PETALING JAYA: An Umno lawmaker in Sabah has heavily criticised Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz for saying that the safety of tourists in the state could not be guaranteed until two recent kidnappings were resolved.
Datuk Masidi Manjun, who is the state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister, said his Federal counterpart’s statement threatened to undo the hard work undertaken by the Sabah tourism authorities to bring back tourists to the state.
“For him to say that he will not guarantee the safety of tourists in Lahad Datu until the two cases of kidnapping are solved does not make any logical sense.
“It is like saying he cannot guarantee the safety of passengers to travel on our national airline (Malaysia Airlines) until MH370 case is solved or that he cannot guarantee that snatch thieves will not attack tourists in Kuala Lumpur since many cases remain unsolved,” Masidi said on Tuesday.
Masidi maintained that Lahad Datu is a safe place despite Nazri’s statement that he would not personally visit the district in Sabah troubled by a hostile intrusion by Sulu gunmen last year.
“Lahad Datu town is not exactly a tourist spot and has never been one. But Lahad Datu is safe.
“The United States Ambassador to Malaysia and his wife recently spent the night in Lahad Datu on the way to Danum Valley.
“I am saddened that while a foreign ambassador has full confidence in the ability of our security forces to ensure the safety of tourists in Lahad Datu, our own Tourism Minister thinks otherwise,” he told the Star Online.
Masidi also said that despite a fall in the number of Chinese tourists to the state, there was a significant increase in arrivals from Japan (27.7%), South Korea (18.7%) and Europe (13.1%).
“These figures are for the first seven months of this year. Most island resorts are also still doing roaring business,” he added.
Nazri told Parliament on Monday that certain places in Sabah were still unsafe for tourists, and said he would not order tourism officials to promote the state.
The Federal minister said many foreign tourists admitted that the recent kidnappings in Sabah had dented the country’s image further than the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
“I do not want to be responsible for guaranteeing the safety of tourists in Sabah because if one gets kidnapped, I will be blamed,” he said in reply to a question from Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid when wrapping up the 2015 Supplementary Bill for his ministry.
Nazri said many foreign tourists were not aware of the distance between districts like Kota Kinabalu and Sipadan in Sabah, and believed they were all in the same area.