays – by cruising.

Star Cruises, together with the Norwegian Cruise Line are the third largest cruise operators in the world, owning a combined fleet of 18 vessels calling over 200 destinations worldwide, and represented in more than 20 locations across the globe.

“We have landed on Sabah’s shores to support the state’s rapid tourism growth. We not only welcome guests to come here but also encourages Sabahans to travel in a different way,” said Star Cruises East Malaysia Operations vice president Edward Johann Leong.

He added that they are also working closely with tourism players in the state to promote and introduce Sabah to the world.

The company set up its office in the city earlier this year, and yesterday, Assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Ellron Angin officially opened its lounge, named ‘The Bridge’ at the KK Times Square.

Also present were the Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Tengku Zainal Adlin, local travel agents and business associates.

‘The Bridge’ is an exclusive member-only club that was specially created for valued members by Star Cruises and it features value-added facilities, including karaoke rooms, pool table, massage chairs and wi-fi connection.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kinabalu Crocker Range Scientific Expedition outcome to help Sabah parks

Penampang: Sabah Parks Board of Trustees Deputy Chairman Patrick Jilan said the scientific facts gathered during the recently concluded Kinabalu Crocker Range Scientific Expedition 2012 will be invaluable for the planning and management of Sabah Parks.

He said the variety of research activities conducted in several locations provided a wide range of scientific data which can help Sabah Parks interpret more details about the uniqueness of nature and the richness of biodiversity within Kinabalu and Crocker Range Park.

"I am sure the scientific facts generated by this expedition would be invaluable and useful for Sabah Parks to formulate a better action plan for better park management in the future," he said during the closing of the Kinabalu Crocker Scientific Expedition 2012 at the Inobong SubStation, here, Tuesday.

He said although the results of the research have not been analysed yet he was made to understand that some new findings were speculated from the expedition.

"I do believe that there are high potential of new findings of new species within the these two park areas that are not yet fully explored especially the Crocker Range park. So I would like to acknowledge your commitment and contribution in helping us document the uniqueness of our natural resources here," said Patrick.

The expedition which started two weeks ago was jointly participated by 54 local scientists from Sabah Parks, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Forest Research Centre and Unimas and international scientists from the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre (NBC), Holland.

According to NBC Director Dr Edwin Van Huis the aim of the expedition was to understand the origin of the species endemic to Mt Kinabalu, Mt Alab and the high mountains in Sabah.

"So to do that we need to get DNA samples from species that live on the summit and lowlands so experts on various kinds of plants, animals and fungi have collected close to 8,000 specimens of 1,400 different species and of that ten percent are species that are endemic on Mt Kinabalu or Mt Alab.

"What we have taken are tissue samples from these species and these are going to be brought to the DNA labs in Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands where the DNA will be sequenced and coded and the DNA information will be used to build family trees of each of those groups and the family trees will tell us whether the endemic species are old or relics of long ago and are just surviving on top of the mountain or if they are new species which have recently split off from lowland species."


Challenge to produce more Korean speaking guides in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun has posed a challenge to tourism players to produce more Korean speaking guides within a year.

Speaking after a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with tourism stakeholders, including Sabah Tour Guides Association (STGA), yesterday, Masidi added that the call to engage Korean guides to guide their nationals while holidaying in Sabah will not be implemented as yet.

Describing the meeting as “harmonious and fruitful”, Masidi said the parties involved had agreed to accept the challenge.

The meeting was organised following objections from local tour guides in Sabah to the Tourism Ministry’s decision to allow Korean tour guides to be given licences and the right to operate in the State.

A group of 30 Sabah Tour Guide Association (STGA) members, who were outraged by the move, said yesterday they would not compromise on the issue and were prepared to do whatever it takes them to protect their livelihood.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New population of wild orang utans in Sarawak confirmed

KUCHING: The presence of a ‘significant population’ of wild orang utans in Ulu Sungai Menyang, Lubok Antu district has been confirmed through a recent survey led by Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) under the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative.

It is a milestone for the state as it is believed to be the first wild orang utan population discovered outside of a national park or sanctuary.

According to a FDS press statement, the population of wild orang utans in the state was previously believed to be between 1,200 to 3,000 individuals, with 95 per cent of the state’s orang utans found in the Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary.

With this new finding, the state’s estimated orang utan population could increase by as much as 15 per cent.

