Lee (centre) together with (from left) Sharkawi, Wong, Chang Kee and Yap giving the thumbs-up to the ‘Mamma Mia – The Musical’.
SIBU: The request for Sibu-Kota Kinabalu (KK) route to be served by a jetliner is still pending approval, says Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Datuk Lee Kim Shin.
He said this when asked on the steps taken by the Sarawak government pertaining to the request by Sibu folk for this key sector to be served by bigger planes rather than the present MASwings aircraft.
“We have been taking up this to the Ministry (of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports) previously – also (with federal) Ministry of Transport as well as AirAsia.
“So now, I think AirAsia will propose to fly Sibu-KK (route). So now, we are waiting for approval,” he said on the sidelines of a press conference on ‘Mamma Mia – The Musical’ here Saturday night.
Lee represented Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to officiate at the event.
The Senadin assemblyman, however, was uncertain when this would materialise.
“We don’t know at the moment (when this will happen) after the Ministry of Transport to sort out because all this was previously under RAS (rural air service) which involves subsidy and so on.
“So, we leave it to the federal Ministry of Transport (to decide),” he added.
Pressed further if he foresaw that this would happen soon, he remarked: “Well, we would like it to happen soon. That is why we have been taking up the matter.”
AirAsia discontinued the route in August 2009 after operating for four months, as MASwings had been given exclusive rights by the government to service the rural air routes.
Recently, Sibu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) reiterated the need to upgrade flight services between Sibu and Kota Kinabalu.
Its president Dr Gregory Hii told a press conference in May this year that the sector needed larger aircrafts such as Boeing or Airbus in addition to ATR propeller planes.
“We’ve written to the previous federal government but there has not been any reply. We’ve now written to the new Minister of Transport Anthony Loke Siew Fook,” he said then.
He said in April 2018, SCCCI launched a signature campaign to request for Sibu-KK route to be serviced by Boeing/Airbus, including by low-cost carrier AirAsia, which garnered 4,205 signatures.
Hii had appealed to the minister to instruct Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCom) to allow AirAsia or Malaysia Airlines to fly this sector in addition to MASwings for the convenience of business and leisure travellers as well as Sibu folks.
Meanwhile, to a question if the direct flight for Bintulu-Singapore will be resumed, Lee stressed that all commercial airlines need passenger volume to fly.
“I think it is because of the low passenger volume they had to stop.”
For the record, AirAsia commenced its Bintulu-Singapore route in Dec 27, 2017.
Earlier, Lee said this was the first time the musical performance was held here.
“In the past, performance (was) always in Kuching and so now, we are bringing our performance out of Kuching, having performed in Miri,” he revealed.
The musical presentation, organised by Sarawak Arts Council (MSS), Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports and Sibu Resident’s Office, was performed by Sarawak State Symphony Orchestra (SONS).
“Basically, we would like to generate greater interest among Sarawakians in performing arts,” Lee said.
Some 1,000 people packed a local hotel to watch the musical performance.
Also present were Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports permanent secretary Hii Chang Kee, MSS chief executive officer Sharkawi Amit, Sibu Deputy Resident Wong Hee Sieng and the performance director Yap Chiew Phin.