Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Kudos to efforts in reviving our tourism industry and restoring livelihood of local folks

Kudos to our esteemed Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, YB Datuk Seri Hajah Nancy Shukri who recently announced the detailed recovery plan to reinvigorate Malaysia's economy through the tourism sector that had been badly hit by the #Covid19 pandemic.

According to her, the recovery plan will be carried out by #Tourism Malaysia, through the Stimulus Recovery Plan (PRE) with the support and active engagements with various agencies and industry players in reviving our national economy through its tourism sector.

The three main cores under the stimulus recovery plan had been outlined as part of the doable strategies that are estimated to boost the domestic tourism campaigns namely to restore people's confidence to travel, reviving domestic tourism and maximizing resources.

The programmes which had been identified are aimed to revive the domestic tourism industry that focuses on strategic collaborations and smart partnerships with airline companies, other tourism-related agencies including services/hospitality, transportation and private sector. Collaborations with non-government organisations (NGOs) are also planned involving Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), and Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA).

Together, we look forward to the programmes which will be ready for implementation that include partnerships with MAH and e-market platforms to promote holiday and hotel packages in order to increase rooms occupancy especially to those in city centres. The collaboration with MyBHA is said to be undertaken to assist selected budget hotels (3 stars and below) across the country with emphasis on premises which are registered with MOTAC through ‘Jom Nginap’ and ‘Malaysia Welcomes You’ campaigns. Certainly we also look forward to the ‘Cuti-Cuti Malaysia’ campaign with the cooperation of airline companies such as Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB), Firefly, Air Asia and Malindo Air to increase connectivity to holiday destinations in the country to encourage domestic tourism. 

We hope all of these efforts as well as the undivided support from our local tourism industry players will make things work and to revive Malaysia's economy that will also restore the livelihood of our folks who are badly affected by the #COVID19 pandemic. 






Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Kudos to our media friends for their support in highlighting my comments on political issues

My brief comments on the recent allegations made by the Opposition members on the recent approval to the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which was passed by our State Legislative Assemblyman (DUN) on 13 November. My heartfelt thanks to all our Media friends who published these in the local newspapers as well as to RTM TV1 Sarawak that aired the news this morning.











  

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Historic day after Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed by our DUN

It is a historic day for all of us when the Con­sti­tu­tion of the State of Sarawak (Amend­ment) Bill, 2020, to de­fine ‘ res­i­dent in the state’ to qual­ify for elec­tion into the State Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly (DUN) was passed on 13 November. This moment is also extra special for me after having tabled and moved  the amendment Bill which was passed with only 9 mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion bench ob­ject­ing to it. The first part of the Bill had also pro­posed that the qual­i­fy­ing age to be elected as DUN mem­bers be low­ered from 21 to 18. 

The amend­ment to our constitution was to spec­ify only 2 cat­e­gories of per­sons would qual­ify as ‘res­i­dent in the state’: a cit­i­zen born in the State of Sarawak, whose par­ents or ei­ther of them was also born in the State and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the State; or a cit­i­zen, though not born in the State, whose par­ents or ei­ther of them was born in the State and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the State. Our learned op­po­si­tion mem­bers ob­jected specif­i­cally to the sec­ond part of the Bill, which seeks to amend the ex­pres­sion ‘ res­i­dent in the state’ in Ar­ti­cle 16 Clause 2(1)(c) of the Sarawak Con­sti­tu­tion.

Nevertheless, I had ex­pressed our ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the feed­backs given by the op­po­si­tion mem­bers dur­ing their de­bates on the Bill eventhough some of them who were against it may not have un­der­stood the Bill in depth be­cause the fresh Bill was only re­vealed to them in short notice. I had also mentioned to them from the first day the first (it­er­a­tion of this) Bill was tabled, their sole in­ten­tion was to run down the Bill re­gard­less.

It sad to see that they (opposition) had mis­led the DUN and those out­side after only look­ing at the first part of the Bill with­out try­ing to look deeper. I didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to re­fute or wind up the first time, so the op­po­si­tion con­sid­ered it a tem­po­rary vic­tory. Doing it on purpose, I had let them en­joy their tem­po­rary vic­tory for a day even though in reality, the Bill was only de­ferred and not dis­missed.

On 10 November, our DUN Speaker Datuk Amar Mo­hamad As­fia Awang Nas­sar had de­ferred the Bill after it was ini­tially tabled and de­bated on Tues­day say­ing there were anom­alies that had to be clar­i­fied. The fresh Bill re­moved any am­bi­gu­ity and anom­alies as to the def­i­ni­tion of a ‘res­i­dent in the state’.

The in­tro­duc­tion of this Bill is timely and is a man­i­fes­ta­tion that the GPS state gov­ern­ment which al­ways has the in­ter­ests of Sarawakians first and foremost. We had al­ways safe­guarded and will con­tinue to safe­guard the state’s rights and in­ter­ests, and will not al­low non Sarawakians to in­ter­fere in our po­lit­i­cal af­fairs or to bring into our state po­lit­i­cal cul­tures which are detri­men­tal to the peace, unity, and pros­per­ity of our beloved state.

