Harris tells where KL has failed Labuan

Kota Kinabalu: Former Sabah Chief Minister Harris Salleh has called for the closure of the air force base in Labuan as a measure that would help the Federal Territory realise its potential as a tourist destination.

He alleged that the air force's presence on the island had not brought it any benefit.

"Its only contribution is to wake up people at 3am with training flights," he said in a recent interview with FMT.

"The federal government should move the air force base to Tawau, where there is a need. Labuan doesn't need the air force."

He chided Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein for saying the air force's presence in Labuan would contribute to the protection of Brunei. "Can you imagine talk like that?" he said.

Labuan is said to be struggling to become a popular tourist destination despite declarations by federal authorities that they are determined to ensure that it would become one.

According to Harris, one of Putrajaya's mistakes is to give control of administrative committees to federal representatives who are outsiders. These committees should be chaired by Labuanites, he said.

He declared his belief that the island could still become popular with tourists provided the authorities were serious enough to "properly develop it as a tourist place".

He gave the example of deep sea fishing as an activity that could be developed.

"About 100km out, there is plenty of tuna," he said. "They can develop fishing in Labuan if they do it properly.

"But they afraid of trying because they failed in Terengganu. They failed in Terengganu because they took ships out with Malay crew. The crew got seasick and didn't want to be at sea.

"So the Thai crew was brought back. But when they caught the fish, they didn't take the catch back to Terengganu. The Thais sold them at sea instead."

Harris said Labuan could also be rebranded as a duty free destination to boost shopping tourism.

"The federal government should get the Dubai Duty Free brand for Labuan and pay the brand owner royalty," he said.

"But they must first commercialise the airport, extend the runway, and upgrade the terminal.

If they extend the runway, even military planes can land there." He also called for the construction of tourist resorts that take advantage of the fact that Labuan "has clear water all around it".

Source: http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/news.cfm?NewsID=120760


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