Focus on boat search and rescue not point fingers, Sabah minister says

By Julia Chan
File picture of security and health authorities at the Kota Kinabalu marine police headquarters jetty receiving the rescued China tourists at about 1.50am January 30, 2017. Five people are still missing from the incident. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Jan 30 — A Sabah minister has urged the public to allow authorities to focus on search and rescue efforts of the remaining missing persons in a boat accident last Saturday, instead of finger-pointing and looking for a guilty party to place blame.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said today investigations into the incident are already underway, but it is too early to come to a conclusion.

“I have asked Sabah MoTAC to initiate an investigation as they are the licensing authority,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail Online, referring to his ministry.

Masidi added he will wait for the results before commenting on the tour operators’ involvement in the accident.

He said that the government and his ministry’s focus was on the continued search and rescue operations and extending care of those who have been rescued.

“Perhaps it may not be in the best interest of the bereaved family, or even our country, to go on fault finding at this point of time,” he said.

“There is so much sadness from the tragic incident. Lives were lost. We should be consoling the family so that their loss is slightly more bearable instead of making so many unnecessary comments that that may hurt their feelings, like the proverbial rubbing salt to the wound.”

In the incident on Saturday, a boat carrying 28 Chinese national tourists and three local crew members had taken off from the city towards Mengalum Island when it was hit by bad weather.

The boat capsized and left all of the passengers adrift. So far, 22 people have been rescued, three have died and six are still missing.

The public and industry players have been urging authorities to investigate the company involved and check whether safety procedures were followed.

Among the allegations were that the boat operator had overloaded the catamaran which was officially permitted to take only 18 people.

They were also accused of using a different jetty at a private resort to avoid paying fees at the public jetty.