SIBU: A signature campaign seeking 300,000 signatures to convince airlines and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) of the need for an open sky policy here was launched yesterday.
Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh said air connectivity was crucial to efforts in making this town become an educational hub and tourism centre for the central region.
“This signature campaign is to bring to the attention of all airlines, not only the existing airlines in Malaysia – AirAsia, MAS, MasWings and Malindo. We would like to bring to the attention of other international airlines such as those from China. We want to tell them (airlines) we have the volume so that they can pay greater attention to our demands.
“We also want to bring to the kind attention of federal MOT telling them it is not right to give these monopoly rights to some airlines at the expense of entire peoples and the economy of the central region. Today, we have this open sky for Sibu, hoping the ministry would make the necessary decision to open up skies for Sibu and the central region,” he said at the launch.
The United People’s Party (UPP) president stressed the need to facilitate the movement of people from the central region to the outside world.
“As it is now, air connectivity to the outside world is rather restricted where, more often than not, people travelling overseas have to go through Kota Kinabalu, Kuching or Kuala Lumpur on transit to other destinations,” he said, noting that tourists preferred direct flights.
He also called on the private sector to develop tourism infrastructure to promote culture, adventure and nature tourism in the central region.
Wong added that the campaign was also to show the people’s appreciation of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem, particularly for what he had done for the Chinese community.
Soon Koh said Adenan had made 50 major decisions and policies for the benefit of all the folk here.
“So throughout the signature campaign, I hope through you, we would approach some 300,000 people. When you go out, you wear this T-shirt with ‘I Love CM’ printed on the front. Indirectly, we tell them that we have to support our CM, giving him a full mandate to lead Sarawak’s people for the next five years. It is vitally important we have such an open-minded CM. He will want to establish an administration which is marked by efficiency, accountability and transparency,” he added.
The signature campaign is a joint project by the Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) and UPP central region, comprising Bawang Assan, Pelawan, Dudong, Bukit Assek, Sarikei, Meradong and Kanowit branches.
The campaign — held in connection with Visit Sibu Year (VSY) 2017 which will run until Jan 31 — hopes to get airlines to offer direct flights to Singapore, Guangzhou or Fuzhou in China, or Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Among those present at the event were SMC chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King, campaign working committee chairperson Kapitan Datuk Janet Lau, political secretaries to the chief minister — Pau Kiew Chuang and Andrew Shilling —as well as Pemanca Datuk Wong Kie Yek.