Hundreds in Labuan Still Unable to Meet Spouses in Sabah Despite Travel Relaxations

LABUAN: Hundreds of Sabahans on this duty-free island are still yearning to meet their spouses on the mainland even though the relaxation of travel restrictions for married couples came into force today.

Most of them are civil servants working in various government agencies here, with only a small number being workers in the private sector.

Labuan MP Datuk Rozman Isli said it was high time the Sabah government loosened its standard operating procedures (SOPs) for travellers from Labuan to enter Sabah.

He said the Sabah Disaster Management Committee should review its interstate travel SOPs for people from Labuan, as the island had achieved herd immunity with over 80% of its adult population fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and its infectivity rate was low.

“There is no need for special interstate travel approval (via online application) from the committee, which takes a long time to process. The expensive PCR test to enter Sabah should be replaced by the RTK-Ag test,” he said today.

Rozman said he would send an appeal letter to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Mohd Noor soon. 

He said that although Labuan is under federal administration, the island is still heavily dependent on Sabah’s resources, especially for food.

“Thousands of Sabahans are living on this island, be it for work or staying with relatives.

“On behalf of local folk and married couples living apart, we request that the Sabah government relook into the interstate travel SOPs,” Rozman said.

Jeffrey Nian, a staffer at the Labuan Information Department, said he had not seen his wife and children for four months now.

“I was happy to hear of the relaxation on inter-district and interstate travel for married couples living apart, as announced by the prime minister on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, it does not apply to Sabah. It means I’m still unable to travel to meet my wife on the mainland. I hope the Sabah government can consider the plight of Sabahans in Labuan,” he said.

Khairul Idin, a journalist with Wilayahku, said he had been living apart from his wife in Sandakan since April.

“I sent my wife back to Sandakan for confinement after she delivered our first baby. At that time the interstate travel restriction to Sabah was a little relaxed.

“But now we are totally unable to meet as the SOPs to enter Sabah are too strict for travellers from Labuan. Sad to say, I was able to spend only a few days with our newborn baby before they returned to Sandakan,” he added.

Labuan Disaster Management Committee chairman Rithuan Ismail said travellers from Labuan need a police permit, negative PCR test results, and interstate travel approval from the Sabah government to enter the mainland.