By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, Jan 6: Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today told Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to be a gentleman and to address the Sarawak’s tourism tax issue professionally.
“Be a gentleman and address the issue professionally,” said Abdul Karim in a statement today.
“There is no intention to defame, politicise or ‘fitnah’ (slander) anybody here, but as the minister looking after Sarawak tourism, I am just asking (for) what was promised and due, be it from the previous government or the present government of the day.”
Abdul Karim said both sides had agreed to and announced in Parliament that 50 per cent of the tourism tax collected by any state would be channelled back to the respective states for purpose of tourism development and activities.
“Am I politicking or uttering ‘fitnah’ in my process of asking what is due and owed to the state over a subject matter that has been promised and pledged by the previous Minister of Tourism and the present Minister of Finance?” he asked.
Abdul Karim said he was bewildered by the reaction of Lim, who, instead of tackling the question, had turned around and asked Sarawak to pay back Sarawak’s debt to the federal government.
“I’m surprised at the press release and statement by the Finance Minister with regards to my answer to a question by a member from the media over the non-payment to date of the tourism tax collected and due to Sarawak since Sept 2017.
“What I did was just to inform and request for the tax due and owing to Sarawak be paid,” Abdul Karim explained.
He said he was in Sabah recently and did enquire whether Sabah had been paid the same, and the answer was that Sabah had received its shares of the tax.
“Even the exact amount of tourism tax collected from Sarawak is known. So what is delaying the remittance?
“For the record, the amount of RM4,653,302 of tourism tax was collected from Sarawak for the period Sept 2017-Sept 2018 as furnished by MOTAC (Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture) and half of that as promised and pledged should be remitted back to Sarawak.
“Why must Minister Guan Eng get emotional and blow his top and ask Sarawak to pay back its outstanding loan to the federal government, which is totally unrelated to the subject matter in question?” he commented.
The Asajaya assemblyman pointed out that Sarawak’s loan or debt owing to the federal government had its own terms and conditions of repayment.
“And it’s not for me to dwell on that subject matter as I know that is for the Sarawak government to address, and I know the state government knows its obligation in paying its loan or debt,” he added.
He advised Lim not to play politics but to improve the country’s economy.
“I hope Minister Guan Eng does not play politics and just do your (his) utmost to improve the Malaysian economy, and that includes Sarawak, too.
“Denying us of our portion of tourism tax is not helping the Sarawak tourism industry and Malaysian economy,” Abdul Karim emphasised. — DayakDaily