Semporna kidnap: Sabah to act on White Rajahs

Semporna kidnap: Sabah to act on White Rajahs
Some China tourists arriving at the Semporna jetty after snorkelling at one of the nearby islands.

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah authorities will investigate resort operators who engage foreigners as dive masters under the guise of guests in diving islands off Semporna, says state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun.

He said officials would be looking into how these foreigners could be working illegally as scuba diving instructors or dive masters.

"We are checking these allegations," he said when asked about "rude" Caucasians working at resorts in Pom Pom Island, who had allegedly behaved as if they owned the island.

In seas off Semporna with 49 islands, there are 11 major diving resorts and numerous backpacker resorts, both operating legally and illegally.

On Mabul Island itself, there are five big resorts while there are two on Pom Pom Island and one each on Kapalai and Pulau Mataking.

In a related posting on Twitter, Masidi said: "Immigration should carry out surprise checks."

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said all resorts in Semporna have at least a GOF or army base on the islands.

"We are going to re-engage with all operators to help improve security," Hamza said, adding that not all resort operators were uncooperative.

Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order director Datuk Salleh Mat Rasid said that there were differing views on the visible presence of armed security personnel at the islands, with one view that their presence might cause fear or anxiety.

"But, I hope that they (resort operators) can see it positively because the presence of security forces would give tourists more confidence and also help their business," he said when asked about operators not allowing security personnel to freely patrol resorts.

Meanwhile, the family members of 57-year-old Taiwanese tourist Hsu Li Min, who was killed at Pom Pom Island Resort, is expected to arrive in Tawau today.

They are expected to cremate his body the same day.

Hsu was shot dead by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen who abducted his 58-year-old wife Chang An Wei from the resort at about 1am on Friday.

According to Taiwanese journalists here, Hsu's family was likely to arrive first this afternoon followed by Chang's family, likely by Friday.

They said that both families would also go to Pom Pom Island Resort to collect the couple's belongings.

No ransom demand has been made so far by the gunmen, who are believed to have taken her across the border to Tawi-Tawi Island in Southern Philippines.

Hsu and Chang, who were clothing exporters in mainland China, had checked into the resort on Nov 12, and were due to leave for home on Nov 20. The couple do not have any children.

Chang is also believed to be diabetic and fears for her life are growing as she might not be able adapt to harsh conditions in a jungle hideout as a hostage.

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