The local Iban community, tour guides and foreign tourists have previously reported sightings of orang utans in Ulu Sungai Menyang, which is situated between the Upper Ai River, the Indonesian border and the Batang Ai Lake.

However, this is the first time that researchers have officially recorded and established the presence of orang utans in the area.

The recent survey was conducted in mid July as part of a FDS initiative to identify areas of High Conservation Value Forest.

The survey was a collaborative research effort involving FDS, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, non-government organisation Wildlife Conservation Society and in-bound tour operator Borneo Adventure together with the involvement and support of local communities.

Orang utans presence was determined through the identification of new nests (or sleeping platforms), actual sighting of orang utans and vocal recordings in the areas surveyed.

Based on orang utans density estimates from earlier studies in a similar forest in Batang Ai National Park, the estimated population of orang utans in Ulu Sungai Menyang could be as high as 200 individuals.


Tourism and fisheries set to change Pitas’ landscape

The Pitas district in Sabah is set to witness the transformation of its economic landscape and commercial activities through the integrated development of the tourism and fisheries sector.

The transformation is set to open more employment opportunities for the locals.

Pitas’ strategic location, lying in between Teluk Marudu and the open waters of Kudat, known for its marine resources and pristine nature, can be optimised for tourism activities.

Pitas’ local council member Rudy Awah noted that Pitas’ resources should be exploited in an integrated manner by the relevant agencies for developing the district.

The move to develop both sectors is important for improving the socio-economic status of the locals, who survive on subsistence farming and fishing.

“The beautiful beaches, when complemented by good infrastructure, can help woo tourists to the district and open up economic opportunities for the locals,” he said to Bernama after the 2012 Pitas Local Councilors oath-taking ceremony in Labuan recently.

“The same with the fisheries sector, many efforts can be made to develop the sector, including turning the district into a deep sea fishing hub along with marine resources-based downstream activities,” he added.

Rudy noted that many of the local and foreign tourists see Kudat as their destination and therefore, leisure activities in nearby Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in the Pitas district should be exploited.

“If the appropriate facilities and necessities are established, they will not only provide comfort for the visitors, but will make the place more interesting,” he said.

Rudy also mentioned the improving road networking system, especially the roads connecting Pitas to nearby districts.

“Previously, Pitas was known to be among the backwater districts, which depended on marine resources and agriculture, with the locals migrating to bigger towns to improve their livelihood. But not anymore.”

“Today, Pitas, located to the north of Sabah, near Kudat, with a population of almost 40,000 people, can be proud of the infrastructure development there,” he said.

The main ethnic groups in the district are made up of the Rungus and Sungai (including Tambanuo) people. Pitas was initially known as Tupak that literally means “crossing” in the local language. Tupak refers to the ancient homeland of the Momogun Tombonuvo and Momogun Rungus ethnic groups.

With an established township, complete with primary and secondary schools and downstream agriculture and fisheries activities, Pitas could compete with the other districts, when promoted strategically.

Rudy recalled that Pitas was once categorised among the poorest districts in Malaysia but is now fast developing like many other districts in the state.

Meanwhile, Pitas state assemblyman Datuk Bolkiah Haji Ismail noted that Pitas has been endowed with numerous natural resources that are yet to be exploited.

Bolkiah, who is also Sabah’s Assistant Minister for Tourism, Culture and Environment, pointed out that the traditional activities and items of the locals could be utilised for tourism.

One of the items unique to the locals and which can be used to lure tourists is the Bagang, a traditional platform built on the sea to catch anchovies and it is widely used in Teluk Marudu in Pitas.

“We can take visitors to have a closer look at how the locals fish with Bagang,” he said.

Apart from this, Teluk Marudu is a safe fishing haven as the water is sheltered and calm.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Primates at Sabah’s Imbak Canyon at risk of being hunted

KOTA KINABALU: A lesser-known conservation area in Sabah is proving to be an important wildlife habitat with a 15-day research expedition finding movements of orang utan in the area.

Researchers are now worried that the primates and other wildlife in the Imbak Canyon are at risk of being hunted by encroachers in the 30,000ha conservation area that is about the size of Penang island.

The survey programme's consultant Dr Rahimatshah Amat said cameras stationed at several locations caught images of limbs very similar to that of an orang utan, as well as proof of encroachment and poaching activities.

“Though there is no full picture of the primate itself, the image of a hand caught on some of our cameras along the eastern part of Imbak Canyon towards Danum Valley indicated a population of the animal,” he said.