The amend­ment when passed will en­sure that only Sarawak-born cit­i­zens and Sarawak cit­i­zens born out­side the state to par­ents, of one of whom was born in the state, and nor­mally res­i­dent in the state are qual­i­fied for elec­tion into this au­gust House.

The op­po­si­tion should be ashamed of themseleves for al­leg­ing that the Gabun­gan Parti Sarawak (GPS) state gov­ern­ment had in­tended to open up the DUN to nonSarawakians when the ini­tial Bill was tabled the first time. They misunderstood the ex­pres­sion ‘ res­i­dent in the state’ was cur­rently not de­fined ei­ther in the eighth sched­ule of the Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tion or in the Sarawak Con­sti­tu­tion.

But the term ‘ res­i­dence’ and ‘res­i­dent’ had been de­fined by our courts to mean any­one who is liv­ing in a par­tic­u­lar place ‘with some de­gree of cer­tainty apart from ac­ci­den­tal or tem­po­rary ab­sences’. The state gov­ern­ment is con­cerned that based on the ju­di­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion any nonSarawakians from other states in the fed­er­a­tion who is re­sid­ing in the state by hav­ing work per­mits or serv­ing in the fed­eral pub­lic ser­vice, or the po­lice, or armed forces, would be qual­i­fied to stand in the state elec­tion.

It would en­able politi­cians from other states to come and stay tem­po­rar­ily in the state to claim that they are res­i­dents in the state. It has hap­pened in other states, we do not want it to hap­pen in Sarawak. Thus, the approved Bill would re­move all in­ter­pre­ta­tive am­bi­gu­i­ties or un­cer­tain­ties as to the real in­tent and ob­jec­tive of the pro­posed amend­ment to Ar­ti­cle 16 of the Sarawak Con­sti­tu­tion. There­fore Clause 2 (1)(c) of the Bill pro­vides a clear def­i­ni­tion on the term ‘res­i­dent in the state’.

Un­der the pro­posed amend­ment only two cat­e­gories of per­sons qual­ify as ‘res­i­dent in the state’, namely a cit­i­zen born in the state of Sarawak whose par­ents or ei­ther of them is also born in the state and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the state. Or, a cit­i­zen not born in the state whose par­ents or ei­ther of them was born in the state and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the state.

This amend­ment that had been passed by our DUN will en­sure that only Sarawak­born cit­i­zens and Sarawak cit­i­zens born out­side the state to par­ents, of one of whom was born in the state, and nor­mally res­i­dent in the state are qual­i­fied for elec­tion into this au­gust House”. Thus peo­ple with no Sarawak con­nec­tion ei­ther by birth or the birth of their par­ents, would not be con­sid­ered ‘nor­mally res­i­dent’ in Sarawak, and would be dis­qual­i­fied from be­com­ing DUN mem­bers.




Friday, 13 November 2020

Calling all Sarawak youths to exercise their rights as voters

 A short video clip to convey my sincere call to our local #youths to prepare themselves in shouldering responsibilities as #voters because now they eligible to participate in #Democratic #elections process in #Sarawak & #Malaysia



Thank you to our local media friends for their support in highlighting my winding up speech

My heartfelt thanks to all of our media friends who had given their fullest support in highlighting the winding up speech I made at the Sarawak State Assembly (DUN) yesterday. I did ex­pressed my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the feed­backs from op­po­si­tion mem­bers dur­ing their de­bates on the State of Sarawak Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2020 in which some who were against it may not have fully un­der­stood it be­cause the new Bill was only re­vealed to them yes­ter­day.

I had no intention to dwell on this for too long but personally what I wanted to say to is that they (op­po­si­tion mem­bers) had attempted to run down the Bill from the first day it was tabled on 10 November.

They had allegedly mis­led our DUN and those out­side after only look­ing at the first part of the Bill with­out try­ing to look deeper into the matter. I did not even have the op­por­tu­nity to re­fute or wind up the first time, and so the op­po­si­tion con­sid­ered it a tem­po­rary vic­tory for them. I have let them en­joy their tem­po­rary vic­tory for a day because essentially the Bill was only de­ferred and not dis­missed.

The amend­ment was necessary to spec­ify only two cat­e­gories of per­sons would qual­ify as ‘res­i­dent in the state’: a cit­i­zen born in the State of Sarawak, whose par­ents or ei­ther of them was also born in the State and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the State; or a cit­i­zen, though not born in the State, whose par­ents or ei­ther of them was born in the State and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the State. The Bill had also pro­posed for the qual­i­fy­ing age to be elected as local DUN mem­bers be low­ered from 21 to 18 years of age.

