Boat license named Leong as skipper, court told


KOTA KINABALU: There were no changes to the boat skipper’s name as stated in the license of the catamaran boat involved in the tragedy while ferrying China tourists to Mengalum Island in January, the Sessions Court was told yesterday.

Salim Paeei, 54, an officer of Sabah Ports and Harbour Department (SPHD), who testified before judge Noor Hafizah Mohd Salim, said that he had received a letter from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) which requested for details of the boat skipper.

To a question by deputy public prosecutor Nurun Nazifah Muhammad Iyen from MMEA, he said he had replied the letter and verified that the name of the boat skipper as registered in the boat license was Leong Vin Jee, 44, and not Sharezza Salian, 23.

He also said that there was no application for a change of name of the boat skipper and it was an offence to change the boat skipper without an application to the SPHD.

Nurun: What is the procedure that should be complied by the boat skipper if any changes were to be made in the boat license?

Salim: The boat owner should submit a written application to SPHD if he wanted to make changes in the details of the license.

In the cross-examination by counsel Benazir Japiril Bandaran, who represented Sharezza, Salim agreed that Sharezza was not the skipper of the catamaran boat as there was no change made in the license to the name of the boat skipper.

To a question by deputy public prosecutor Nartiah M. Sambatan, Salim, who had received a letter from the police for an application to examine 30 life jackets and five lifebuoys which were found after the incident, said that he could not ensure when the items had been damaged.

He believed that the licensing agency had ensured all of the safety equipment were in good condition before issuing a license and the damage which he found on the inspected lifebuoys was already present before the incident happened.

Meanwhile during cross-examination by counsel Edward Paul, who represented Leong and Chung Ket Siew @ Chung Siaw Ping, 64, Salim said he did not take the life jackets and lifebuoys on water for a test.

He agreed with Edward that the victims would not last in water for more than 30 hours without functional life jackets and lifebuoys, and he could not ensure that the life jackets and lifebuoys had already been damaged before the incident or due to the incident.

Edward: You had said that before a license is issued, safety equipment such as lifebuoys and life jackets are checked and you said that the lifebuoy will not have damage during the incident. Then, before this you have also said that the lifebuoys have already been damaged. Isn’t it contradictory?

Salim: At the time of checking done by the licensing agency, the safety equipment were in good condition but I believed that the items could have been changed or vice versa. It is not my duty to monitor it full time.

Salim, who is the 12th witness, testified inconsistently in the trial of the catamaran tragedy involving Sharezza, who was the skipper, Leong, the operation manager of the travel company, and Chung, the owner of the travel company.

On March 16, Sharezza, Leong and Chung, who face up to 10 charges over the catamaran tragedy, claimed trial to the charges read to them.

The three accused were each charged with causing hurt to 20 passengers, all from China aged between 17 and 50, by taking the boat to sea so negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others.

They were charged under Section 337 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to six months or a maximum fine of RM1,000, or both, upon conviction.

Sharezza, Leong and Chung were also alleged to have negligently caused the death of four China nationals, including two women, aged 27 and 49, but not amounting to culpable homicide.

The charges were framed under Section 304A of the Penal Code, which provides for a jail term of up to two years, or a fine, or both, on conviction.

Sharezza and Leong also face two joint charges under the Ports and Harbours Regulations 2008 for failure to keep on the passenger boat the appropriate safety equipment at all times and for embarking the passengers at Kampung Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty here, which was not a designated landing point.

The offences were framed under Regulation 16 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) Regulations 2008 and Regulation 13 of the Ports and Harbours (Ports, Harbours and Dues) Regulations 2008, respectively.

The indictment carries a maximum fine of RM500,000 or a jail term of up to two years, or both, on conviction.

Meanwhile, Leong and Chung were jointly accused of failing to keep the boat licence on the passenger boat at all times, which was charged under Regulation 9 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) Regulations 2008.

Chung was also alleged to have employed Sharezza as the skipper of the boat without altering and reporting the particulars of the skipper to the nearest licensing authority, an offence framed under Regulation 13 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) Regulations 2008.

All of the alleged offences were committed at Kampung Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty, at a travel company in Asia City and in the waters off the coast of Mengalum Island here between 9.15 am and 11 am on January 28.

Leong and Chung were released on bail of RM19,000 and RM16,000 with RM3,500 and RM3,000 to be deposited respectively, with two local sureties while Sharezza is currently released on bail with a deposit of RM1,500, pending disposal of the case.

Counsel Benazir appeared together with counsel Michelle Usman under the National Legal Aid Foundation.