Underwatertimes.com News Service - August 15, 2006 21:54 EST

The go-ahead for the controversial RM4.5mil clubhouse project on Pulau Sipadan was given by the Federal Cabinet on July 2, 2003, said State Tourism, Culture and Environment assistant minister Datuk Karim Bujang.

The approval was for Sabah Parks to implement the project after the Joint Management and Supervisory Committee of Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Ligitan adopted the Federal decision on Aug 2, 2005.

He said a committee of 17 people from the federal and state governments agreed on the setting up of a clubhouse, a sanitation system and toilets at the world-renowned diving haven.

The committee decided to implement the project immediately without waiting for allocations under the 9th Malaysia Plan, Karim told Tan Sri Joseph Kurup at the state assembly sitting.

Kurup wanted to know why the state approved heavy works on the island when it ordered all chalet structures be removed in 2005.

Karim explained that the use of stones, cement and iron was only for the flooring, pillars and walls for the toilets that covered less than 10% of the whole proposed structure.

He said the project had been scrapped and any decision on a new environmentally friendly structure would be handled by the Chief Minister.

Construction of the clubhouse came under criticisms when an unauthorised barge scrapped off a coral reef the size of two tennis courts on May 14.

On July 26 Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi berated Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman for going ahead with the project.

To a question by Kurup on why the state government decided to go ahead with the project, Karim said the decision to build structures on Sipadan was done in good faith by the joint committee, which has seven members from Sabah.

He said maintaining the old structures used by the diving resorts on the island was damaging to the island as a study found that the toilets and even soap used for bathing was affecting the island’s environment.

He said that Sipadan was under the purview of the Semporna district office but came under the National Security Council in 1998.