Thus, the fresh Bill was tabled so as to re­move any am­bi­gu­ity and anom­alies as to the def­i­ni­tion of a ‘res­i­dent in the state’. Similarly, the in­tro­duc­tion of this Bill is a man­i­fes­ta­tion on our Gabungan Parti Sarawak ( GPS) State Gov­ern­ment had al­ways safeguarded the in­ter­ests of Sarawakians first and will con­tinue to safe­guard the state’s rights and in­ter­ests, and will not al­low non Sarawakians to in­ter­fere in our po­lit­i­cal af­fairs or to bring into our state po­lit­i­cal cul­tures which are detri­men­tal to the peace, unity, and pros­per­ity of our beloved state of Sarawak.

The amend­ment which was passed will certainly en­sure that only Sarawak-born cit­i­zens and Sarawak cit­i­zens born out­side the state to par­ents, of one of whom was born in the state, and nor­mally res­i­dent in the state, are qual­i­fied for elec­tion into our au­gust House.

Our state gov­ern­ment is utmostly con­cerned that based on the ju­di­cial in­ter­pre­ta­tion any non-Sarawakians from other states in the fed­er­a­tion who is re­sid­ing in the state by hav­ing work per­mits or serv­ing in the fed­eral pub­lic ser­vice, or the po­lice, or armed forces, would be qual­i­fied to stand in the state elec­tion. It would also en­able politi­cians from other states to come and stay tem­po­rar­ily in the state to claim that they are res­i­dents in the state. It has hap­pened in other states, we do not want it to hap­pen in Sarawak.

During yesterday's DUN session, I have em­pha­sised that the Bill would re­move all in­ter­pre­ta­tive am­bi­gu­i­ties or un­cer­tain­ties as to the real in­tent and ob­jec­tive of the pro­posed amend­ment to Ar­ti­cle 16 of the Sarawak Con­sti­tu­tion. There­fore Clause 2 (1)(c) of the Bill pro­vides a clear def­i­ni­tion on the term ‘res­i­dent in the state’. Un­der the pro­posed amend­ment only two cat­e­gories of per­sons qual­ify as ‘res­i­dent in the state’, namely a cit­i­zen born in the state of Sarawak whose par­ents or ei­ther of them is also born in the state and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the state. Or, a cit­i­zen not born in the state whose par­ents or ei­ther of them was born in the state and he is nor­mally res­i­dent in the state.

The amend­ment which was passed will en­sure that only Sarawak­born cit­i­zens and Sarawak cit­i­zens born out­side the state to par­ents, of one of whom was born in the state, and nor­mally res­i­dent in the state are qual­i­fied for elec­tions held here. Peo­ple with no Sarawak con­nec­tion ei­ther by birth or the birth of their par­ents, would not be con­sid­ered ‘nor­mally res­i­dent’ in Sarawak, and would be dis­qual­i­fied from be­com­ing DUN mem­bers.













Thursday, 12 November 2020

The revised Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 has been passed by Sarawak DUN today

Syukur alhamdullilah the revised Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which allows our young folks to vote when they are 18 years old as well as the tightened definition of “Sarawakian”, was tabled and passed in the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) today.

I was well prepared to go all out to present a revised version of the amendment to Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution to the DUN after the first attempt was deferred due to so-called anomalies detected in the initial bill which had also drawn all round criticism and accusations from the opposition bench.

As usual, representatives from Sarawak's Democratic Action Party (DAP) had gone for their political mileage by capitalising on was the oversight on our side and they had alleged that it was intentional for the ruling coalition to do so so that West Malaysians and Sabahans may be able to enter Sarawak to become state lawmakers. This is simply untrue and uncalled for.

Earlier on, I had introduced a bill that would define the term ‘resident in the state’ to prevent potential attempts by non- Sarawakians wannabe "YBs" and those who are not living in Sarawak permanently from seeking election to our DUN and so called claiming to be representing the people of Sarawak.

It was saddening for us to see that the critics had "spinned" the noble intention of our government and the true facts were somehow distorted by the opposition, making mlaicious allegations that we were opening the windows of opportunities for non-Sarawakians to come here and join the state elections.

The new version of the bill which was presented today was necessary to clear the air and to establish that there will be no confusion among Sarawakians as to the real objective of the proposed amendment to Article 16 of the State Constitution. With the strong support from fellow GPS YBs,  the revised bill had remove all interpretative, ambiguities or uncertainties as to the real intent and objective of the propsed amendment.

It also states that "Therefore, Clause 2 (1)(c) of the bill provides a clear definition on the term ‘resident in the state’. Under the proposed amendment, only two categories of persons are qualified as ‘resident in the state’ namely (1) a citizen born in the state of Sarawak whose parents or either of them was also born in the state, and he is normally resident in the state, or (2) a citizen though not born in the state whose parents or either of them was born in the state, and he is normally resident in the state”.

The debate on this matter was indeed fiery because both sides were seen to be much better prepared but the good has prevail and the rest is history.

During the debate, I had highlighted DAP’s political ambitions where their supreme leader Lim Kit Siang had actually contested in so many different states in recent times including in Melaka moving on to Selangor then to Perak. Looking at this dismal record and the history of politics, it has always been them (DAP) who has been jumping from state to state.

