CM wants full probe on Sipadan incident

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman has ordered a full probe into the incident at Pulau Sipadan, off Semporna in the east coast. And, he said the project would be stopped temporarily pending the outcome of the investigation. “I want a full report on the matter as soon as possible,” he told a Press conference here yesterday.

Musa who is also Finance Minister, said the project proposal was submitted to him in May last year and that as far as he knew, the scope of the project was only RM2.6 million. He said he had asked his SUT (Finance Ministry’s permanent secretary) to check and brief him on the project. The project undertaken by Kumpulan Surati Sdn Bhd was initiated by the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry through Sabah Parks.

“This should not have happenedÖit is unacceptable,” he said of the damage done to corals by the steel barge when it anchored at Sipadan’s dropoff point early this week. Musa added that he believed they received the green light from the Joint Committee to oversee Sipadan which involved both the state and federal governments. “The reason we asked the operators to vacate the island a few years ago was because we did not want any major development on the island. “We wanted to protect the environment in SipadanÖthere should not be any construction of heavy structures using steel and concrete there,” he added.

Musa also said facilities like toilets should be built using lighter and environmentally-friendly materials. The Sabah Parks, he pointed out had failed in carrying out its duties. “They have been entrusted to look after the island and they should monitor all activities there,” he said. The Chief Minister also said his deputy Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister would brief him on the matter on Saturday.

It was reported this week that a barge, anchored at Sipadan’s dropoff point had caused substantial damage to the corals. The contractor was only authorised to use boats (kumpit) to bring building materials like cement and sand to the island, and the use of a barge was never allowed.

The matter came to light after FiNS Magazine associate editors Andrew and Antonella Ferrari took pictures of the steel barge and damaged corals and posted them on the Internet. They said that in the process of being beached, the barge’s flat steel hull wiped away the corals like a giant knife slicing through butter, leaving in its wake hundreds of square metres of unnaturally flat limestone and a veritable wall of corals.

Kah Kiat was quoted as saying on Thursday that a team of divers from Sabah Parks would assess the coral damage on Monday and submit to him a full report. He also said he had asked Sabah Parks to take action against the contractor. The steel barge which was transporting building materials to Sipadan had already been towed to Semporna.

Source: New Sabah Times, 20 May 2006