He said colonies of the orang utan were also discovered along the west side of Imbak Canyon along with the movements of individuals during the survey conducted from July 5 to 20.

“However, we are not sure whether these movements were those of the primates or people,” said Rahimatshah, who is also chief technical officer (Borneo programme) of the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia.

A joint patrol will be held by the Sabah Wildlife Department and other agencies such as Sabah Foundation and Petronas to look into the matter.

“There are signs of activities non-compatible to the conservation area as well as sightings of dogs there. By right, dogs should not be present within any conservation area. When there are dogs, it means people are present, too,” he explained.


Federal Tourism Ministry’s decision detrimental to Sabah tourism industry

KOTA KINABALU: The Federal Ministry’s decision to ‘temporarily open’ the tourist guiding labor market to Koreans is detrimental not only to the wellbeing of Malaysian tourist guides in Sabah but also to the tourism industry as a whole.

This is the view of Daniel Doughty, the chairman for Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA) and James M. Alin, Tourism Economist of School of Business and Economics.

Firstly, they said that Malaysian tourist guides are being sidelined and the local tourist guides are disappointed with the federal government for giving away ‘good jobs’ to the non-Malaysians.

“We are very happy with the exponential increase in Korea tourist arrival because it will make the tourism industry grow bigger. The benefits of growth in the tourism industry should trickle down to us ‘the forgotten not less important players’ of the industry,” Daniel and James said in a statement yesterday.

Higher demand, according to them, should result in higher pay to those existing local guides if they already invested their efforts and money to become well versed in Korean language (and things Korean). Deliberately liberalizing tourist guides market will eliminate this incentive.

“The argument that Korean (or Russian, following the Federal Minister’s examples) will not visit Sabah because there is shortage of Korean speaker guides is lame. The surge in Korean arrival to Sabah (2010 to 2012) is most likely inflated by the number of Koreans who work for the Sabah Oil and Gas Terminal projects in Kimanis,” they said.

“According to Malaysia Tourists Profile report, professionals, technicians, administrative and managerial staff made up 69% of occupation groups among Korean visitors plus 75% are male.


Art drawing tourists to Sabah

UNIQUE CULTURES: Nature-loving tourists also actively seeking out art items

KOTA KINABALU: SABAH has the potential to become a destination for art lovers as tourists here showed great appreciation for its   art.

Tourism Malaysia director Tengku Dr Zainal Adlin Tengku Mahmod said many tourists visited the state because of its unique cultures, indirectly exposing them to local contemporary art.

"They come here to dive and to experience our nature.

"Generally, those who love nature will love art because it goes hand in hand.

"That's the symbiotic relationship between art, nature and culture," he said at the launch of 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism (1MCAT) Festival Sabah 2012 at Jesselton Point Waterfront here, yesterday.

Held for the third consecutive year, 1MCAT is in line with the Tourism Ministry and Tourism Malaysia's efforts to diversify the country's tourism attractions while targeting more high-yield tourists.

Sabah made its debut in 1MCAT last year with Art Hunt as its premier theme, where 11 satellite art venues in and around the city featured contemporary art works of local artists.

Art Hunt acts as a platform for art enthusiasts, gallery owners, artists and the new generation of collectors to forge business alliances, acquire new contemporary art works, share ideas and exchange information about Sabah's contemporary art.

Tengku Zainal Adlin, who is also Sabah Tourism Board chairman, said the one-week exhibition was an effective way to bring attention to local artists' work and further encourage their growth as well as maturity of their talents.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Art drawing tourists to Sabah

Sabah Homestays urged to be more professional

THE homestays in Kundasang, Ranau, need to upgrade not only the level of professionalism in dealing with their clientele but also the quality of their packages and accommodation facilities.

“We need to be more co-ordinated and cohesive in tapping the homestay market effectively,” said Kohadie Watiman, vice president of the Homestay Association Malaysia.

“I think we have been fairly successful in our venture and I believe we will continue thrive in this industry provided we do not remain complacent but continue to make improvements as and when necessary,” he added.

His own Walai Tokou Homestay in Kundasang had been making its presence felt all over Malaysia in recent months through the promotion of its tourism products.

This presence was further enhanced when the outfit was officially declared a Kampungstay — meaning it’s no longer identified through its homes and village but the villages are recognised within the programme as one for Villagestay.

Walai Tokou, sited within the mountainuous district of Kundasang, has been in operation for several years now and since grown by leaps and bounds, according Kohadie, chairman of the Kampungstay in the area.

