Contact Us Other Languages

UK may review Sabah travel advisory

Kota Kinabalu: British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell has raised the possibility of reviewing the United Kingdom’s travel advisory on islands off Sabah’s east coast, following positive developments lately.

“We review these things from time to time. That is why in the last two years, I have gone to see Esscom (Eastern Sabah Security Command) and the security installations. I was very impressed at the difference over two years at the scene.

“From all the investments we have seen put into security, we have to tell people what happened in the past that new security has made this a safe environment so that people can visit but have to be vigilant as you’d expect anyway.

“I would love to be able to make a recommendation that we ease the travel advice on islands off the east coast of Sabah,” she said, during a courtesy call on Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Christina Liew at her office at Wisma Tun Fuad Stephens, Wednesday.

Vicki was responding to the Minister’s vision of getting more tourists from Britain and the European Union to set foot on Sabah.

Speaking to the Daily Express later, she said:

“I won’t want to set a date. As I advised the Minister (Liew), we are going to do a review.

We are going to look at the improvements on security made by the Government.

We know that a lot of our British come anyway.

“And once we have done that review, we will make a decision. I am hopeful that we can make a decision you’ll like.”

Vicki, the first woman British High Commissioner to Malaysia, was accompanied by British Honorary Consul-Sabah Robert M. New, British High Commission Kuala Lumpur Head of Consular Department Karen Song and Adviser to the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur Maha Balakrishnan. Also present were the Ministry’s Deputy Permanent Secretary, Mariam Omar Matusin and Sabah Tourism Board General Manager, Suzaini Sabdin Ghani.

In 2017, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a travel advisory cautioning its citizens against travelling to all islands off eastern Sabah over a spate of kidnappings.

However, there have been no such attempts the past two years following increased Esscom surveillance and a dusk-to-dawn sea curfew.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir also said prior to the elections that the new Federal Government would make use of military drones to detect incursions in advance by southern Philippines-based militants.

The FCO had in its website listed Kudat, Tawau, Mabul, Sipadan and Semporna, among others, as destinations that should be avoided.

In a two-hour discussion, Liew enlightened Vicki on her vision and mission to bring Sabah to new heights in terms of tourism growth, promoting Sabah overseas, wildlife conservation and environmental protection as well as preservation of its rich cultural heritage.

Asked in what way Britain can help Sabah, she said:

“First of all, moral support so I advocate everything the Minister is trying to do to achieve a balanced tourism growth and a sustainable tourism industry which is vital to the economy, to save wildlife such as elephants and turtles, and also to support indigenous women handicraft-makers from the interior of Sabah.

“I think as Sabah looks at the policies it wants to develop on the reform agenda, there are things we are trying to do at the national and federal level with the Government.

“But when I meet Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal tomorrow (Thursday), I will ask him if there is anything Britain can do for Sabah. We will take parliamentary reform, we will be bringing some people out from the UK.

There is no reason why we can’t get the budget, not necessarily from Sabah to bring them here, to see if there are things he wants to do with the State Assembly.”

There are some specific programmes that Vicki would like to see such as combating the illegal wildlife trade, adding there are a couple of small projects that Britain would like to do and fund by bringing British expertise out here.

“And that was one reason why I wanted to visit Sepilok (Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre) and the Sun bear Conservation Centre,” she said.

In response to Liew’s request for Britain to send more English language teachers here to help young people improve their proficiency in English, which is in line with the Malaysian Government’s policy of strengthening the English language while upholding the Malay language, Vicki said:

“The demand for English is very strong here. I don’t know what we will be able to do but I do think there is something we need to respond to on that front.”

According to her, the British High Commission had been here with education missions and technical and vocational education is one area where they would like to see what they can do.

“There is a range of issues but I think to encourage the new government on its anti-corruption and good governance drive is really important. And you can guess from my conversation with his wonderful Minister, I will be advocating for the Gender Equality Act.”

To the Minister’s question on the closure of the British Council Office in Sabah some years ago, she said:

“We knew there were good people who could act as honorary consuls. But you never know.

I can’t promise but every few years, we renew our international footprint. And if there is a critical mass of British interests here, if that became the case, we might look at the issue again.

“But at the moment, we are very happy with our Honorary Consul-Sabah because we get great people to do it.” Vicki would also be travelling to Kudat to visit the Tun Mustapha Marine Park for a close-range view of its coral conservation work. – Mary Chin

Source: Daily Express Newspaper Online | Aug 16, 2018