‘Transparency, not silence, needed over Tourism Tax issue’

Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong

KUCHING: Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong chastised Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah for his comments regarding the state government handling public interest matters ‘behind the scenes’ with the federal government.

Referring to the news report in The Borneo Post yesterday, Yong said it was very irresponsible of Abdul Karim to utter such words, that it ‘is not between ministry of tourism (federal) and ministry of tourism (state) but between the state government and Ministry of Finance (Malaysia).’

The matter refers to the new Tourism Tax where Malaysians and permanent residents will be exempted from paying the tax, while foreign tourists will be charged a flat rate of RM10 per room per night for all hotel classifications from Sept 1.

Asked whether Sarawak would continue to fight for more revenue collected from the Tourism Tax, Abdul Karim was quoted saying they will handle the matter behind the scenes with the federal government.

The federal government earlier proposed an equal distribution of the total revenue collection among three regions: Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah.

However, in July, Putrajaya announced that Sarawak and Sabah would be receiving only RM1 for every RM10 collected from the Tourism Tax.

Yong said it was Abdul Karim who first threw a tantrum and created a big issue against Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz over the whole Tourism Tax few months ago.

“He fought over the issue, assuring Sarawak that he will speak up and fight. He also mentioned that the federal government must respect the Malaysia Agreement 1963 as tourism was only federalised recently.

“But now he is indirectly telling us that the Sarawak government is giving in to UMNO counterparts at the federal level by discussing the matter behind the scenes. Why is this done behind the scenes? Why is the public being shun [sic] from knowing what transpired in the discussion?” she asked.

Yong also lamented: “As usual, the state government has literally lost its voice.”