KOTA KINABALU: Illegal tour and boat operators have been warned to stop their operations immediately.
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Pang Yuk Ming said Thursday it seems that it's business as usual for these operators even after the catamaran tragedy involving 28 Chinese tourists on Jan 28.
"We want them to stop operations now. You know who your are," he said after chairing a meeting on the tragedy here Thursday.
Pang said the tragedy should serve as a lesson to the whole industry and no such incident should recur.
On Pulau Mengalum, where the ill-fated catamaran was headed when it sank, Pang said three-quarters of the land on the island belongs to private individuals.
"The rest is state land and there are illegal structures erected there," he said.
Pang said these illegal structures will be demolished in a week and warning letters are being issued to the people involved by Friday.
For those claiming to have the proper documents and licences to operate tours and chalets at the island, he advised them to recheck everything and be sure that they are operating legally.
"Please make sure all the requirements for your operations are met and if you are not sure, cease operations for the time being until everything is cleared," he said.
On the meeting, Pang said the authorities and the ministry will see if there is a need for a total overhaul of the tourism industry in the state.
He also said that the authorities have found that there were indeed violations of rules, including the use of the jetty, and unlicensed operators carrying visitors to the island.
"Further discussions on the next course of action will be held in our next meeting," he said.
In the tragedy, the catamaran with 31 people on board – comprising 28 Chinese nationals and three crew members – sank at about 10am after departing the Tanjung Aru jetty an hour earlier.
The search effort began immediately after the company operating the vessel reported the mishap to the authorities 12 hours after the incident.
Most were rescued on Sunday afternoon. Twenty of the Chinese tourists survived the sea ordeal, while three died.
Five Chinese nationals and a local crew member are still missing.