PETALING JAYA: The travel advisory against Malaysia by the US government over potential kidnapping is "unjustified" as the situation on the ground is under control due to continuous operations conducted by the enforcement agencies, says Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) senior vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).
"Although the travel advisory reflected the United States government's concerns over potential kidnapping or hostage-taking situations in certain areas of eastern Sabah, it will also affect tourists' confidence to come to Malaysia, especially the coastal areas," he said in a statement Sunday (April 21).
It was reported that Malaysia had been placed on the "K" list in a travel advisory issued by the US State Department on April 9.
Lee said for the locals in Sabah or those who have visited the state, they could see how tourists continue to come in droves, including to the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
It was reported that tourist arrivals in Sabah had grown by 5.5%, reaching 3.87 million last year. Sabah was also ranked top five of the most visited states in Malaysia last year while Kota Kinabalu was ranked number nine in the Top Destinations for Asian Travellers during the recent Lunar New Year.
Lee noted that Malaysia also continued to be attractive to American tourists, with 2018 recording an increase of 27.9% in US tourist arrivals, bringing the total to 253,384.
"The police have also given their assurance that the situation in Esszone is under control as continuous operations are being conducted against militants," he said.
He noted that Malaysia has scored an overall global ranking of 25 in the world Global Peace Index last year which means that it is a safe country to visit.
"However, we must accept the affect that there is no country in the world which is free from crime including Malaysia. But tourists can be safe as long as they use common sense and take advice from the authorities, hotels and tour agents," he said.
Lee said as for other crimes nationwide, there was a decline of 11.9% or 11,949 cases last year compared with 2017.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quoted saying a total of 88,662 cases were reported last year compared to a threshold value of 100,611 cases.
In 2017, the crime index dropped by 13,186 cases or 11.7% over 2016.
He said police also believed that their Volunteer Smartphone Patrol (VSP) mobile app, which was launched on March 25, 2017, and its 1.2 million members nationwide was one of the contributing factors in the decrease of the crime index nationwide.
However, Lee said the police must take appropriate and effective steps to improve public perception of safety which has remained unchanged.
"The police should increase their cooperation with other enforcement agencies, local communities, NGOs and private entities in order to gain the confidence of the public, which would lead to faster information sharing," he said.
"Constant engagement between the police and public is also needed as such interaction can create a bond of trust.
"Seeing the police on patrol for example, could help alleviate the public's concerns on their safety," he said, adding that everyone must also be vigilant and take proactive measures that would not give criminals an opportunity to strike.