Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir
PUTRAJAYA, April 18 (Bernama) -- The United States’ Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday (April 17) to clarify on the US government’s decision to include Malaysia in the “K” indicator list of its travel advisory.
Acting Foreign Ministry secretary-general Datuk Raja Nushirwan Zainal Abidin handed over a protest note to her, expressing the Malaysian government’s objection to the US decision.
The Foreign Ministry or Wisma Putra, in a statement today, said the decision did not reflect the reality on the ground, particularly the improved security situation in eastern Sabah.
"The US Ambassador took note of the Malaysian government's protest and concerns and would duly convey them to Washington,” the Wisma Putra statement said.
Malaysia is one of the 35 countries listed with the "K" indicator by the US State Department in a travel advisory issued on April 9.
Based on reports, the indicator identifies countries with “risks of kidnapping and hostage taking by criminal and terrorist actors”.
During the meeting, Wisma Putra said the US Ambassador explained that the US travel advisory categorises each country into four possible tiers, based on the US government's assessment of the safety and security situation.
"As in previous years, Malaysia, as a whole, has been placed in Tier 1, reserved for the safest countries and which is the lowest risk.
"However, it was explained that eastern Sabah is subject to the "K" indicator due to the US' concerns of potential kidnappings and hostage taking.
"It was recalled that in the previous travel advisory, that area was subject to "C" (crimes) and "T" (terrorism) indicators, which were broader in nature.
"Eastern Sabah is no longer subject to these two indicators,” said Wisma Putra on the meeting.
Wisma Putra said both parties agreed that it would be useful if, in future, that the Malaysian government was informed before similar announcements were made.
The ministry reiterated that the security and safety of tourists throughout Malaysia including in eastern Sabah continued to be a top priority.
"Malaysia has been taking proactive measures to ensure the security of eastern Sabah. This is reflected in the significant drop of kidnapping cases to almost nil last year,” it said.
Malaysia continued to be attractive to American tourists, with 2018 recording an increase of 27.9 per cent in arrivals from the US, bringing the total to 253,384 tourists.