“We started in my village — Kampung Sinisian — several years ago. We were banking on our cultural and traditional heritage at that time, sharing what we had with our tourists.

“Personally, my passion was bamboo music and we gathered our youths, friends and family to create our own traditional bamboo music. We learned to play the music and performed in and outside the country. I must say we have been quite successful.

“Maybe our success was through our perseverance to make everything work. We went through tremendous learning stages but in the end, we managed to put up our homestay here — and other villages started to follow suit. More houses in our area started to run their own homestays and soon we were thriving,” he recalled.

There are now 15 participants under the Kampungstay with three more villagers signing up recently.

Kohadie pointed out that the Walai Tokou Kampungstay was banking on Nature and the people’s way of life as its “pulling power.”

“Our tourism products include visits to the highland vegetable and strawberry farm, the rose garden, the dairy farm, the Poring Hotspring, the Canopy walk and waterfall,” he said, adding that among the other sites being promoted are Sabah Tea Garden, the Luanti Tagal and Fish spa, the War Memorial and the Nunuk Ragang Monument.

“I’m happy the homestay participants are actively promoting these areas and I hope they will continue to do so – and take care of their compound to ensure a clean and green environment.”

On the traditional side, Kohadie and his team are promoting bamboo-music songs and dances as well as handicrafts production.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Sabah Homestays urged to be more professional

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Decision will hurt Sabah tourism – tour guides

PENAMPANG: Local tour guides in Sabah are maintaining their objection against the Tourism Ministry’s decision to allow Korean tour guides to be given licenses and the right to operate in the State.

A group of some 30 Sabah Tour Guide Association (STGA) members who were outraged by the move said yesterday that they would not compromise on the issue and were prepared to do whatever it takes them to protect their livelihood.

Calling for press conference at the Sabah Democratic Action Party (DAP) office in Bundusan, they claimed hundreds of local tour guides currently serving as sit-in guides for Korean tourists were at risk of losing their job.

“And this is just the beginning. The worst part is the possible negative impact it has on the whole tourism industry in Sabah. So, there is a lot at stake here, not just the livelihood of the tour guides but the interest of the State and its people in general,” said the group spokesperson who wish to remain anonymous.

He said allowing foreign tour guides to handle tourists from their own country may put the State’s tourism attractions, especially the wildlife at risk.

He pointed there had been several incidents in the past where tourist leaders or translators from Korea have been found allowing groups they were accompanying to feed wild animals and taken precious plants away from our forests.

“It is common sense that you should not feed wild animals, especially food that can make them sick. It’s not that they don’t know this, but they simply do not have the same sense of respect and appreciation, they do not value our wildlife as much as we do.

“For us the flora and fauna, which is the reason why many tourists come to Sabah, is a treasure that we want to protect but for them, it is just about making money and keeping their clients happy. So, they will not be as strict when it comes to preventing their clients from damaging our environment.

“In fact, there was an incident where a Korean translator beat a monitor lizard with a chair at Sapi Island after some tourists in his group got scared with the animal that was foraging for food near their camping site,” he said.

By aligning themselves with the opposition to gain political platform for protesting against the decision, the group has defied STGA president Daniel Daughty’s recent warning that the association would not condone any member turning the matter into a political issue.

According to the group, the existing system where registered local tour guides accompany Korean groups in their tour with the help of a Korean translator was working well, as shown by the continuously increasing number of Korean tourists into Sabah.

Moreover, they said, if the Koreans wanted their guides to be fluent in Korean language, all that was needed to be done was to train the local tour guides to speak the language.

The group added, bringing in their own tour guides would not make any sense for the foreign visitors because they would not have the same intimate knowledge of the places, animals, plants and cultures of Sabah like the local guides do, even if they were trained in local tour packages.

Continue reading at: Decision will hurt Sabah tourism – tour guides

Brunei Tourism promotion seminar at 9th China-Asean Expo

By Syafiq Affendy in Nanning, China

Brunei Tourism is currently participating in the 9th China-Asean Expo in Nanning, China, as part of its continuous efforts to further promote Brunei Darussalam as a unique tourist destination.

Aside from the "Brunei City of Charm" tourism booth located within the exhibition halls with other Asean member countries, Brunei Tourism held a seminar yesterday to provide visitors an in-depth preview of what they can expect in Brunei.