We thank our DUN Speaker, Datuk Amar Mohd Asfia Awang Nassar for reminding the august House that as the amendment to Article 16 of the Sarawak Constitution involved amending the Constitution, there was a need for 2/3 majority to pass the bill. That is why he did not call for the division of the house as only 9 of our lawmakers had expressed objection to the bill before the bill was duly passed. 

Congratulations to all of our youths who are now eligible to exercise democratic rights to vote when they reach 18 years of age! 




Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Mixed responses to the amendment bill on Sarawak State Constitution

There had been a lot of talks and debates among local politicians as well as the general public after I have tabled an amendment bill on our Sarawak State Constitution which is aimed to allow only Sarawakians to be elected as state representatives and to lower the minimum age of representation in the August House.

During the sitting held on 10 November, I have mentioned Article 16 of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (also) provides for a criteria qualifying a person to be elected as a member of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) to be a ‘resident in the State’. The same qualification is also stated in Section 5 of Part I of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

However, I have pointed out that the definition is neither provided in the Federal Constitution nor in the Constitution of the State of Sarawak. As guaranteed by the Malaysian Agreement 1963, Article 161E (4) of the Federal Constitution read together with the Immigration Act 1959/63 [Act 155], the State Authority in Sarawak is empowered to determine matters relating to residence and right of entry into the State.

I have also mentioned therefore, this amendment to incorporate the definition of ‘resident in the State’ is intended to clarify such qualification of ‘resident in the State’ within the confines of the State’s constitutional authority.

I have highlighted the amendment to the definition of ‘resident in the State’ is tied up with Section 71 of the Immigration Act 1959/63 [Act 155] to ensure the definition is consistent with such provision on persons being treated as belonging to an East Malaysian state as provided in the Immigration Act 1959/63 [Act 155].

On the proposal to lower the age of representation in our Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN), I have said that this is so that the age of qualification is in tandem with the amendment to Section 5 of the Eighth Schedule to the Federal Constitution. Therefore, this amendment is significant to ensure the provision of the State Constitution is consistent with the provision of the Federal Constitution.
We must remember that the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 [Act A1603] which was passed by Parliament on July 16, 2019 and came into force on Sept 10, 2019 had inter alia amended the age of qualification of persons to be elected as an elected member of the State Legislative Assembly from 21 to 18 in Section 5 of Part I of the Eighth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

It is therefore important for us to propose the amendment to our own State Constitution in line with Article 71(4) of the Federal Constitution requires the Constitution of any State to have the provisions substantially to the same effect of provisions in Part I of the Eighth Schedule which are regarded as “the essential provisions".




Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Sarawak State Budget 2021 to propose allocation of fund to reinvigorate local tourism industry

I have wel­comed the pro­posed RM252 mil­lion al­lo­ca­tion un­der our State's 2021 Bud­get for our Min­istry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak to carry out var­i­ous tourism pro­grammes in­clud­ing mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion, bid­ding for busi­ness events, fes­ti­vals and events as well as tourism in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment.

This is because Sarawak’s tourism sec­tor is in need of a boost as it has grown sig­nif­i­cantly over the past decade in terms of con­tribut­ing to the growth of the state’s econ­omy and bring­ing in for­eign and do­mes­tic tourists. How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion is damp­ened by the Covid-19 pan­demic cou­pled with the move­ment re­stric­tion which has caused a sharp de­cline in travel and leisure ac­tiv­i­ties.

As what the Chief Min­is­ter had men­tioned in his bud­get speech, our tourism sec­tor is one of the badly hit by the Covid-19 pan­demic and it had also im­pacted on the lives of our lo­cal folks who are in­volved in the in­dus­try at all lev­els.

Thus, it is im­por­tant for the govern­ment to con­tinue to pro­vide al­lo­ca­tion to de­velop new tourism attractions while up­grad­ing the ex­ist­ing ones which will be ready to re­ceive the ex­pected in­flux of tourists when the sit­u­a­tion im­proves.

As the state assemblyman for Asa­jaya, I have pointed out that our Right Honourable Chief Minister, Abang Jo­hari Tun Abang Haji Openg, when tabling the 2021 State Bud­get, had noted that the pro­posed al­lo­ca­tion is for the de­vel­op­ment, re­fur­bish­ment and im­prove­ment works on the Sarawak Cul­ture Mu­seum, San­tubong Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Park and Wal­lace Cen­tre, Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre at the Old DUN Build­ing, cas­cad­ing wa­ter­fall at Fort Margherita, up­grad­ing of Wind Cave and Fairy Cave, up­grad­ing of forts in­clud­ing Fort Emma, Fort Lily, Fort Brooke and Fort Sylvia, trans­for­ma­tion of Brooke Dock­yard into a Mar­itime Mu­seum, and Sadong Jaya man­grove tourism.

