My first visit to Sipadan was in 1989 when the island was still undiscovered for its legendary underwater wonderland.There were no permanent structures on the island except a jetty and a hut owned by the turtle eggs collector.
I was there with a group of friend to fish and not being a diver then didn't know the existence of the vast marine wonderland beneath the surface that have now made the island famous and one of the top five dive sites in the world.A jewel in the crown that have made Sabah well known to the diving fraternity world wide.
Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia rising 700 meters from the ocean floor in the Celebes Sea and has earned its reputation as an underwater paradise.The endless scenes of patrolling hammerhead sharks,circling schools of barracuda,millions of technicoloured reef fishes, scores of turtles and diversity of coral reefs can be intoxicating to those who are privileged to be able to journey below the surface of the ocean. This island have also taken the lives of those who were foolish enough to go beyond the limit of their endurance.
The island used to have several resorts on the island itself and all divers stayed in the resorts and can do as many dives as they wish.There were fears that pollution and over-population would overwhelm the marine bio-diversity on the island and surrounding waters.
Back in 2002 the government in order to protect the island from pollution and over-populated human presence changed all that by evicting all resorts from the island and imposed a maximum quota of 120 divers per day.The island was placed under the control of Sabah Parks and BKN(Bahagian Keselamatan Negara-National Security) which has now been renamed MKM (Majlis Keselamatan Negara).A fee of RM40.00 per diver per day is charged by Sabah Parks.
Since the eviction of those resorts off the island there have been many complaints from resorts owners and divers on the management of the island by Sabah Parks and MKM.Many foreign divers who come regularly to dive in Sipadan have expressed shocking disappointment at the deteriorating conditions on the island and below the surface.There are traces of line fishing discovered by some divers and on some occasions divers could hear blasts of fish bombing going off in the vicinity of waters near the island.How far off the fish bombing is difficult to tell as sound travel much faster underwater than on land.
MKM, a division under the Prime Minister's Department is responsible for security of the island and its surrounding waters.They are only concerned about piracy and left those fish bombers to their own devices.Typical of most government servants irrespective of whether they are from state or federal department, when the cat is away, it's time to play.Just sit on their arses and do nothing if not told.
Many resort owners are also complaining at the way the quota are being distributed among the resort operators. For some unknown reason a particular resort seems to get a bigger slice of the allocation putting some of the other resort owners in a dilemma and the prospect of being black listed by their overseas travel agents for non-performance of contract.
Overseas divers paid a lot of money to come to Sipadan and most of them expect at least three dives a day. This has been the standard policy since the opening of the island in the late 80s.
After having paid huge sum and to have travelled thousand of miles to find out later that you could only dive once or twice would certainly make you feel cheated.Some divers have even threatened to start a campaign overseas to boycott the island.
Resort operators have spent millions to build their resorts and have a break even point where they needed certain amount of occupancy before they can start making money.They can only survive if they have a reputation of being reliable.To tell your guest that he could not dive that day because you don't have enough quota, because the government fucked up the system, is a sure recipe for disaster and the prospect of losing your future business is as surely as death.
One amusing if not embarrassing story told to me by a divemaster about a Japanese diver who was highly agitated because he could not have enough dives told the dive master that in Malaysia everything can(Malaysia Boleh), why he is not doing it.He is asking the divemaster to bribe the people who issue the pass to get more quota and he is prepared to pay for it.So much for our reputation of 'Malaysia Boleh'.
Another complaint is the idiocy of those blithering idiots at Sabah Parks and MKM to check diver's identification against the list provided by the resort operators and insisted they must be the same person.I was told it is foolhardy to try challenge and tell these little napoleons that what they should be concerned about are numbers not names.As most morons do they would make life even more difficult for you.
The idea of imposing quota is to limit the number of divers.By their stupid action they have deprived the operator of the flexibility of using the quota by replacing the diver with another one in the even the named diver fell sick or for some other reasons couldn't dive that day.I am sure this complaint must have reached the chiefs in Sabah Parks and MKM and they have done nothing to correct this act of stupidity and discretionary blunders.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the civil service and men in uniforms are never lack of it.They pride themselves on appalling bureaucratic procedures,red tapes and unimaginable foolishness.
The resort operator submit application for quota to Sabah Parks who than submit to MKM for approval and than back to Sabah Parks and back to the operator.What the hell for Sabah Parks to put personnel on the island if they have no power to approve the quota.What are they there for? Makan gaji buta kah!
Sipadan is within state jurisdiction, why must MKM be involved and given authority to do so? Even more ridiculous the dive fees collected by Sabah Parks were given to MKM for funding the security of the island if what I was told is correct.What are the taxes collected by the Federal Government from Sabah for? Isn't it their responsibility to provide security by the money they have collected in the form of various taxes.
I do not wish to be rude but what are the Sabah politicians doing to have agreed to this most ridiculous of demand by the Federal government to collect this meagre sum of money which rightly should go to state coffers for improving facilities on the island
Land matters are constitutionally under state control and Sipadan is part of Sabah and the Federal government has no rights over its administration and collect monies other than providing security.
The Minister of Tourism should look into this matter before Sipadan becomes the pariah of the diving fraternity and a tourism loss to Sabah.
Lastly, I must add that Sabah Parks are run by one of the most incompetent bunch of morons.Just take a look at the islands in the Tengku Abdul Rahman Park and see how disorderly,dirty and unhygienic the conditions are on the islands.The restaurants run by their cooperative KOKTAS are bloody disgrace.The toilets are awfully dirty and in state of disrepair.They collected gate fee for boats and visitors and how this money is spent one wouldn't have a clue because very little improvement can be seen on any of the islands.They cordoned off the beach completely for swimmers without giving any consideration to other users.
Two weeks ago I went sailing with some friends and decided to stop at one of the islands.Much to our annoyance we found there is no where we can reach the shore to beach our sailboat.They have completely cordoned off the entire beach.We have to tie our sail boat at the outer side of the buoy and swam to shore.Upon reaching the shore one of the park rangers, a moron, came and told us we cannot tie our boat there and when asked why he said it is swimming area, when he knew fully well the boat is outside the swimming area.This idiot can't tell the difference between a sailboat and a motorised boat and asked us to move the boat and anchor farther out in deep water.When I asked him how are we to get ashore he said just try and stop any of the boats passing near us.
You see this is what I say, morons employ morons.A small sailboat has no manoeuvrability and is at the mercy of the wind and don't usually carry anchor.
Morons at the top,morons in the middle and morons at the bottom.That's exactly what Sabah Parks is, from ocean deep to moronic high.