“Crime and terrorism can happen anywhere and anytime. It is a global issue and not exclusive to Sabah.” Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) inbound vice president Datuk Tan Kok Liang was expressing disappointment at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s actions in raising the terrorism threat level for the islands off Sabah from “general” to “high”.
According to Tan, the travel advisory, which was based on a high-profile kidnapping in May last year, was not really fair or balanced. “For example, a group of terrorists killed 130 people and injured another 368 in Paris last November, but there was no travel advisory against visiting France or the capital city, and rightly so. We had issued a press statement ‘Matta in solidarity with people in France’ and Paris was back on its feet in no time.”
Referring to the Sabah case, he said that information should be obtained directly from reliable sources. “We should gather from those on the ground and none better than the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) Commander Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid, who has confirmed that there hasn’t been any untoward incidents thus far and tourists are still visiting popular tourist spots there. He has confirmed that there are no imminent threats that can jeopardise the state’s security and safety of the people.”
Tan added that Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun believes that Sabah’s east coast is not unsafe with a sea curfew in place and round-the-clock surveillance. And according to Masidi, the fact that all the island resorts are packed with tourists is a clear indication of tourists’ confidence in the security situation in the east coast of Sabah.
“Any misinformation or false reporting must be corrected before they are accepted as facts if repeated often enough,” Tan said, even offering to host the stay for those issuing travel advisories so that they can report on the actual safety and security situation, instead of fear mongering and frightening tourists away from a safe destination.
“Travel advisories would be more fair and balanced if the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office verifies the information with the Malaysian Ministries of Home Affairs or Foreign Affairs first before issuing them,” he concluded. – Ming Teoh