KUNDASANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A commitment to visit Saudi Arabia prevented Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak from flying to Sabah immediately after Friday's earthquake, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday (June 9), stressing his visit there involved meetings with members the Saudi royal family.
"Since it involved bilateral relations between two countries, I could not back out of it," he said during a visit to the Kinabalu Park where he met mountain guides and others involved in the search and rescue (SAR) of the earthquake victims.
Mr Najib said during his trip to Saudi Arabia, he was constantly following developments in the SAR efforts on the mountain and had ordered the cancellation of the national level Kaamatan or Harvest Festival scheduled for June 7 in Ranau.
He also asked Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to make a trip to Kota Kinabalu to carry out an immediate assessment on the SAR efforts.
Mr Najib said he arrived in Kuala Lumpur at about 11pm on Monday and flew to Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday morning to see for himself the situation on the mountain.
He also postponed a meeting with the Menteri Besar and Chief Ministers scheduled for Tuesday.
"I felt it was important for me to come even though the SAR operations have been scaled down," the Prime Minister said.
"I wanted to express my condolences to the families of those whose died and to say that in good times and in bad, the Federal Government is with the people of Sabah," he added.
He also announced a RM10-million (S$3.6-million) grant to Sabah for work to clear the debris and reconstruction of damaged facilities on the mountain.
"We want to see Mount Kinabalu remain a famous destination among local and international travellers," he said.
"It would be a loss to Malaysia and Sabah if activities on Mount Kinabalu were to stop," he added.
At the event, Sarawak Deputy Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan handed over the state government's RM1-million contribution to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman for the earthquake victims.