19th January, 2010
A marine police vessel berthed at the Sipadan Water Village in Mabul Island.
SEMPORNA: All is well and calm in Mabul Island, one of the isolated areas in Sabah mentioned by the United States Embassy in Malaysia in its travel advisory warning last Friday.
About a 40-minute boat ride from the mainland, life appeared normal with islanders and resort staff carrying on with their daily routine and tourists diving and snorkeling in the surrounding waters.
This writer was there together with a group from Astro Kasih over the weekend to carry out a coral planting charity project.
Everyone at the resort seemed oblivious to the warning largely due to the absence of television or radio to ensure a tranquil vacation free from the disturbance of the modern world.
The villagers who do have access to these forms of communication went on with their lives as usual and were hardly talking about the security threat.
However, police were evidently patrolling the island.
The travel advisory warned that criminal and terrorist groups were planning attacks against foreigners in Sabah.
It urged “extreme caution” in connection with any travel in isolated areas of eastern Sabah, including Semporna and the islands of Mabul and Sipadan.
Selina Ringanilla, a worker at the Sipadan Water Village in Mabul Island said none of them had heard anything about any kind of threat.
“We will be informed by the police if there is any attempt from criminal or terrorist groups trying to enter the island. But so far we haven’t heard anything,” she said.
A Kiwi couple, Peter Thorne, 54, and Rosmary, 54, said they were not aware of the warning issued by the United States government and were far too busy enjoying their second honeymoon in Mabul.
“We are not concerned. We will enjoy our first holiday in Borneo. We are not aware of the issue,” said Peter referring to the kidnapping incident in Sipadan and Pandanan Islands several years ago.
Jimmy Casuno, one of the persons in charge at the Sipadan Water Village Dive Centre said ever since the kidnapping incident in 2000, security around Semporna including Sipadan and Mabul Islands have tightened.
“Actually everything is normal. The military visit the island daily,” said Jimmy who has been a dive master for more than 10 years.