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Asia Dive News : Sipadan contractor gets off with apology and clean-up

After all the hue and cry, the contractor who damaged the coral reef off Pulau Sipadan has been allowed to get off with an apology and the cost of cleaning up.

The State Government claimed only 372.4 square metres (the size of a tennis court is 260 square metres) of corals were damaged, and not several kilometres of reef, as some reports had stated.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said: "The contractor was summoned by Sabah Parks and they have apologised.

"They accept that they were wrong. I have briefed the State Cabinet that the contractor was dishonest.

"They used a barge when they were supposed to use a smaller vessel to ship in construction materials."

The contractor, Kumpulan Surati Sdn Bhd, which was appointed to build sanitary and rest facilities on the island, only needs to pay for cleaning up the debris that the barge left on the reef.

Chong told reporters waiting for Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to chair the weekly post-Cabinet Press conference that the contractor had, on April 12, applied to Sabah Parks to use a small vessel with a 33-horsepower engine to ferry materials needed for the construction, but had used a barge instead.

Pressed on why the company was not being penalised and if its contract would be terminated, Chong said there was no need to do so.

"I don't want to blow this out of proportion. Last weekend, qualified divers were sent to assess the damage.

"The team led by Sabah Parks assistant director Dr Jamili Nais returned on Tuesday, and contrary to what has been reported, the area affected is not that big.

"There were some reports stating that the damage was two to three kilometres long. It is just a small patch of coral surface that was damaged.

"But I am pursuing the matter and I want to know from the contractor why they used a barge although they were supposed to use a kumpit (small boat).

"They know the gravity of their action. They will pay for the clean-up. Damage is still damage," Chong said.

He said measures such as the "replanting" of coral transferring healthy coral to the damaged site would be taken to help the reef recover after the clean-up.

Last week, Musa ordered a probe and took Sabah Parks to task for allowing a barge into the environmentally sensitive island's waters.

Musa had also denied reports that the project was approved by the State Government.

At yesterday's Press conference, Chong clarified that the project was federal-funded, and not a State Government initiative as initially reported.

Source: NST