On behalf of our ministry, we would like to record our ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the Chief Min­is­ter for the pro­posed al­lo­ca­tion which shows how much the Gabun­gan Parti Sarawak (GPS) govern­ment has al­ways placed the well-be­ing of the peo­ple as the pri­or­ity in all of its plan­ning and ac­tions.

This is also in line with our strug­gle in pro­tect­ing the rights and safe­guard­ing the in­ter­ests of Sarawak un­der the motto ‘Pri­ori­tise Sarawak; Sarawak First’. With this com­mit­ment, the 2021 State Bud­get will fo­cus on the need to re­vive and re­de­velop the state’s econ­omy by ac­cel­er­at­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of var­i­ous in­fra­struc­ture projects in­clud­ing in­fra­struc­ture fa­cil­i­ties, pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, dig­i­tal eco­nomic ini­tia­tives, hous­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, tal­ent de­vel­op­ment and so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

This mea­sure will also have mul­ti­plier ef­fects that will cre­ate bet­ter job op­por­tu­ni­ties, im­prove the liv­ing stan­dards of lo­cal folks, and to en­sure busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity for the good of the com­mu­nity. Even though our econ­omy is ex­pected to con­tract be­tween 3.5 per cent and 5 per cent this year, we will con­tinue to per­se­vere while ac­cept­ing the de­cline in tourism sec­tor has spill-over ef­fect on other ser­vices sec­tors, par­tic­u­larly af­fect­ing the trans­port and lo­gis­tics, ho­tel and ac­com­mo­da­tions, whole­sale and re­tail trade as well as food and bev­er­ages in­dus­tries.

We must understand that our tourism sec­tor was among the worst hit by the Covid-19 pan­demic where for the first nine months of this year, vis­i­tor ar­rivals had con­tracted by 64.1 per cent due to travel restric­tions and clo­sure of in­ter­na­tional bor­der. Hence, ef­forts must be made to re­vive the sec­tor and to ren­der as­sis­tance to those who are in­volved in the in­dus­try.






The proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

 

This morning's Sarawak State Assembly sitting will include the the proposed amendment Bill to be tabled which allow only Sarawakians to be elected as state representatives, and also to lower the minimum age of representation from 21 to 18.

I will table the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 Bill seeks “to provide for the amendment of the Constitution of the State of Sarawak in respect of matters relating to qualification of members of the Dewan Undangan Negeri”.

The amendment shall also provide the definition of “resident in the State’ to be consistent with the state’s constitutional powers to determine who is entitled to enter and reside in Sarawak where “resident in the state” according to the Bill will mean “a citizen belonging to the State of Sarawak in accordance with Section 71 of the Immigration Act 1959/63”.

According to Article 71(1) of the Federal Constitution (persons to be treated as belonging to East Malaysian State) must fulfil the following criteria:

(1) For purposes of section 66, a citizen shall be treated as belonging to an East Malaysian state if-

(a) he is or has within the preceding two years been a permanent resident in the East Malaysian state; or

(b) he became a citizen in any of the following ways, that is to say- (i) by operation of law on Malaysian Day in respect of his being a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies ordinarily resident in the State;

(ii) by operation of law on or after Malaysia Day in respect of his birth in Malaysia and of one of his parents being at the time of the birth a permanent resident in the East Malaysian state; or

(iii) by registration in respect of his being on Malaysia Day ordinarily resident in the East Malaysian state.

It is speculated that the need to table the amendment arises following the case of former Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon who was disqualified as a lawmaker after he was found to possess “dual citizenship” which Dr Ting denounced before being nominated as a candidate for Pujut.

Meanwhile, the same Bill will also seek to lower the minimum age of Sarawak’s elected representatives from 21 to 18. Article 16 states: “Every citizen of or over the age of 21 years who is resident in the state is qualified to be elected as an elected member of the Dewan Undangan Negeri, unless he is disqualified for being such a member of the Federal Constitution or this Constitution or by any such law as is mentioned in Article 17.”

The Constitution of the State of Sarawak (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 Bill will seek to lower the minimum age of persons to be qualified to be elected as an elected member of the DUN where the words “twenty-one” will be replaced by “eighteen”.






Sunday, 8 November 2020

Big thanks to New Sarawak Tribune for the recent exclusive interview

My appreciation to our media friends from New Sarawak Tribune who had interviewed me on my thoughts on the sweeping Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, impacting human lives, shuttering businesses and impeding economic growth.

But of course it is the global tourism industry which is one of the hardest hit sectors as nations have closed their borders and people are apprehensive about venturing out in these uncertain times. In fact, the World Travel and Tourism Council has estimated that almost 200 million jobs could be lost in the global travel and tourism sector as a result of the restrictions put in place due to the pandemic. 

Sarawak itself has suffered a drastic drop in tourist arrivals and tourism receipts, with numerous tourism-related sectors experiencing millions in losses during this period. These are the excerpts from the interview we had recently.

New Sarawak Tribune: When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, what was your first thought?

