Players in the Sabah tourism industry are strongly behind the state government’s decision to review the procedure of land leasing by Sabah Parks.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) vice-president K.L Tan said there was a serious need to address the weaknesses in the application process.
“We have read that many resorts have been engaging illegal workers and this jeopardises the security of Sabah. It is time the Sabah government looked into land lease by Sabah Parks, especially following the recent kidnapping in Semporna.”
“It will do well for future development and restore investors’ confidence,” he said when commenting on the state government’s decision to temporarily freeze all new applications to lease land from Sabah Parks.
The decision to tighten security in Sabah was made pending a move by the state government to take over the powers of the Sabah Parks Board of Trustees in approving leases for the setting up of resorts.
Sabah Parks is a conservation-based statutory body set up in 1962 with the purpose of conserving the scenic, scientific and historic heritage of the state.
It is also mandated to develop tourism-friendly facilities to accommodate tourists to these reserves and ensure that the state of the reserves is not compromised.
On April 2, seven gunmen abducted Chinese tourist Gao Hua Yuan, 29, and Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort Filipina staff Marcy Dayawan, 40, from the premises.
The kidnapping came five months after a Taiwanese tourist was kidnapped and her husband shot dead by gunmen on Pom Pom island resort. The tourist was rescued in December.
Sabah Tourist Association (STA) chairman Tonny Chew welcomed the decision as he felt the current Eastern Sabah Security Command was still facing challenges in safeguarding the state’s coastline.
“It is not rational to have more resorts before a more effective way of protecting our eastern coastline is put in place.
“Resort operators should not employ illegals as this can jeopardise the safety of our tourists and security of the nation as a whole,” he said.
Former STA chairman and Matta in-bound sub-committee member L.P Liew, however, felt the move to freeze building of new resorts, would impede the development of the state’s tourism sector.
“As it is, we are already experiencing a shortage of lodging for tourists … we do need more resorts.
“If the government were to take over (Sabah Parks’) power, it may discourage investments.”
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