Present at the seminar was the Director of the Promotion and Facilitation Services Division under the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Hj Awg Damit bin Hj Mohd Arshad; Wang Jiaxin, First Secretary at the Chinese Consulate in Brunei Darussalam; Ak Zulkhairi Pg Abdul Razak, Brunei Tourism Officer (Far East Markets); Raymond Kong from Beijing Longway, the Brunei Tourism marketing representative in China, and Sheren Khew, Ghanim International Food Corporation representative Compliance Officer.

The seminar started with opening remarks by Hj Awang Damit, followed by brief remarks by Wang Jiaxin who spoke about the many attractions in Brunei, as well as business opportunities, such as large-scale construction, that may become a win-win situation for Brunei and China.

Raymond Kong delivered a presentation about Brunei, the many points of interest, the culture, food and hospitality that Brunei has to offer, as well as the initiatives by their side to promote Brunei Tourism which are by setting up the Chinese version of Brunei Tourism website at and setting up a Sina Weibo (a hybrid of the popular Facebook and Twitter microblogging site) account, followed by a Q&A session.

Sheren Khew gave her presentation as the last section of the seminar, representing Ghanim International Food Corporation, the Marketing and Trading arm of the Brunei Halal brand.

She explained to the participants that Brunei Halal was born out of a concerted effort between crucial governmental bodies and commercial initiatives to introduce its Islamic heritage to the world.

"Brunei Darussalam today has two proud brand ambassadors to date - the Brunei Halal commercial brand, and the Brunei Halal religious accreditation. Brunei Halal religious mark is the religious accreditation aspect of the brand, which works independently but in tandem with the brand. It has served as the standard and only national accreditation in the country of Brunei and is under the authority of the Brunei Religious Council. The religious mark itself is only awarded to manufacturing facilities in Brunei that have achieved the required Halal standards," she said.

Sheren added that it is revered today to be the strongest and most respected of all Halal accreditation systems due to its independent governance and strict audit controls that are driven by the government.

"It is therefore a concerted effort of political will in the country, a testimony to its diversification ambitions and strict Islamic standards," she added.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Wastewater threatens waterfront tourism at Sarawak River

THE role of the historical Sarawak River will be further cemented as a tourism jewel of the city centre of Kuching if things go according to the vision of Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

The Minister had big plans — going back a few years — for the iconic river as a key drawcard for tourists to Kuching as well as an important public transportation hub.

Pledging to fashion the Sarawak River into Kuching’s own little Venice, Abang Johari who is also Satok assemblyman, has been instrumental in getting a number of upgrading and beautification projects along the waterfront off the ground.

These include a fleet of water taxis to ply the river with about half a dozen jetties and pontoons being built to cater to the additional services.

Concurrently, boat builders in Sibu are fabricating a catamaran which may be used to link major hotels in the city center to the Borneo Convention Center Kuching (BCCK).

“Our MICE participants or business travellers can have breakfast on their way to the convention centre onboard the catamaran. In Hong Kong, that’s what they do,” Abang Johari told a press conference recently.

But with so much emphasis on the river as a tourism centrepiece, its water quality has come under the microscope, causing concern for organisers of river-based events such as the recent annual Sarawak Regatta.

Headings on public panels being displayed during the recent Government Transformation Programme 2.0 Open Day reflected as much: Wastewater pollution causing deterioration of water quality in Greater Kuching; The City’s rivers have become an open sewer and Currently Sungai Sarawak is Class III which is not suitable for recreational use.

The volume of wastewater pouring into the urban waterways has increased in tandem with Kuching city’s burgeoning population. Unsuprisingly, the cleanliness of the Sarawak River has come under close scrutiny with both foreigners and locals alike commenting on its soup-like appearance, oily surface and odours.

Professor Lau Seng who teaches Environmental Chemistry at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) questions the wisdom of conducting water-based sports activities in the Sarawak River due to the rising levels of water pollution.

“Sarawak River is highly polluted with biological organisms. The level of E. coli is high,” he pointed out.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) 2012: Beautiful Borneo

The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) Ultra Trail Marathon 2012 was held on 15th September 2012 (see Official Website). TMBT saw competitors competing (over 3 different categories - 27 km, 50 km and 100 km) over the Crocker Range mountains of Sabah which includes village trails, open gravel roads, very short tar sealed sections and crossing over hanging bridges on the race course with Mount Kinabalu in the background .