Abdul Karim: At first, I felt that it was possible that this pandemic would not arrive in our country and our state. But when it started to spread from China to Europe and so on, and when the first case in Malaysia was reported earlier this year, we knew that it would strike and affect all industries here.

When it began to spread in March, the situation became even more dangerous and the tourism industry was among the most affected.

As the minister in charge of tourism in Sarawak, I can definitely feel its impact as we are always engaging the tourism industry players.

In terms of our numbers, throughout 2019, Sarawak received 4.66 million visitors with our tourism receipts amounting to RM11.57 billion. This contributed 8.72 percent to Sarawak’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Compared to 2018, there was an increase of 5.22 percent in tourist arrivals in 2019. Unfortunately, this year, the number of tourists to Sarawak has decreased drastically. From January to September, we received 1,155,754 visitors. This is a drop of 65.67 percent compared to the same period last year when we received 3,366,922. That is a significant difference.

How have the industry players been affected?

All tourism sectors are badly affected by the pandemic. For instance, travel and tour agencies have experienced RM108 million in losses, affecting 1,728 jobs including 216 licensed travel agents. Tourist guides or national park tour guides have suffered a loss of RM15 million.

The hotel industry is among the most impacted, with losses amounting to RM60 million. This involves 6,889 employees and 22,061 hotel rooms. Also affected is the food and beverage (F&B) industry. When the restaurants were directed to close by authorities such as the Health Ministry, this resulted in losses of around RM82 million.

Sarawak’s handicraft and souvenir industry has also felt the effects of the pandemic as these are all interrelated. When tourists do not come in, this industry is hindered. It has experienced a loss of RM12 million, involving 920 people who are registered under the Sarawak Craft Council (SCC).

Apart from that, the industry related to meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) or business events is also severely impacted as many of these events cannot be carried out now. Indeed, the pandemic has brought a tremendous negative effect to our tourism industry.

What measures have the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture and the state government as a whole taken to help tourism industry players during these trying times?

A lot has been done to help them; the Sarawak government is very concerned about the problems faced by the people and has the economic strength to help.

The state government has introduced various programmes and initiatives to help the people in general as well, not just those in the tourism industry. Ampng them were the Sarawakku Sayang Special Assistance (BKSS) 1.0, BKSS 2.0, BKSS 3.0, and also the BKSS 4.0 – these were able to help those in need.

Among those related to the tourism industry is assistance for tourist guides, national park guides, and also hotels – whereby the annual payment of hotel licensing fees has been waived for this year. Besides that, assistance has been provided for boat operators as well as taxi drivers and e-hailing operators; everyone has received some help from the state government.

The Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) under my ministry has organised various packages to drive this industry and ensure its survival. During dialogue sessions with tourism industry players, we heard a lot of their problems such as the lack of visitors at this time. So we looked into how we could encourage locals to travel domestically since the borders were still closed to outsiders.

How has the response been towards these measures?

I am quite impressed to see the response so far to the Sia Sitok Sarawak programme organised by STB and my ministry. We have provided about 30 special packages for locals in Sarawak — they just have to pay for half of the original prices of these travel packages and the rest is borne by the state government.

The response towards this campaign has been great; every weekend,   many local destinations are visited by the people of Sarawak. I am very happy because at least, this can help to reduce the burden of the industry players.

How long do you think it will be before Sarawak’s tourism industry recovers?

This industry needs some time before it can return to normal. Perhaps, it will need until at least the second quarter of 2021 before it can see some recovery. But it also depends on the Covid-19 developments and circumstances, as at the moment the pandemic is not over yet. If the situation worsens, then the tourism industry’s recovery will be delayed further.

What are some of the challenges in reviving the tourism industry after the pandemic?

The tourism sector will need some time to recover because it is largely dependent on people. If people are not very confident and they are apprehensive about travelling, then the industry will not be able to survive and flourish.

Many aspects need to be considered to boost the confidence of people in travelling and want to be involved in our events such as the Rainforest World Music Festival, Jazz Festival and so on. Hence, the key challenge here is how to make the people confident. This is not only a challenge for Sarawak but the whole world because people are still not confident about the safety levels of the places they want to visit.

As long as this uncertainty remains, it will be quite difficult for the industry to recover. Therefore, our role is to assuage these uncertainties and fears so that tourists want to visit Sarawak.

What is the ministry doing in this downtime when Sarawak is not receiving many tourists?

We have our brainstorming sessions and discussions with the industry players. We are holding courses which include increasing the number of tourist guides here. Sarawak only has about 100 tourist guides so we are holding these programmes in Kuching, Miri and Sibu.

We have courses on digital marketing for industry players such as travel and tour agencies. We also have courses for frontliners, community-based tourism, handicraft training, tourism product development and e-tourism which is related to responsible tourism and tourism awareness for those interested in this industry. We expect Sarawak will experience a sharp increase in visitors when the pandemic ends.

How has the response been so far?

