KUCHING: State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the decision of the Chief Minister Office to pull out from Malaysia Tourism Board (MTB) is not due to the spat between him and Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.
He said the decision was made by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg and he has his reasons for doing so.
“No, it is not related to what happened between Datuk Nazri and me,” he told The Borneo Post when asked whether the pullout was due to the recent exchange of words between him and Nazri.
Abdul Karim however, agreed with Abang Jo’s decision because MTB has not been doing much for Sarawak.
“With due respect to MTB, it has not been doing much for Sarawak. We might as well help ourselves through Sarawak Tourism Board (STB).”
“Anyway, STB is doing more or less what MTB is doing. And through STB, we can focus on promoting Sarawak to the world,” said Abdul Karim.
He pointed out that hotels in some states like Malacca, Penang and Sabah are already paying some form of tourism tax to their respective state governments.
“To implement the Tourism Tax again could be double taxation. And that is not allowed under the law.”
“So it is really not right to collect Tourism Tax. That has been why we hope there should be some kind of consultation with the state to allow issues to be raised and discussed,” he said.
On the possibility of Sarawak refusing to pay Tourism Tax despite the Tourism Tax Bill having been passed in the parliament, Abdul Karim said that was why Sarawak tried to defer the implementation until the state government was consulted.
He said his insistence that Sarawak should be consulted was because he wanted to safeguard Sarawak’s interest as the state has always been sidelined.
“I am really not happy with the Tourism Tax. If it is to be used for promotion, I have hoped that there would be arrangement between the state and the federal government to give us back what is to be collected from Sarawak.”
“Or if it is as Nazri has claimed that after Tourism Tax there would be an income of RM654 million (if occupancy rate is 60 per cent), it is my hope that through negotiation, we can reach some kind of agreement that certain percentage to be given to Sarawak.”
“We have learnt over the past years, if we don’t insist, when the policy is implemented, we will end up getting nothing and at the same time, nothing is done for Sarawak,” said Karim. -TheBorneoPost