KOTA KINABALU: Millions of visitors will converge on Sabah's northern Kudat district if the 108-foot majestic Mazu statue (Goddess of the Sea) project materialises, says Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.
The former Sabah chief minister said he was optimistic about the project, which had been abandoned.
Chong raised the issue during a meeting with Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew at her office here on Wednesday (March 29).
He said the statue would be a Kudat icon and the state, adding that it would be for tourism and the protection of seafarers, not just about religion per se.
Citing the example of Mazu statues that were major tourist attractions in other parts of the world, Chong said some 10 million people from mainland China visited Sanya in Hainan just to see the Quan Yin deity (Goddess of Mercy) or touch her feet.
"I am thankful to the state government and Chief Minister for their understanding and consideration for resumption of the project as brought up by Liew to resolve the long-standing issue.
"Her remark that past conflicts should be resolved amicably for the benefit of the people of Kudat and Sabah as a whole, and the state's economy, is most welcome," he said in a statement issued by Liew's office.
Chong further acknowledged Liew had pursued the matter in the past.
"In 2018, you (Liew) raised the possibility of reviving the project publicly, upon assuming the portfolio of Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister and had made a clear statement in the papers.
"But I know you were constrained under the then Parti Warisan-led Government," he said.
Describing Sabah as a leading multi-racial state, he said the state must show the world that Malaysians in Sabah respect each other and live in harmony, regardless of our diverse cultures.
According to Chong, he had also gone to see Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor several times on the matter.
"The Mazu statue will be the pride of Sabah. The Chief Minister told me that he has never objected to building the statue.
"I am of the view that putting it up would reflect the level of tolerance in the state," he said, adding the statue would be made up of 408 pieces of granite.