KUALA LUMPUR, April 18 ― US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir was summoned by Wisma Putra to give an explanation regarding the US government’s decision to include Malaysia in the “K” indicator list of its Travel Advisory.
A press release by the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that Lakhdir met acting secretary-general Raja Datuk Nushirwan Zainal Abidin who delivered a protest note expressing the Putrajaya's objection to the US move to flag Malaysia as a country with high abduction risk.
The ministry pointed out that the advisory was for the whole country when previous incidents were isolated to the eastern coast of Sabah.
“The ministry reiterates that security and safety of tourists throughout Malaysia including in eastern Sabah continues to be a top priority. Malaysia has been taking proactive measures to ensure the security of eastern Sabah.
“This is reflected in the significant drop of kidnapping cases to almost nil last year. The US ambassador took note of the Malaysian government's protest and concerns and would duly convey them to Washington.
“It was recalled that Malaysia continues to be attractive to US tourists and 2018 recorded an increase of 27.9 per cent in tourist arrivals from the US, bringing the total to 253,384,” said the statement.
According to Wisma Putra, Lakhdir had explained during the meeting that the travel advisory categorises a country into four possible tiers based on the US State Department's assessment of the safety and security situation.
She noted that in previous years, Malaysia as a whole has been placed in Tier 1, reserved for the safest countries and which is the lowest risk.
However, she explained that eastern Sabah is subject to the “K” indicator due to the US' concerns of potential kidnappings and hostage taking.
It was recalled that in the previous travel advisory, that area was subject to “C” (crimes) and “T” (terrorism) indicators, which were broader in nature.
It was then pointed out that Eastern Sabah is no longer subject to these two indicators.
“Both parties agreed that it would be useful if, in the future, the Malaysian government is informed prior to similar announcements being made,” the statement said.