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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Level 2 travel advisory maintained for eastern Sabah, says US Ambassador

KOTA KINABALU - The United States' travel advisory for eastern Sabah will be maintained at Level 2 for now, says US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir.

Explaining the status, which is the second lowest in a category of four tiers in terms of security risks, she said there were no plans to review it at the moment.

Malaysia is rated at Level 1 (exercise normal precautions) in the US travel advisory for American citizens updated on April 9 this year.

However, the east coast of Sabah is specifically rated Level 2 (exercise increased caution) due to kidnapping risks.

The other two tiers are Level 3 (reconsider travel) and Level 4 (do not travel).

"The level 2 is for a very specific area in Sabah.

"It was the same last year, but we stripped off the T (terrorism) and C (crimes) indicators as they are wrong and changed it to a K (kidnappings) indicator... We are aware of the geographic risks in eastern Sabah.

"It appeared as if it was some kind of big change (during the April update) but it was not.

"Our role in the US Embassy is to prioritise the security of American citizens. We give them information, and it is up for them to consider the factors and make up their own minds (on travelling here)," she told reporters.

Lakhdhir said this during a press conference on Thursday (June 27) to promote a series of activities in Sabah and share American culture with locals in a four-day programme.

Asked about the review of such travel advisory, she said they were not done periodically and would be based on needs or whenever major events occured.

Meanwhile, asked if a US consulate office would be opened in Kota Kinabalu, she said it not be possible in the near future as it required justified funding from Washington.

"We actually have the same questions asked in Penang as there are a lot of American companies there.

"As much as we would love to see this in Sabah, in reality I don't see it in the foreseeable future," she said.

Meanwhile, in honour of over 150 years of ties between the United States and Malaysian Borneo, the US Embassy has brought various programmes here in collaboration with local partners.

It started with a pop rock concert by the US Marine Corps band on Wednesday night (June 26), followed by a media workshop on covering violent extremism in collaboration with the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) on Thursday (June 27).

The US Embassy will host an annual gala celebration commemorating the 243rd anniversary of US independence on Thursday night (June 27), followed by a science and technology based education programme on Friday (June 28).

On Saturday (June 29), a run jointly organised by City Council to raise awareness of wildlife will be held, followed by a youth-centred programme for the basketball sports with sports envoys.

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