Below is an account from Tori about finishing the race, second female and sixth overall - courtesy of her blog called Fit Chicks & Fast Women:

The last time I was on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo was when I was 11.  I won’t tell you how long ago that was but long enough! Scaling South Asia’s highest peak at 13,435 ft / 4,095m was a grand adventure embarked on with my dad whilst my mum and little sister, Alex, chilled by the pool at a nearby resort.

This time … this weekend in fact … I returned to run instead of walk to compete in the Sabah Ultra, an event aptly named The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT). The race was yesterday.

My expectations were low … after such a trying week, I had slept little and had thought about the race even less. On the eve of the race and continuing until the early hours, the heavens opened like only Asian rains know how and the winds were ferocious.  Combine these with the tin roof of our hotel hut and it sounded like our little abode would be trashed by sunrise.

But by morning, the rains had all but gone. I got up, readied myself, read my affirmations and gathered with the others to wander the kilometre or so to the race start. The route was stunning … think quaint villages and fields, rice paddies and cabbage crops, rivers and streams, bridges and ridges, red dirt tracks and lush green jungle.

The weather remained windy but the sun was shining and the temperature, a very civilised 30c or so. The course markings were great … I only got lost once and the ribbons in the trees, unlike in Nepal, remained on the trees.  In Nepal, you can lose sight of the ribbons for ages, until of course, a pile of little girls pass you on their way to school, wearing them in their hair … annoying at the time but enormously sweet in hindsight!


The Most Beautiful Thing Ultra Trail Marathon 2012

The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT) Ultra Trail Marathon 2012 was held on 15th September 2012 (see Official Website). TMBT saw competitors competing (over 3 different categories - 27 km, 50 km and 100 km) over the Crocker Range mountains of Sabah which includes village trails, open gravel roads, very short tar sealed sections and crossing over hanging bridges on the race course with Mount Kinabalu in the background .

Below is an account from Cornelius about conquering the 100km ultra trail marathon - courtesy of his blog called Because I Say So:

I was trekking up the Kipouvo-Kokol route with my friend, Pamela Fletcher, a couple a weeks ago as part of our training programme for The Most Beautiful Thing (TMBT), and I was telling her that the easiest part of an endurance event such as a road marathon or the ultra trail marathon is the race itself. Pam was rather taken aback, but I hastened to explain my statement. You see, the hardest thing about an endurance event is in the training, not so much the event itself. A race may take a few hours to finish; perhaps up to 30 hours for an ultra trail marathon (100km) like the TMBT; whereas a decent training programme may take up to months of regular workout—running becomes almost a daily routine; and almost the entire weekends are used up for long workouts on secluded village roads in the hills.

Training requires a lot of discipline and quite often a lot of sacrifice. Such was the case when we were preparing for TMBT. This year a lot of my close friends had opted to attempt the 100km category of TMBT, although some of us were doing it for the second time.

I was chatting with a friend, Esther Sim, via Whatsapp one day, and she said she's aiming to finish the 100km in 20 hours, and I almost fell of my chair! I have gone trekking with Esther to Terian last year, and she did not seem to be an extremely strong and fast trail runner to me. So it must have meant that she's improved by leaps and bounds since then.

I was also impressed by another lady friend, Hana Harun, by her strength during training. She demonstrated her ability to sprint up a steep slope after trekking for several hours. I'm able to run uphill too, but I very rarely do so during training. I'm always approaching the endurance training the old-fashioned way—no sprinting business. Another friend, Claire, has been training almost entirely out of sight for months. Anyway, these ladies really made me think that I'm getting too old for this sort of event; they kept me on my toes! And I was, like, "I'm not even a ballerina!"

Last Saturday morning, we found ourselves at the starting line in Kundasang town. It was a fairly cold and windy morning. There were a number of familiar faces in the crowd.

Hana was also there in her outstanding outfit; and of course not forgetting Claire the creature with a pair of long sexy legs.

It was a strange start—we were still busy chit-chatting when suddenly there was a whistle, and everybody started running. We were not even aware of the countdown. A short climb to the road, and then it was a pleasant downhill stretch. I turned to Bob and suggested that we do a slow jog down the slope as a warm up; and while we were at it, I watched in amazement Esther Sim surging ahead. Others in the group—Boyd, Eric and Jonas were also among the front pack.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Most Beautiful Thing Ultra Trail Marathon 2012

Biodiversity rich Imbak Canyon largely unexplored

KOTA KINABALU: Only a small part of Imbak Canyon has been explored since it was gazetted by the government into a Class I (Protection) Forest Reserve in 2009.

