Sarawak withdraws from Malaysia Tourism Board

Tourism Crisis, State Backs Datuk Abdul Karim

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KUCHING: Sarawak today withdrew its representative in the Malaysia Tourism Board – a fallout following the tirade Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz made on Sarawak’s Tourism Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah over his (Karim’s) call to defer the implementation of the tourism tax in Sarawak.

In a two-paragraph statement, the reason the Sarawak Chief Minister’s Office gave for the withdrawal was that the state government deemed the participation of its representative in Tourism Malaysia as “not necessary” as this was only duplicating the role and functions of the Sarawak Tourism Board.

A defiant Karim responded to Nazri’s verbal abuse saying “I will not be cowed by (the) arrogant and uncouth response from this minister.

“I believe I am right in asking for deferment in enforcement of this Tourism Tax which has been bulldozed without consultation with our beloved state.”
Nazri had been branded “insolent”, “arrogant”, “uncultured” and “disrespectful” by Sarawakians over his tirade on Karim when responding to a question by reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday on Karim’s call for a deferment of the tourism tax which Sarawak and Sabah are objecting to.

Nazri dismissed Karim as a ‘setahun jagung’ (Malay for young corn).

He was referring to Karim’s appointment only last month as the state’s Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister.

“He is a newly appointed minister, a BN minister, don’t have to show off,” he was quoted as telling reporters at a break of fast in Kuala Lumpur.

“You are still new. Don’t talk too much.”

He had also accused Karim of “talking big” and wants to behave like a “gangster”.

“Just appointed as a minister and you want to be a gangster.”

Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office, Abdullah Saidol in his FB posting asked how a so-called veteran minister had answered a question in such a manner.

“You said you have been a minister for a long time, a political veteran and had also been a law minister.

“Surely you should be more intelligent than that by answering politely and with maturity.

“And why you suddenly talked about gangsterism?

“Don’t be such a snob.

“Hello Mr Minister …mutual respect goes both ways ok..” Abdullah wrote.

Abdullah said Nazri’s “feudalism” behaviour is making the people fed up with the political culture that is pervasive in the country today.

Pandi Suhaili, a Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) grassroot leader, in his blog warned Nazri’s arrogance and rude behaviour against a Sarawak minister could have a political consequence at the forthcoming election .

“Nazri should not be assume that people in Sarawak would just cow and keep quiet when their ministers are disrespected, belittled and bullied.

“There will be repercussion and it will be on their support for the Barisan Nasional.

“The strong support for the Sarawak BN does not mean it’s also a strong support for the federal BN,” he said.

Sarawak for Sarawak (S4S) de facto leader, Peter John Jaban, in wading into the spat said Nazri bulldozing the Bill into Parliament without consulting Sarawak was “ one of the reasons why Sarawak is no longer keen to be part of the federation”.

He said it clearly showed Putra Jaya “is not respecting the spirit of the Malaysian Agreement 1963”.

“Sarawak’s sovereignty as an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia is threatened through this blatant act of disregard by Malaya in the jurisdiction and administration of a sovereign state,” he said.

Sabah rights activist and one of the leading researchers on the MA63 and the Malaysian Federation, Zainnal Ajamain, said the federal government has no right to impose the tourism tax because in as far as Sabah is concerned this would amount to double taxation to hotels and lodging houses in the state.

He said Sabah had been collecting such tax under The Hotels and Lodging By-Law 1966.

Zainnal, who authored the book “The Queen’s Obligation”, suggested Nazri could perhaps be unaware that there are three tiers of government in Malaysia – the federal , the state and the local governments.

“This tax is part of the local government revenue.”

The local government, he pointed out, is under the purview of the state government, not the federal government.

“Therefore, the central government cannot simply pass a law and take over the power of the state government to impose tax over hotels and lodging houses throughout Sabah.

“How is it then that the central government can pass the tourism tax (bill) in parliament and effectively (the) central government robbing all the municipalities in Sabah without even asking for the state’s consent?” he asked.

“Parliament cannot pass any law as it please. When parliament tables a Bill it is a federal law and the Member of Parliaments from Sabah do not represent the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sabah who make and pass law for Sabah.

“Therefore, the approval that Sabah Member of Parliament in parliament is not binding to Sabah, unless consent is given by the Sabah Legislative Assembly. It is appropriate for the Sabah State Legislative Assembly to reject this law in their next sitting.” –