KUCHING, Dec 18: Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin has assisted 106 stranded Malaysians including 91 Sarawakians to fly back to Kuching International Airport.
In a press statement, the Transport Ministry said the 106 Malaysians which consisted of 91 Sarawakians, five Sabahans and 10 West Malaysians, were stranded in Papua New Guinea (PNG) since mid October 2020, as there is no flight standby due to Covid-19 pandemic.
These Malaysians were working in PNG under 33 companies of different sectors inlcuding logging, retailer services or office work. It is their desire to return to Malaysia as most of them had completed their employment contracts.
“They used to transit in Singapore but currently Singapore does not allow transit due to Covid-19 pandemic control measures. Therefore, the travel agency had chartered an Air Niugini Limited’s direct flight from Port Moresby International Airport to Kuching International Airport.
“However, the said flight has been postponed several times (Nov 13, 2020 to Nov 20, 2020 and again to Nov 24, 2020) due to no approval regarding validation of Foreign Aircraft Operators Certificate (FAOC) from Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM).
“This has resulted some of the passengers stranded in Port Moresby since Nov 19, 2020 and most of them stranded across various provinces in PNG. These Malaysians have incurred thousands of dollars for daily expenses in PNG due to no confirmation of flight,” said the Transport Ministry.
In face of the predicament, a Sarawakian in PNG sought the help of Transport Minister Datuk Lee on behalf of all the stranded Sarawakians by reaching out to Lee’s Facebook Messenger.
The Transport Ministry said Lee immediately rendered assistance by liaising with federal Deputy Minister of Transport (Has Habibollah) to expedite CAAM on validation of FAOC for the chartered flight to fly directly to Kuching from PNG and also coordinated with Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to ensure smooth entry of the passengers into Sarawak.
Upon arrival in Kuching International Airport on Dec 17, 2020 at around 8.50pm, they (106 persons) were placed at designated Quarantine Centres according to the latest Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by Sarawak Disaster Management Committee.
On behalf of all Malaysians landed in Kuching, the Sarawakian who sought help from Lee sent him an appreciation letter.
“He noted that without YB Datuk Lee’s prompt assistance, there have been numerous postponements on this charter flight due to unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, they were grateful for YB Datuk for the coordination and liaising with different government agencies.”
“Last but not least, YB Datuk Lee would like to record his thanks to Federal Minister of Transport and his Deputy for their fast response toward his request on validation of the FAOC and dealing with PNG’s airline.
“YB Datuk Lee would also like to praise SDMC for their swift action in handling all the application of enterSarawak Permit and arranging the precautionary SOP measures in handling the incoming PNG 106 passengers,” said Transport Ministry. — DayakDaily