Yayasan Sabah Group group manager (Conservation and Environmental Management Division) Dr Waidi Sinun said in his welcoming remarks during the forum on the findings of Imbak Canyon 2012 Wildlife Survey held at a resort near here yesterday that it would probably take several more scientific expeditions to unveil what Imbak Canyon holds.

“With only 10 per cent of Sabah’s landmass under protected area management, it is important that more effort be put into gearing towards the full protection of pristine areas such as Imbak Canyon for posterity,” he said.

He added that with the disturbance in the surrounding areas adjacent to Yayasan Sabah concession areas, especially in the state land along Pinangah, Millian and Imbak Rivers (tributaries of Upper Kinabatangan River), Imbak Canyon was increasingly becoming a refuge for wildlife, leading to increased concerns over the state of wildlife populations both inside and outside the protected areas.

“And despite the fact that tropical rainforest is known for its high biodiversity and species richness, the scarcity and the cryptic behaviour of some fauna species have resulted in scarcity of information about the species,” he said.

Waidi then commented that the lack of baseline data and the absence of accurate estimates of population trends had prevented conservationists and wildlife managers from identifying, quantifying and addressing suspected negative impact.

And that to assess the wildlife in general in Imbak Canyon and its surrounding areas, scientific-based survey must be implemented.

He touched on the Imbak Canyon survey carried out for 15 days between July 5 and July 20 this year, saying that the main objective of the operation was to create baseline wildlife database for Imbak Canyon Conservation Area.


Sarawak the country’s bird paradise

KUCHING: Sarawak, with at least 10 ideal sites for bird-watching and accessible to the public, is a birding paradise in the country.

They are Bako National Park, Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Kubah National Park, Borneo Highlands, Buntal mudflats, Lambir Hills National Park, Loagan Bunut National Park, Niah National Park, Similajau National Park and Maludam National Park.

The state’s specialist birds include the Pygmy White-eye Oculocincta Squamifrons which are easily seen in Ba’Kelalan and Borneo Highlands than anywhere else.

Gunung Mulu National Park, Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Talang-Satang National Park which are also rich in bird species are difficult to visit without permits.

There are an estimated 4,000 Chinese Egret in the world, out of these, Buntal holds 400 (or 10 per cent) of them during the winter months between September and April each year.

Some birds which are rarely seen but can be seen within the Kuching vicinity include Blue-banded Pitta (Kubah National Park, Borneo Highlands), Borneo Bristlehead (Matang Wildlife Centre & Kuching Wetlands National Park), Borneon Barbet (Borneo Highlands) and Silvery Pigeon (Pulau Talang Talang Besar).

Despite having such attractions, major overseas bird tour operators often confine themselves to Sabah as Sarawak has not made any effort to attract birders.

Lack of attention to Sarawak means a loss to the birders as well as a loss of revenue to the state.

Through birding, we protect our forests, wetlands and important bird habitats, and recruit birding guides.

Although tour operators in Sarawak may have enquiries for birding tours, they hesitate to sell them due to lack of licensed tourist guides who are trained in birding.

For these reasons, the Sarawak Tourist Guides Association (SKTGA) will be holding a bird watching workshop at Kubah National Park near here from Oct 5 to 7.

The workshop will be held in collaboration with Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) and Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), and supported by the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak.

It aims at creating interest about bird watching among licensed tourist guides; study field craft on how to identify birds, and how to use field guides; emphasis on ethics and etiquettes in bird watching; and inculcate safety considerations and bird conservation.

The organisers hoped that licensed tourist guides will appreciate the habitats where birds are found will lead to protection of these sites for conservation of birds.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak the country’s bird paradise

Friday, September 21, 2012

Boosting Borneo tourism through trans-boundary cooperation

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) will be working with the Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA), Brunei Tourism Board (BTB) and the Sabah Tourism Board to collaborate with the private sector to attract more tourists to the state.

STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said both Bandar Seri Begawan and Kota Kinabalu will be secondary hubs to bring in tourists from north Asia, China and Australia.

Presently there are more than 100 weekly direct international flights to Sabah from Kuala Lumpur, Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Clark and Manila (the Philippines), Hong Kong and Shenzhen (China), Jakarta (Indonesia), Kaoshiung and Taipei (Taiwan), Seoul (Korea), Singapore as well as Osaka and Tokyo (Japan).

