KUCHING, Aug 15: Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing wants the Transport Ministry and other relevant agencies to fix problems plaguing Sibu Airport.
Tiong, who is also Bintulu MP, raised a myriad of issues faced by the airport following the cancellation of 12 flights two days ago. He maintained that Transport Minister Anthony Loke must answer for it.
“The Minister of Transport and his subordinates must answer how they have grossly allowed mismanagement to affect more than 1,500 passengers this week when 12 flights were cancelled due to runway light failures.
“This latest debacle at the Sibu Airport on Tuesday is symptomatic of a broader pattern of mismanagement across airports in East Malaysia, where facilities and maintenance have been severely lacklustre, making passengers suffer even though they have paid for the services in the form of the Passenger Service Charge,” according to Tiong in a statement today.
Tiong claimed it was typical that these issues would only fall on the deaf ears of Loke who, instead of solving problems, was focusing on new national car projects.
“Stop indulging in pushing for new national car projects and re-focus on your main priorities and ensure smooth and efficient airport and passenger flight services,” said Tiong.
He said along with Loke, the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM), Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) and the Sibu Airport management must all answer for this latest ‘debacle’.
“The cancellation of flights due to the runway lights failure is an astounding incident that should have been avoidable if regular maintenance and inspections had been duly carried out.
“What was most frustrating, particularly for the passengers, was the poor or rather, non-existent handling of the matter by any official airport authority.
“Not even consolation mineral water was given out to the affected passengers. Instead, the airport was closed and the passengers ‘effectively expelled’, among whom included not just our local passengers but international travellers as well,” said Tiong.
He said the people had been putting up with “this kind of substandard quality where there was no crisis management in place and the public relations staff seemed to be sleeping”.
The airport’s management should have taken full responsibility for this matter by providing close assistance to the affected passengers, including arranging for accommodation and meals if necessary rather than rushing the passengers away as if they were the source of the problems, he added.
On the duty of MAVCOM, he said it was above question when it came to collecting the Passenger Service Charge from passengers.
“But once airport users face problems, these officials disappear from view completely. Do they only care about collecting the Passenger Service Charge and not have to worry about the plight of airport users?
“What is the purpose of the Commission if not to regulate quality standards in our airports?” he questioned.
Tiong claimed he had repeatedly brought up the problems of inadequate infrastructure and facility maintenance at East Malaysia airports in Parliament and that “this runway light debacle is the latest example”.
Besides this episode, he said other examples of poor management at Sibu Airport include leaking toilets and rundown infrastructure such as walls and ceiling.
“The Minister needs to provide some reasonable explanation as to why such an incident can still happen in this day and age when Malaysia is one of the main trade centres of the region and the world.
“Can we still continue to be competitive with substandard travel facilities?” Tiong asked. — DayakDaily