Sarawak exits tourism board, Sabah may follow

By ZAINAL ALAM KADIR & AZREEN HANI

The Sabah state government is expected to emulate the Sarawak state government’s decision to withdraw its participation from the Malaysia Tourism Board.

While the Sarawak state government had expressed its decision in a brief statement issued by the chief minister that had deemed the state government’s participation in Tourism Malaysia as “not necessary” and that it was “duplicating the role and functions of the Sarawak Tourism Board”, Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun told The Malaysian Reserve the matter would be discussed at the next state Cabinet meeting.

Reactions from both Sabah and Sarawak on issues pertaining to tourism have been forthcoming — especially after Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced the inception of the tourism tax that would take effect on July 1.

Sarawak Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah had earlier requested the federal government to defer enforcement of the Tourism Tax Bill 2017, in the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Abdul Karim said the state government must have some say in the matter, and have a share of the tax collected.

Masidi had echoed Abdul Karim’s stance that any tax imposed should be channelled directly to the state’s coffers and not via the federal government.

While acknowledging the tax as a step to generate income for the government, Masidi said a proper analysis on cost and interest should be conducted before the tax could be implemented.

“Tourism can be considered a saviour to our economy during these trying times. However, the industry players are also not earning that much these days,” he said.

He said only the people of Sabah would know how to “sell” the state better than outsiders.

“Many in Sabah would lose out if our tourism industry is negatively impacted by the tourism tax, should it be implemented,” Masidi said.

The tax will be levied starting July 1 on all patrons at a rate of RM20 per room night in five-star premises, RM10 at four-star outlets, RM5 for three- and two-star hotels, and RM2.50 for orchid and other non-rated accommodation premises.

Earlier, Abdul Karim’s request was not well-accepted by Nazri, who had advised the former not to behave “like a gangster”.

“I can count the number of five-star hotels in Sarawak with only one hand. I think Sarawak only has about two or three of such hotels,” Nazri said in an interview.

Bernama also reported that the Sarawak BN Youth had hit out at Nazri for his tactless remarks against Abdul Karim, as it “did not reflect the family spirit in BN”.

Its chief, Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, said labelling the Sarawak minister a “green-horn and still a kid” was an insult to Abdul Karim, who had been entrusted by the state’s leadership to helm the ministry at the state level.

He said as one big family in BN, any issue — especially ones that touched on the people’s sensitivities at whatever level — should be handled amicably together in the true BN spirit and not through a public statement or media announcement, as it could cause anger among netizens.

“If there are issues to be explained, it should be done properly and courteously and not belittle the leaders of the other component parties,” said Fadillah — who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu Sarawak Youth chief — in a statement yesterday.