“The private sector must work with travel agents in the region to bring in more tourists to Sarawak.

“Our role is to provide marketing support to these people,” Rashid told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

He was optimistic that with bigger budget allocation from the government for next year, STB would be able to do more promotions overseas.

“The bigger budget allocation for next year is a big welcome for STB as it will allow us to do more promotion and overseas programmes next year,” enthused Rashid, adding that he could not disclose the actual amount allocated to STB before the budget is approved in the upcoming DUN sitting in November.

President of the Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) Audrey Wan Ullok said its members had done their part by targeting certain markets in the regions to bring in tourists to the state.

“What we are doing is to complement the efforts of STB but we believe that more collaboration in certain areas need to be improved,” stressed Audrey.

STF members comprise travel agents, hoteliers, restaurant operators, tourist guides and car rental agencies.

Former Malaysia BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council chairman Datuk Wee Hong Seng opined that besides better air connectivity, tourism players must also improve their business connectivity with their counterparts from other countries in the region.


AirAsia to start KK-Cebu flight in December

KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia will introduce a new flight service from Kota Kinabalu to Cebu, Philippines at the end of this year through its international operation brand, AirAsia X.

Chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes in announcing this here yesterday, said the airline was also planning to start connecting Kota Kinabalu to several other destinations in Australia, Korea and Japan.

“We have seen tremendous growth of 20 per cent in Sabah, which is actually the highest anywhere. Our next stage is to put AirAsia X into Sabah and start operating flights to Sydney and Perth as well as Korea and Japan,” he said, adding the Cebu flight would commence in December.

Fernandes, who said this when delivering a talk in conjunction with Sabah International Expo 2012, however did not disclose the frequency of the new flights.

“This shows you that we put our money where our mouth is. We brought Queens Park Rangers to Sabah, even though we have offers from all kinds of places, but me and (Datuk) Kamarudin (Meranun) said we don’t care how much money they offered. They offered us in Korea, Japan.

“We wanted to say ‘Thank you Sabah’ and promised we would bring the team to Sabah, and so we did,” he said, stressing AirAsia was committed in further enhancing its international flight services in Sabah.

On a related development, Fernandes said Tune Hotels was planning to improve its presence in Kota Kinabalu by opening two new outlets, in addition to the existing one located at 1Borneo.

He said Tune Hotels operation worldwide was showing positive signs with its chains doing really well, especially in Europe.

“Malaysia now too is beginning to pick up, and we are doing very well in Indonesia and Thailand.

“We had a poor start in Kota Kinabalu and we are looking to rectify this,” he said.

The chain hotel operating with a “limited service” concept currently has 35 hotels worldwide, providing a claimed “five-star sleeping experience at a one-star price” accommodation for those looking for a cheaper travelling alternative.

Continue reading at: AirAsia to start KK-Cebu flight in December

Grateful AirAsia dedicates Musa A320 plane to Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia is dedicating one of its A320 airplanes to Sabah as a sign of appreciation for all the support the state has given to the airline.

Its group chief executive officer, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes who made the announcement yesterday, said the words ‘Thank You Sabah’ would be painted on the aircraft’s body.

“We don’t name planes very often and we have only done it for one Malaysian leader which is Tun Dr Mahathir. This airplane dedicated to Sabah will be called The Musa A320 and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman is the second Malaysian to have AirAsia’s aircraft named after him,” Tony said.

“Our engineers are painting it now and we are hoping to launch it in three months in the presence of the chief minister. It is our thank you for all your support, Sabah and will be forever there, The Musa A320.”

Tony made the announcement at the Sabah International Business Luncheon Talk 2012 (SIBC 2012) where he was the guest speaker.

According to the director of AirAsia Berhad, he and his partner would never forget the people who were there to support them when they first started out 10 years ago.

“We needed RM20 million to start, we went to every bank in Peninsular Malaysia but were rejected. My partner said he knows the Finance Minister of Sabah whom he believed can understand our vision and will help us.

“We met with Datuk Musa and Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat; after listening to us, they said they would support us. They were the only two people in Malaysia who believed in us. Sabah Development Bank gave us a RM20 million loan. The sad thing was that we didn’t have money to pay for the processing and legal fees, so we never took the loan.

“We will never forget our true friends, people who were there when we were nothing. Thank you Datuk Musa and Sabah, AirAsia would not be here without Sabah,” he said.