The response we have received is very encouraging, especially among university graduates. Previously, only Form 5 or Form 6 school leavers were interested in the tourism industry. Now, many university graduates interested in the tourism sector; perhaps they see the potential of this industry.

I encourage more youth to join this industry. I would like to see   around 1,000 tourist guides in Sarawak compared to 100 or so currently.   Here, the government and the tourism-related agencies under it need to play their roles.

What are the roles of the tourism industry stakeholders?

The tourism industry requires both the government and private sector to play their roles. The government has the responsibility to build up the platform and manage connectivity while the private sector plays a significant role in driving the industry.

After this pandemic, I hope that these stakeholders will be more creative and innovative in organising programmes and products to attract overseas tourists. They can discuss these ideas with my ministry and STB as well. They must also have innovative ways of marketing existing products.  

One of the things that tourists have complained about is the lack of tourism products here. Can you comment on this?

I do not agree with this. Sarawak is a state with many different   ethnicities and cultures. We have 27 ethnicities here and each  has its own culture and way of life. This can be a product in itself; many people visit just to see and experience the cultures here, the people’s ways of life and the environment.

Sarawak’s main attraction is its ecotourism. Tourists who are interested in this are those from Europe – they love to see things in their original state. Aside from that, people from countries like China love to visit to experience nature, the sea, the beaches, and there are also those with an interest in caves.

For instance, we have Mulu Cave here and we used to have many flights heading there daily. But now,there is only one due to the pandemic. These tourism products can attract those who wish to escape from the concrete jungle.

What steps has your ministry taken to promote Sarawak overseas?

At the moment, we are not able to promote Sarawak overseas due to the current circumstances. However, last year, we  organised programmes to promote Sarawak.

Once Covid-19 has subsided, we will be able to promote Sarawak to China, Europe and more. I believe this will take some time as the people’s level of confidence needs to be improved first.

At this time, our promotions are more focused on the domestic market — for the people of Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, as they are more in touch with the situation here. After that, our neighbours, namely Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia.

One product which heavily involves Indonesia is medical tourism;   more than 40,000 patients have sought medical treatment at our private hospitals here. When they visit, their family members come along as well and this has a three- or four-fold effect, a chain reaction. 

What languages are needed in Sarawak’s tourism industry?

English is a universal language. Any visitor, whether they are from Europe or elsewhere, would usually do some research first before they visit – and this includes looking into whether the people here can speak English or not. If many of the people here cannot speak English, these tourists may not want to come.

Besides English, Mandarin is important as well because China’s economy and population are growing.

Prior to Covid-19, most of our tourists were from neighbouring countries, namely Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia. There was no problem with that because our languages are similar — the Nusantara languages. After the pandemic, I believe  many tourists from China, Europe, Oceania, and other regions will visit Sarawak.

What are your hopes for tourism when the pandemic ends?

I hope consumer confidence in travel will be restored and that people will  venture out and travel not only to Malaysia but also all over the world. I hope they would want to visit and experience an environment that is different from what they have in their home countries.

 


All praise for Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Account 1 withdrawal facility

 

Kudos to Malaysia Budget 2021 which included the targeted Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Account 1 withdrawal facility that serves as another measure to help alleviate burden of those affected by Covid19 with regard to household expenses.

I thank our local media friends who had asked for my personal comments on this matter which had been widely spoken by our local folks from all strata of the society and looking for the government's consideration to enable them withdraw such funds from EPF.

We therefore welcome such measure which will can assist in restoring the economic cycle of our local folks affected by the present situation. The government's continuation of the i-Lestari Account 2 withdrawal scheme is also welcomed where contributors can also withdraw up to RM1,000 from EPF accounts 1 and 2 to relieve them of their financial burden due to the pandemic.

Our 2021 Budget can be viewed as comprehensive despite the government was facing various financial constraints and the initiatives provided under the budget will help reduce the people’s burden as well as to revitalise the country's economy. Thus, next year's budget can be seen as a response to the challenges faced in the current Covid-19 situation and economic downturn.



Feeling blessed and grateful for Malaysia Budget 2021

There were a lot of comments levelled on the recent tabling of our Malaysia Budget 2021 and my response is that now is not the time to compare which state gets more allocation for development and in fact this is not the time for us to make comparison on which state gets more or why that state gets less.

This is the time where we look at it holistically, that whatever is announced for our state, we should feel grateful. I know that Sabah is given a little more than us which is RM5.1 billion while Sarawak only gets RM4.5 billion for development expenditure.

For Sabah, in terms of infrastructure, it is not too good and in terms of their reserve, it cannot be compared to Sarawak’s reserve and we are still grateful for what was given; the important thing is that the state is peaceful, does not face huge problems and is politically stable.

I am also grateful to our local media friends who have asked on whether there be any good news to expect from the upcoming State Budget 2021and I have told them that money is not really a big problem when it comes to coming up with projects which are for the people’s benefit.

Of course we look forward to the upcoming State Budget that will be tabled by our Right Honourable Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and the state is blessed with the leadership that has been able to lead and organise Sarawak well.

