BUTTERWORTH, Feb 10 — The reopening of the country’s borders is not an easy issue to decide on as it involves various ministries and needs to be discussed by the Cabinet first, says Senior Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said, however, the COVID-19 Quartet Ministerial Meeting welcomed the recommendation by National Recovery Council (MPN) chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for the government to fully open the country’s borders as early as March 1.
“Among the ministries involved are the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health.
“This issue was also discussed by us and we welcome it (the announcement), but this matter needs to be brought to the cabinet or the COVID-19 Pandemic Management Special Committee chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri to get a final answer,” he told a press conference here today.
The media previously reported that Muhyiddin, in his capacity as MPN chairman, had proposed the full reopening of the country’s borders without requiring mandatory quarantine from as early as March 1, in order to support the country’s economic recovery process and other tourism-related industries.
Meanwhile, Hishammuddin refuted allegations by some quarters that there was no understanding between the COVID-19 Quartet Ministerial Meeting and the MPN over the issue.
“If you want to say that there is no communication between the MPN and the Covid-19 Quartet Ministerial Meeting, that is not true, because its members are the same individuals, but both entities do not have the mandate to make a decision (on this issue),” he said.
Earlier, Hishammuddin attended the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) AW 139 Helicopter Introduction Programme, and visited the Rumah Keluarga Malaysia Angkatan Tentera (RKMAT) home upgrading project at the Butterworth Air Base. Air Force Commander Lt Gen Datuk Seri Ackbal Abdul Samad was also present.
Commenting on the rental of four AW 139 helicopters to take over the tasks of NURI helicopters which have been retired, Hishammuddin said it was part of the ‘Government Operate, Company Own and Maintain’ (GOCOM) approach where all aircraft maintenance costs were borne of the company that leased the helicopters, namely Westar Aviation Services Sdn Bhd.
“This rental method is not only more cost-effective than purchasing new helicopters, but also gives the RMAF access to the required assets within a shorter period of time.
“The RMAF chose the AW 139 Helicopter because of its ability to carry out operations that provide tactical, operational and strategic importance, and can be operated during the day and night,” he said.
He added that the new assets to replace the NURI helicopters were expected to be obtained beginning 2026, where a total of 12 helicopters will be acquired in Phase 1 (13th Malaysia Plan from 2026 to 2030) and another 12 in Phase 2 (14th Malaysia Plan from 2031-2035).