Premier: Sarawak wants to build up air connectivity like Singapore, UAE through MASwings

Abang Johari puts the soil into the jar while (from left) Ting, Lee, Abdul Karim and other guests look on at the grand opening ceremony of Mercure Miri City Hotel on Dec 16, 2023.

By Shikin Louis

MIRI, Dec 16: Sarawak is strategically building up its aviation sector through the acquisition of MASwings, with the aim of establishing a thriving connectivity hub akin to Singapore and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said when Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA) split up to form Malaysian Airline System Berhad (MAS) and Singapore Airlines (SIA), Singapore took over the international routes which led the country’s air connectivity to flourish.


He also mentioned that the Singapore government had heavily invested in SIA whereby during the dispute between SIA and Singapore Airlines Pilots’ Association (SIAPA) in 1980, the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had stepped in and made it clear that he was prepared to ground the airline and start all over again which led to the pilots’ union throwing in the white flag.

Drawing inspiration from the UAE’s success with Emirates Airlines, Abang Johari acknowledged the airline’s competitive pricing strategy that, while not necessarily yielding high profits, contributed significantly to the overall infrastructure and investment portfolio.

“The airline is part of their infrastructure and investment so much so that Dubai becomes a prominent connectivity hub within the Middle East.

“Thirty years ago, Dubai was just a desert. (There was) nothing in Dubai until the UAE took Singapore as a model and today, Dubai is flourishing,” he said during the grand opening ceremony of Mercure Miri City Hotel which was broadcast live by Sarawak Public Communication Unit (Ukas) via its social media platform today.

With that, Abang Johari emphasised the Sarawak government’s perspective on the MASwings acquisition as an investment rather than an expense.

“When we take over MASwings, some people are sceptical whether Sarawak could or could not do it, but I can tell you that it is an investment we put in.

“Just like building a bridge, you don’t ask how much the return is. The same applies to our airline. To measure the success, it is based on our gross domestic product (GDP) growth because once the people come in, they will spend money and our economy will flourish,” he added.

Amongst those present were Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah; Minister of Transport Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin; Deputy Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Sebastian Ting; Accor Malaysia & Indonesia senior vice president of operations Michel Vivier; and Evolveland Bhd director Roger Sim. — DayakDaily