KOTA KINABALU, Oct 15 — Sarawak could reconsider its stringent Immigration requirements for Sabahans entering the state, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
However, he said such a move would need careful study before implementation.
“For Sabahans and Sarawakians, it’s no problem but we have factors we have to consider,” he said, in a possible allusion to Sabah’s chronic illegal immigrant issue.
“Perhaps one day we would want to relax it. So it’s a bit free flow between Sabah and Sarawak,” he said when speaking to reporters after attending a state dinner with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal here yesterday.
Reporters asked him about the long-delayed move to lift the immigration restrictions on Sabahans entering Sarawak.
In 1984, Sabah altered its immigration rules to give Sarawakians unrestricted entry into the state and Sarawak was meant to reciprocate but did not.
As part of its agreement during the formation of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak have control over their respective immigration matters, requiring peninsular residents to obtain work permits to work here. Sabahan were also required to obtain work permits in Sarawak.
Among topics discussed during Abang Johari’s visit was the possibility of setting up an airline specifically to serve Sabah, Sarawak and other areas of Borneo.
Abang Johari said that the airline would not only serve the vast rural areas of the two states but would also be able to help tourism for Malaysia and within Borneo.
“Connectivity is important, I suggest that Sabah and Sarawak set up our own airline. We can put our heads together and think about this,” he said.
“If it can be done then we will do it, if not then we look for an alternative on how to develop connectivity in our tourism industry as the future is bright,” he said.
Shafie said that while costs for such an endeavour would be high, connectivity was an important factor to stimulate movement and the economy for the rural areas of the two largest states in Malaysia.
“I do not see a problem because both states have their own aircraft charter services. Sabah has Sabah Air and Sarawak has Hornbill Skyways,” he said.
“We can do a study on how best to do this. Maybe it is time to look into this,” he said, adding that the flights would hopefully extend to include Kalimantan and Brunei.
“If it is meant for certain routes, then it is a good move. For example, if we want to go to Samarinda, we will have to take a flight to Kuala Lumpur and then to Jakarta to fly into Samarinda,” he said.