TODAY WE FACE ANOTHER CHALLENGE THAT PROOF OUR MILITARY SHOULD BE COURT MARTIAL
Tourists take cover on the floor next to an overturned table as armed men occupy a hotel off the coast of Sabah, yesterday. A Chinese tourist and a Philippine hotel worker were abducted by armed men at Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna, local media reported today. Quartz, a digital news outlet, said that yesterday’s incident may further strain ties between Malaysian and China and dampen tourist arrivals to the country. – Reuters pic, April 3, 2014.
Last night’s kidnapping of two women from a resort off Semporna, Sabah, may further strain ties between Malaysian and China and dampen tourist arrivals, a news portal said today, as one of victims is a 29-year-old tourist from Shanghai.
The incident comes as China and Malaysia, who have long been steadfast allies, are trying to repair a relationship that has been severely damaged in the aftermath of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 8, said Quartz.
Although China’s ambassador to Malaysia had given his assurance on April 2 that relations between the two countries remained strong, and blamed “Western media” for playing up the MH370 issue, angry reactions from Chinese nationals and media in Beijing to the disappearance of the plane had many observers scrutinising the relationship between the two countries.
The kidnapping of the Chinese and the Philippine nationals is expected to also adversely affect Malaysia's tourism industry – which had suffered losses following boycotts by Chinese travel agents and tourists upset over the lack of leads in the investigation of MH370's disappearance.
The latest kidnapping incident has spread like wildfire on Sina Weibo, China’s microblogging platform, where photos allegedly of the incident were circulated.
“Why go there?” asked one Chinese commentator. “Cherish life, away from Malaysia,” said another.
Following MH370's disappearance, Putrajaya had suspended its Visit Malaysia 2014 tourism campaign.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz told Parliament that the ministry had shelved the campaign out of respect for the families of the 239 passengers and crew on board the missing plane.
"The ministry has stopped the promotion tours, especially in China, until the aircraft is found," he had said.
About two-thirds of the passengers on board MH370 are Chinese nationals.
Travel agencies in mainland China have also reported a sharp drop in the number of Chinese visitors to Malaysia following calls of a tourism boycott led by Chinese celebrities.
"In the past two weeks, the number of clients from northern China going to Malaysia has dropped by 50%," Dun Jidong, a senior marketing manager at Ctrip.com, China's largest travel booking website, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
"Compared with the same period last year, the dip has been quite drastic. This includes group and independent travellers," Dun said.
Three other top travel agencies in China have also reported similar decline in Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia.
SCMP reported that China International Travel Service, China Youth Travel Service, and BTG International Travel and Tours have reported decreasing numbers.
China Youth Travel Service has also stopped collaborating with Malaysia Airlines on package tours to Kota Kinabalu and promised a full refund to any customers who wanted to cancel.
Chinese tourist arrivals account for about 12% of Malaysia's total tourists and 0.4% of the country's gross domestic product, Bank of America Merrill Lynch had said.
Malaysia has targeted 28 million tourists this year and RM76 billion in receipts.
According to Tourism Malaysia, 1.79 million Chinese visited the country last year, a nearly 15% annual increase.
China is the third largest source of visitors to Malaysia, in which tourism is the sixth contributor of its GDP.
An analyst had been reported in the SCMP as saying that Malaysia was facing a potential loss of up to RM4.2 billion in tourism revenue, as tourists from China look to travel elsewhere following the MH370 saga.
Luo Juan, a senior analyst with market research company Forward Information, had told SCMP that she predicted Chinese arrivals in Malaysia this year would drop by 20% to 40%.
"This would represent 400,000 to 800,000 tourists," said Luo.
The two women kidnapped by armed gun men last night were Gao Hua Yun from Shanghai and a Filipina worker, who has yet to be identified.
Eastern Sabah Security Command director-general Datuk Mohammad Mentek has confirmed the kidnappings which occurred at the Singamata Reef Resort.
A DAP lawmaker, meanwhile, is submitting an emergency motion to Parliament this afternoon to debate the security situation in Sabah.
Stephen Wong Tien Fatt (DAP-Sandakan) said there was an urgent need for the House to debate on this as it involved public interest, adding this was not the first time such an incident has happened.
The latest kidnapping comes on the heels of a string of such incidents last year, including two cases involving fishermen in April and November, as well as the kidnapping of a Taiwanese tourist from Pom-Pom Island, also in November. – April 3, 2014.
How much for the Scorpenes?
PARIS: According to different sources in France, the two Scorpene submarines sold to Malaysia would have cost about 670 million euros (RM2.1billion in 2002*), about half of the total deal.
The sale of the two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia, signed in June 2002 by the DCN-I in France and managed by the commercial company Armaris one month later, is part of a larger programme called Soumalais. This programme is divided into four contracts – Scorpene, Malsout, Training and Ouessant.
According to the report of the French Ministry of Defence in 2002-2003, total orders for the Malaysian Navy in 2002-2003 were estimated at 686.5 million euros, of which 671. 2 million was for submarines. Knowing the average price of a Scorpene submarine, the question is if it was the price for one or two submarines.
SIPRI, the global database used by researchers in defence, mentioned that France and Spain exported one submarine each to Malaysia, as part of a 1.2 billion euros deal. It also showed that in 2009 (date of the delivery of submarines), US$335 million was paid by Malaysia to France, and US$299 million to Spain.
The database also mentioned a 50% discount. This discount is not the one for the Ouessant submarine on which the Malaysian submariners were trained. This submarine, the Agosta class type, which is about to be transformed as a museum in Malaysia, had been given for free last fall (but Malaysia did pay for it to be restored, according to the Ouessant contract).
These reports suggest that the average price of one submarine sold to Malaysia is about 335 millions euros. An amount confirmed by Armaris – which closed its doors while the Malaysian NGO Suaram was lodging a complaint for corruption in France. Financial reports of the company in 2002 mentioned a contract of 682.7 million euros for the building of the two submarines.
Expensive or not?
Expensive or not?
In general, it is difficult to estimate the price of a submarine, which varies greatly depending on options. Nevertheless, the average price would rise rather between 400 and 450 million euros for a Scorpene submarine, a price that can easily double depending on options.
For example, the Scorpene sold to Chile cost between 400 and 460 million euros and 750 million euros for India. Compared to it, the Malaysian submarines would have cost between 300 and 340 million euros.
Moreover, according to a public report on the management of the French company DCN, in 2002 the company had lost a lot of money and was criticised for not being profit-oriented (the submarines were sold with heavy financial losses to Pakistan).
Given the competitive environment in 2002, it is also quite possible that DCN sold its submarines at a low price, hoping to hit the market not only in Malaysia, but also other countries in Southeast Asia.
The sale of the two Scorpene submarines, signed on June 5, 2002, is currently the subject of Suaram’s complaint for corruption.
The application for incorporation in civil part of Suaram in France was accepted last December and the appointment of an independent judge should only be a matter of time.
*(1 Euro=RM3.2 in 2002)
Céline Boileau is a Paris-based freelance writer.
Céline Boileau is a Paris-based freelance writer.