Sunday, September 20

Wong won’t let Pandaw Cruise go just yet

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A BEACON OF HOPE: Locals are keeping their fingers crossed that the Pandaw Cruise operator will reverse their decision to cease operations.

SIBU: Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh yesterday said the Pandaw Cruise operator would be persuaded to continue operating along the Rajang River.

“I hope it is not their final decision. We will find time to persuade them to see whether or not they will carry on (the operations),” Wong, who is also Minister of Local Government and Community Development, told The Borneo Post.

The Sibu Municipal Council (SMC)’s Culture, Arts, Sports and Tourism Standing Committee was disturbed by the decision by Irrawaddy Flotilla Company to cease Malaysia’s first river cruise.

Its chairman Sempurai Petrus Ngelai reportedly said during SMC’s full council meeting last week that they would bring the matter to Wong’s attention.

He said that during the past two years of its operation, the river cruise had lured tourists to Sibu and boosted its tourism industry.

Wong, when asked later if the cessation of the river cruise would affect the tourism industry in Sibu, said: “Yes, to a certain extent.”

Meanwhile, Irrawaddy Flotilla Company stated in the Pandaw newsletter dated Nov 24 last year that it would stop the river cruise on the 640km Rajang River.

The newsletter cited operational and logistical difficulties as reasons for the cessation.

It was reported in several newspapers that it would sail up Malaysia’s longest river for the last time in March, and that its swan song voyage was already almost fully booked.

Meanwhile, when contacted earlier, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) said it had been notified, but could not do much.

“It’s a commercial venture. The Pandaw cruise is subject to market forces,” STB director of Corporate Communication Angelina Bateman reportedly said.

STB, she said, could not get involved, except helping them in promotion since it was a commercial operation.

The R V Orient Pandaw can accommodate 60 people at any one time. Its maiden cruise along the Rajang River was on July 1, 2009.

Tourists visited many places of interest and had a first-hand experience of the cultures of various communities throughout the nine-day cruise, besides sampling a myriad of local delicacies.

Their itinerary included, among others, a stop-over in Kanowit and a visit to a rubber plantation. While there, they would also visit Fort Emma and a handicraft centre.

In Kapit, tourists were brought to visit the Teresang Market, which is often packed with jungle produce.

The disembarking point is in Sibu.