Malaysia hits back at US travel warning, saying it ‘lacks objectivity’

This May 25, 2018, photo show a general view of capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP)
Updated 15 April 2019

Malaysia hits back at US travel warning, saying it ‘lacks objectivity’

  • Over the past few years, Sabah has been the site of several high-profile kidnappings for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf Jihadist group and other terrorist organizations from Mindanao

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia on Sunday described an advisory issued by the US warning its citizens not to travel to the Southeast Asian country, as “lacking objectivity.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it “strongly protests” the US government’s decision to include Malaysia as one of 35 countries given a “K” indicator on April 9 in its travel advisory for this year. The indicator relates to “the risks of kidnapping and hostage-taking by criminal and terrorist actors around the world.” America raised concerns over the risk of potential kidnapping or hostage-taking situations in certain areas of eastern Sabah.
The Malaysian government responded that the travel advisory “lacks objectivity” and does not reflect “the reality on the ground.”
It went on to describe the security situation in eastern Sabah as “safe and protected for tourists.”
The statement added: “This is borne out by the fact that the number of tourist arrivals in Sabah has grown by 5.5 percent, reaching 3.87 million last year. Further, the number of kidnapping incidents has dropped significantly to almost nil. Eastern Sabah continues to attract world-class divers.”
The ministry said it has ramped up its security efforts with increased patrols, closer security cooperation with neighboring countries, and the strategic positioning of security assets in the areas mentioned, while urging the US to immediately remove Malaysia from the list. 
The state of Sabah is in the eastern part of Borneo Island, bordering Indonesia and Brunei. The island is close to Mindanao, in the southern part of the Philippines.
Over the past few years, Sabah has been the site of several high-profile kidnappings for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf Jihadist group and other terrorist organizations from Mindanao. 
This month, a Malaysian fisherman died from gunshot wounds when he tried to escape from his Abu Sayyaf captors. He was reported missing along with two Indonesian fishermen in December last year. All three men were believed to have been kidnapped from their boat. 
Dr. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, told Arab News that despite the dire situation in Eastern Sabah, the travel advisory would not affect Malaysia’s tourism. 
”To be blunt about it, this won’t affect Malaysia a lot, because most of the tourists who go to the surroundings of Semporna (in Eastern Sabah) are amateur or seasoned divers who will go there at all costs due to its designation as the world’s best diving spot,” he said. 
He added that most non-Americans, and even non-Europeans, are less influenced by US travel warning nowadays, as there are many other factors that would affect people’s decision to travel to a country. 
The other 34 countries given a “K” indicator in America’s 2019 travel advisory include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen. 


Jet catches fire in northern California; 10 aboard unhurt

Updated 8 min 49 sec ago

Jet catches fire in northern California; 10 aboard unhurt

OROVILLE, California: All 10 people aboard a small jet escaped injury Wednesday after the aircraft aborted its takeoff at a small Northern California airport, went off the runway and burst into flames, officials said.
The pilot of the twin-engine Cessna Citation jet aborted its takeoff at Oroville Municipal Airport for unknown reasons shortly before noon, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The plane was carrying two pilots and eight passengers, and “all were accounted for, no injuries,” said Joe Deal, Oroville’s fire and police chief.
The jet had complications during takeoff that resulted in its catching fire, he said.
It slid off the end of the runway, sparking a fire in the dry grass. Photos and video from witnesses shows the jet’s door open and its landing gear apparently retracted. Officials briefly closed nearby Highway 162 before controlling the grass fire at less than two acres.
“They were out of the plane quickly,” said Rick Carhart, a spokesman the CalFire/Butte County Fire Department that assisted at the scene. By the time the first fire engine arrived, “the people had already gotten off and vacated the area very quickly.”
Carhart said he didn’t know if the jet caught fire before or after it left the runway.
The plane was flying from Oroville to Portland International Airport in Oregon, Gregor said.
An FAA website says the model 560XL jet was manufactured in 2003 and is registered to Jotts LLC, with an address that tracks to a firm based in Wilmington, Delaware, that provides registered agent services to multiple companies.
Deal said it was a personally chartered jet, and its corporate passengers had stayed overnight in Oroville.
“It was attempting to take off, but early reports show that it never made it off the ground,” Deal said. The jet slid off the northern end of the runway onto a grassy area, but it never left the airport property. It was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived.
Firefighters were able to quickly control the grass fire, but it took more than an hour to extinguish the jet, partly because it had just taken on 400 gallons of jet fuel, he said. A crash truck from nearby Chico sprayed the jet with foam to help extinguish the blaze.
The airport, which does not have commercial flights, remained open.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. It typically takes the NTSB a year or more to determine a probable cause of an accident, Gregor said.