By Karen Bong
KUCHING, April 20: Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah has blasted Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii, calling him a “dungu” (fool or dull) for his critical comments on the Sarawak government’s efforts to set up a boutique airline.
While noting that setting up an airline is not easy and costly, Abdul Karim pointed out that the Sarawak government has to embark on this ambitious plan even though it may be unprofitable because “Sarawak is on an island”, and is faced with the issue of exorbitant airfares particularly during the festive seasons.
“Look at the (flight tickets) price now. From Miri to Lawas is about RM700 for one-way. That is crazy. And from Miri to Kuching can even reach up to RM1,000. We are doing this to provide more air travel options, especially for Sarawakians.
“And here comes this Bandar Kuching MP who started questioning the profitability and things like that. We are sincere in wanting to make life easier for Sarawakians,” he said after a press conference to announce the Spartan Sarawak 2023 event at his office in Bangunan Baitulmakmur 2, Petra Jaya here today.
More importantly, Abdul Karim emphasised that with Sarawak’s own boutique airline, the regional government will have a say in determining the airfares which fluctuate drastically during celebrations like Hari Raya and Chinese New Year.
Abdul Karim, who is also the Minister of Youth, Sports and Entrepreneur Development, pressed that public transportation has been the responsibility of the government-of-the-day anywhere in the world even when providing such necessary services is not profitable.
“There is no public transportation company in the world that really makes money. You can check, whether it is Japan Railway or any railway in Europe, all of them are subsidised by the government.
“Is KTM (Malayan Railways Limited) making a profit? No way. The government has got to inject (money) to reduce the price. That’s what we are trying to do.
“And here comes this ‘dungu’. When I read (his statement) I was upset as well. What is he trying to imply? Is he trying to say the Sarawak government is just playing around? What is in his mind? Is he thinking that politicians will be scrambling to make money out of that?” he hit back.
He added that Sarawak is blessed to have a strong coffer that allows the Sarawak government to pursue ambitious plans like setting up an airline and sovereign fund, which otherwise they could not even think about.
On the name of the airline, Abdul Karim said they have yet to go into that and hopefully, it will be something attractive.
Deputy Minister of Tourism Datuk Sebastian Ting and Deputy Minister of Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Snowdan Lawas were among those present at the press conference. — DayakDaily