Minister helps 68 stranded Sarawakians to return safely

Arrival of the Solomon Airlines aircraft at Kuching International Airport.

KUCHING: Transport Minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin has helped 68 Sarawakians who were stranded in the Solomon Islands to return to Kuching safely.

He disclosed that with the assistance of the Consulate of Malaysia in Honiara, Solomon Islands, a chartered Solomon Airlines direct flight was arranged to fly the 68 Sarawakians who had stranded there since the outbreak of Covid-19 from Honiara International Airport to Kuching International Airport.  

In a statement yesterday (Mar 16), Lee said these individuals departed the Solomon Islands at 9.15am (SI local time) on Mar 15 and arrived in Kuching at 2.30pm (Malaysia local time)  the same day.

“En route to Sarawak, the Solomon Airlines aircraft stopped by at Biak Airport (also known as Frans Kaisiepo Airport) located in Biak, Papua, Indonesia for refuelling ,” he said.

Lee explained that the stranded Sarawakians, who were working for different logging companies in the Solomon Islands, wanted to return to Malaysia as they had completed their employment contracts.

One of them called Lee when there were problems for the chartered flight to land in Kuching and also regarding their entry into Sarawak. 

Lee then immediately requested his ministry’s officers to coordinate with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) on the validation of Foreign Aircraft Operator Certificate (FAOC) for the chartered flight to fly directly to Kuching from the Solomon Islands.

He also coordinated with the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to ensure approval was granted for the entry of the 68 passengers into Sarawak.

“Upon arrival at Kuching International Airport, the passengers were instructed to stay at a designated quarantine hotel for 14 days and do the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) swab tests twice according to the latest standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by SDMC,” he said.

The Sarawakians waiting for Immigration clearance at Kuching International Airport.