The idea of turning Pulau Redang into a high-end island is simply not a welcome piece of news. What rationale does the state government have to turn one of the top 10 beautiful islands in the world into an exclusive retreat for the rich and famous?
The Terengganu Mentri Besar was quoted as saying that the best option to safeguard environmental factors and marine life on the island was to turn it into a playground for the wealthy. How do we justify that? It is rather absurd to classify that only this segment of people is capable of keeping it clean and pollution free.
How true is it that by building only five-star hotels and related facilities, environmental problems like indiscriminate littering, rubbish disposal, depletion of marine life and polluting sewage can be safely contained for good?
Our country has not been blessed with many islands unlike neighbouring Indonesia or the Philippines but whatever we do have, whether on the west coast or east coast of the peninsula, are mostly islands that have potential to become a paradise under the sun. More so are those in Sabah. So to designate one of these few islands to a selected group of visitors is rather selfish.
The islands off Terengganu have always been a magnet for tourists, both local and foreigner, who simply want an island escapade with powdery white beaches, palm-fringed coastline and a good marine life to share and appreciate. To take this away from them is to deprive them of the gifts of Mother Nature.
While I laud the idea of having five-star hotels to avoid some sort of environmental deterioration, certainly there are other ways to tackle these issues without depriving others the right to share its beauty.
For years, Pulau Redang has catered to all kinds of tourists and to declassify it to only a selected few because of environmental factors is only a lame excuse! What about making other equally charming islands like Pulau Tenggol, Pulau Kapas or other remote smaller islands into private and exclusive retreats for the rich? Take Pangkor Laut near the island of Pangkor, for example. It has proven to be a success and among the top 10 island destinations in the world drawing visitors like soprano Pavarotti and Joan Collins, just to name a few.
In doing so, the state can still make a niche tourism product attracting quality tourists with money to burn. On environmental issues, I am sure they can be easily tackled by way of education and community projects with the state leading the way and also through strict enforcement of the regulations.