KOTA KINABALU: The Federal Government is ready to hand back the management of the renowned diving haven of Sipadan island to the state government.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad agreed that it be managed by the state.
The island came under the management of the National Security Council after the International Court of Justice in 2002 awarded territorial ownership to Malaysia, after a dispute with Indonesia.
Sipadan was made a marine protected area managed by Sabah Parks in 2005 under the authority of the National Security Council after the Federal Government put it under the Protected Areas And Protected Places Act.
Shafie said the issue of Sipadan was brought up during several discussions with the Prime Minister when he chaired the Special Cabinet Committee on the implementation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
“I requested (it) from Dr Mahathir in several meetings; he agreed,” he told reporters after meeting with Japanese investors proposing an eco-resort on Pulau Sulug and an organic poultry farm here yesterday.He said he expected the Cabinet to discuss the matter and process the handing over of the island’s management in due course.
Shafie disclosed the request for Sipadan’s management to be returned to the state when asked about a call by Semporna Professional Divers Association to make divers marine rangers in the wake of a fish-bombing incident that killed a Malaysian dive master and two China tourists in waters off Semporna on Friday.
“Once the management is handed over, we will look at how best we can absorb professional divers as sea rangers.
“We can consider qualified master divers and those well trained.
“We must ensure they can guide not only locals but tourists going into certain areas where it is safer,” he said.
He said they were also looking at state enactments, including fisheries and marine parks ordinances, to allow for more punitive action against fish-bombing activities.
“Sometimes offenders, despite being caught, were allowed to go because enactments were too vague to charge them in court ,” he said.
Thus, he said, the laws were in need of a long overdue review.
“We must put a stop to fish bombing. It is not healthy, it endangers the environment and our food supply,” he said.