Positive developments seen in plan to resume Kuching-Pontianak flight route

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Abdul Karim (second left) and Raden Sigit shake hands during a ceremony to symbolise the close relations between Sarawak and Indonesia. Abdul Karim is accompanied by his wife Datin Sri Zuraini Abdul Jabbar (left), and Raden Sigit by his wife Lucy Octavia Witjaksono. — Photo courtesy of Office of Consulate-General of Indonesia in Kuching

KUCHING (Oct 19): Sarawak is still waiting for the flight connectivity between Pontianak and Kuching to commence.

In voicing this out, Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah says the situation in Sarawak is getting better after weathering two years of Covid-19 pandemic.

“If the land border crossing is already possible, God-willing, I believe it (air connectivity between Sarawak and Kalimantan)should materialise before the end of this year,” he said during a press conference held after officiating at the 77th Independence Day of the Republic of Indonesia celebration at a hotel here yesterday, which also hosted the Commemoration Anniversary of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).

Adding on, Abdul Karim also said the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Indonesia, especially between Sarawak and Kalimantan, had grown ever closer.

“Before Covid-19 struck, the relationship between the two regions had been very good for many years and in this respect, I hope that both sides would continue to support each other.

“Sarawakians, in particular, like to go visit Indonesia especially to enjoy the culinary delights there,” he said at the press conference where Consul-General of Republic of Indonesia in Sarawak, Raden Sigit Witjaksono was also present.

In his remarks, the Indonesian representative said he would soon be meeting those from the republic’s Transportation Ministry to convey the need for Supadio International Airport in Pontianak to reactivate its Pontianak-Kuching flight route.

“It is our big hope to increase our cooperation in tourism, be it set for culinary or medical tourism, and in this regard, the opening of flight connectivity apart from the land borders, would present a big opportunity for the present and of course, in the future.

“From Sarawak, the trips to Indonesia are usually for culinary tourism, but those from Kalbar (West Kalimantan), it is medical tourism, which is a huge potential area for Sarawak.

“Since April 2022 (the reopening of land borders), there have been so many vehicles coming in from Kalbar; it’s known that they (Indonesians from Kalbar) have been going to the hospitals in Sarawak,” said Raden Sigit, adding that in pursuing the plan to enhance flight connectivity between the two regions, several meetings with Sarawak Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin had been made.

“Of course, we hope for more flights (between Sarawak and Kalimantan) in the near future.”

Adding on, Raden Sigit said the Indonesian government had always been highly attentive to the development of the bordering regionssuch as the Papua, East Nusa Tenggara and those along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.

“One aspect of this is the development of the National Border Posts (PLBN) in Entikong, Aruk and Nanga Badau – all equipped with immigration, quarantine, customs, and security services and facilities.

“The Indonesian government is also preparing for the development of several other PLBNs; God-willing, the PLBN at Jagoi Babang in the Bengkayang Regency, Kalbar, should be completed this year,” he said.

On the planned relocation of Indonesia’s capital to East Kalimantan, Raden Sigit said the impact would not only be felt by those in Kalimantan, but it would also spread to the eastern part of Indonesia.

“Increasing the dynamics of growth in the island of Borneo is an opportunity to enhancethe cooperation between Indonesia and Sarawak, and more broadly, throughout Borneo,” he said.

He then pointed out the visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Kuching in 2017 as proof that Sarawak had received great attention from the republic.

“The cooperation between Indonesia and Sarawak has been on-going, covering various fields such as employment, energy, road construction, trade, borders, and also culture.

“Nonetheless, there are still many opportunities that can be identified, developed and improved on for the betterment of the people of Indonesia and Sarawak,” he added.