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Khamis, Jun 20, 2024

Liew : I was following directives from then State Cabinet and CM

Photo: Christina Liew

KOTA KINABALU: In retrospect, former State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Christina Liew said

following the Cabinet’s decision on January 29, 2020 to temporarily suspend all scheduled and chartered flights from China to Sabah with immediate effect, she was directed by the then Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal to issue a media statement to this effect on January 30.

“Although it was a difficult decision which affected 117 flights from China, it was made in the interest of the health and welfare of Sabahans,” she said in a statement on Friday.

She was commenting on Warisan Vice-President Datuk Junz Wong’s statement that the then Warisan-led Government had suspended flights from China in January 2020 and disallowed disembarkation at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), and that the flights returned to China without disembarking.

Liew, who is Tawau MP cum Api Api Assemblywoman, recalled an incident where she was instructed by the then CM to go to the KKIA  at midnight to stop an incoming flight from China, shortly after the suspension order.

“That particular flight had already left its destination for Sabah prior to being notified about the temporary travel ban. The aircraft had landed but its passengers were informed about the new ruling, and told not to disembark. They remained in the aircraft until the plane had to take off to return to its original destination.

“In representing the State Government, I had to act in the best interests of the State and her people. I was following directives from the then State Cabinet and Chief Minister.

“Until the wee hours, I was working with the relevant authorities on dealing with any other incoming flights from China and other countries,” she said.

Ken Pan

Confirming this, former Chairman of the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), Ken Pan said it was quite a hassling experience for the then Minister while at the KKIA trying to resolve an unprecedented situation.

“Together with the President of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), Datuk K.L. Tan, I was accompanying the then Minister as she discussed the issue with the airport and Immigration authorities as well as senior officials from the Chinese Consulate in Kota Kinabalu. 

“We, together with senior officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment, were there to assist on the government’s directive to temporarily suspend all incoming flights from China at the time.

“On behalf of the Government, and for the good of all stakeholders, the then Minister put her foot down in not allowing the passengers to disembark and in ordering the same aircraft to return to China with the passengers aboard. 

“By the time the matter was settled, it was already in the wee hours of the next morning when we left the KKIA to return home,” Pan recollected.