blogtunm.blogspot.com Tun M
1. The last time I was in Labuan was in 1998 to officiate the opening of the new building of the Labuan Offshore Financial Centre. So when I was invited to speak on Islamic Finance by the Centre, now known as the Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority, I accepted it with alacrity. I wanted to see the progress made since I was there the last time.
2. I am glad to see obvious development everywhere. The old wood and zinc sheds have been largely replaced by new brick and mortar houses of pleasing designs. The roads are well paved. The kampung roads have been concretised. New buildings and shop houses are going up everywhere.
3. YB Dato Yusof Haji Mahal (MP for Labuan) rode with me around the island pointing out proudly to the concrete walkways in the water villages, the Direct Reduction Iron plant, the oil supply base and the big Petronas Methanol plants.
4. Somehow I felt once again the happiness and the nostalgia at seeing the greenness of the island and the landscaping. All the roads of Labuan are lighted as Labuan has a big gas powered plant. It exports electricity to the mainland.
5. There is a big new international airport but only MAS and Air Asia flies into Labuan. Although there is an open-sky policy, attempts to get foreign airlines to fly to Labuan has failed. As a result tourist arrivals is very small.
6. When I was PM I had suggested we make Labuan into a garden island. In Victoria Island in Vancouver, an old quarry was developed into a beautiful garden – the Butchart Gardens. Annually it receives 2 million visitors.
7. We once invited the developers of Butchart Gardens to build a smaller garden in Tanjung Malim near a hot spring whose hot water flows into a nearby river. Money was allocated for it but when I stepped down the project was dumped because the Government has no money.
8. If we want tourists to come we must have something to show them. Labuan has a few natural things to offer but not enough to attract foreign tourist. Converting the island into a garden, building bicycle tracts for mountain bikes and holding bicycle races, a regatta for sailing boats, fishing, diving to see shipwrecks would add to Labuan’s attraction as a free port and shopping centre for visitors from Asean neighbours and other countries.
9. The cost to the Government for providing all these would be quite small but for the Government and the country the returns can be quite considerable.
10. Labuan is a Barisan Nasional stronghold. It was once won by an independent. I think enticing the 80,000 Labuanese would be good for BN politics.