Abg Jo: Joint working committee to find ways to include Sabah in acquisition of shares in MASwings

Posted on 14 Nov 2023
Source of News: The Borneo Post

KUCHING (Oct 27): The joint working committee set up by the Sarawak and federal transport ministries will explore the possibility of including the Sabah government in the equity acquisition of shares in MASwings.

In saying this, Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said that this is part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Sarawak government, Hornbill Skyways and the Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) for the management of the Rural Air Service by acquisition of shares in MASwings Sdn Bhd.

“As part of the MoU,the joint working committee would also explore the possibility of including Sabah state government in equity acquisition in the ensuing process of negotiation as guided by the federal government in the interest of rural air services in Sabah,” he said during the MoU signing ceremony at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

Earlier, Sarawak Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin explained that the joint working committee which included the deputy State Secretary (Economic Planning and Development) Datu Dr Muhammad Abdullah Zaidel, State Financial Secretary Dato Sri Dr Wan Lizozman Wan Omar, State Attorney General Datu Saferi Ali, state Economic Planning Unit to actively engage with the federal Transport Ministry and the MAG, was to assist and facilitate the take-over of MASwings and the Rural Air Service operation.

The MoU, together with another on the handover of the Rural Air Service Management to the Sarawak government signed on July 20, 2023, is a testimony of the federal government’s confidence, sincerity, and trust for Sarawak to move forward on this endeavour, said Abang Johari.

“The federal government’s commitment to continue subsiding MASwings operations even after the takeover by the Sarawak government is also a proof of our close working relationship with the federal government,” he said.

He said the signing of the MoUs has established a platform for the Sarawak government to collaborate closely with the federal government and Malaysia Aviation Group Berhad.

“This collaboration aims to expedite the acquisition process of MASwings and the management of Rural Air Service. I am confident that our good relationship with the federal government will enable us to conclude the negotiation very soon,” he said.

Abang Johari added that Sarawak is heavily reliant on regional and international flight connectivity to support its open and export-oriented economy.

While existing airlines including Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, AirAsia, Scoot and Batik Airlines serve the region, their operations have limitations.

“We cannot depend on private airlines to meet the mobility demands of our people across Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, or even Singapore, as they are operating on a profit and loss basis.

“The fare charges are sometimes beyond the affordability of our people, especially during the festive seasons,” he said.

To address these challenges, he said the Sarawak government is steadfast in its commitment to establishing a state-owned airline.

“Our ambition is clear, that is to serve our people, the rakyat better. Through our own airline, we can tailor our own business model that prioritises Sarawak’s needs.

“Having our own airline not only gives us more control over the aviation landscape but positions us strategically to meet the needs of our different communities,” he said.

Under Sarawak’s Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030, Abang Johari said the state government is placing emphasis on tourism as a key economic sector, aiming to position Sarawak as a premier destination for both eco, business events, sports, education, and health tourism.

In this regard, he said that the state-owned airline is expected to play a vital role in supporting the growth of the tourism industry.

“I believe that a well-developed air connectivity, supported by a state-owned airline, will not only facilitate the mobilisation of our local populations and resources but also play a vital role in promoting tourism.

“This, in turn, has the potential to contribute significantly to Sarawak’s economic growth,” he said.

He said the state-owned airline will also support research and development efforts in biodiversity, making Sarawak a hub for medical and pharmaceutical products.

“It will also meet the needs of investors and business travelers who require efficient air connectivity.

“We have many requests from ambassadors and investors to have good air connectivity to support their business activities. These investors are busy people, and for them, time is very valuable.

“Having good air connectivity will surely benefit them and put Sarawak as the preferred investment destination,” he said.