Although other states are facing economic problems but over here we can see that projects on the ground are on the increase. Even in my Asajaya constituency, it is quite difficult to sort out the contracts because there are too many projects going on. To some extent, I feel that this is done because our financial management is well taken care of.

We are therefore feeling blessed with our fund and reserves which are much bigger if compared to other states, along with the remuneration from the state sales tax (SST) that we get from Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas). Hence, in Sarawak our local folks does not feel much burdened by the slowdown of the economy. 



Thursday, 5 November 2020

GPS can win big in upcoming Sarawak 12th State Elections (PRN12)

As Vice-President of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), I believe Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) can win with big majority in the coming 12th State Election (PRN12) based on the good track record that we have over the past years. I say this because our people are aware of the GPS government’s efforts to bring development to the state and the ruling coalition is fully prepared for the state polls.

I believe GPS would win handsomely. I think the rakyat knows what the GPS government has been doing too. On division of seats among GPS component parties, I opined that it has been settled and that the party with stronger election machinery on the ground should be given the chance to stand in that particular seat, as it is better to win the seat for GPS than to squabble.

For myself, whether  I will defend my seat or not will depends on the party, and I will respect the decision because that is PBB culture. On the issue of Parti Peribumi Bersatu (Bersatu)’s position in GPS, I have mentioned to our media friends that they are a GPS friendly party in the federal government, and here at the state level, they are our friend too. I have also asked on whether GPS would allocate any seat for Bersatu to contest in the state election but anything GPS does is in the spirit of co-operation. 

It is not to say not to give, but there is always narrating the spirit of co-operation especially if we are friendly to each other. They are not our enemy because the federal government is Pakatan Nasional (PN) and GPS, which also means that GPS is allied to PN and not one of the components in PN. Bersatu might have found out the sentiment on the ground, and as they do not have any seats in the current state assembly, they may have been doing their own survey to know if they have any chance of winning.

Similarly, when asked if the 2018 Parliament election result will have any bearing in the coming state election, I did mention that Parliament and State elections are different, and Sarawakians are more concerned about the state election.

The candidates for the coming PRN12 will be considered based on their age, academic background, personality, relationship with the electorates and health. The party is also open to fielding more women candidate to fulfill the target of 30 per cent women representation, which GPS has almost achieved. It will be good if both Parliament and State elections should be held at the same timebecause of cost saving factor.

For Sarawak, we have an election every 2 to 2.5 years, and we are busy campaigning all year. If can hold both together is a good suggestion, but it depends on the higher up. Election costs hundreds of millions which is the people’s money. The state election can be held anytime from now to June 7 next year when the current DUN term automatically dissolves as the first sitting for the current term was on June 7, 2016, 


Sarawak football needs our support to get through their tough 2020 season

Recently I have expressed by concern over the financial crisis faced by our Football Association of Sarawak (FAS) and the call for its president, Dato Posa Majais to resign from his post. The call was made by both former state players and coaches associations after Dato Posa had suggested that Sarawak could withdraw from the Malaysian League (M-League) next season due to financial constraints.

The Sarawak Former Footballers Association and Sarawak Football Coaches Association – and some of the FAS members were certainly unhappy with the statement and questioned Dato Posa’s capability in solving the long-standing financial problems in the FAS. Howver, I believe the issue could be resolved amiably through talks and urged the concerned parties in the crisis to sit together to find a solution.

I was also saddened when reading it on our local newspapers but we need to give our full support to the association because football is a very popular in Malaysia especially in Sarawak and we have 2 teams playing in the prestigious Malaysian League (MFL). As the state Sports Minister, I will not let football sink and I want FAS to be well governed. Thus, I will hold a meeting with FAS over the matter. 

There is friction among the divisions, from top to bottom in FAS and I don’t want to see conflict among them. We must understand no amount of finger-pointing would not help solve the problem. On another note, there is a need by Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to try to understand the financial situation of teams in Sarawak and our neighbour Sabah.Therefore, the national governing body should give bigger allocations to Sarawak and Sabah than that of the other states, otherwise it’s better for us to just play in Borneo.

Our problem is also not unique because there 5 other state teams which are facing disqualification if FAS opted to withdraw from the M-League next season.These teams will include Sarawak United FC (Premier League), Sarawak United II (M3 League), Sarawak United III (President Cup), Sarawak United IV (Youth Cup) and Sarawak United (FAM Futsal League). Kuching FA is another local team which is competing in the Premier League. and the clubside has finished fourth in the national second tier league this season and will kick off their first campaign in the Malaysia Cup against defending champions JDT soon.



Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Our Election Commission (EC) should look into new standard operating procedures and guidelines

It is my opinion for the election commission (EC) should look into new standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines when conducting the state election here so that there will not be a repeat of an outbreak like that of the recent Sabah state elections. As there is there is no upcoming elections, I think the EC should be more proactive in looking for ways to hold elections, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Personally, since there is no election, they should also look into postal voting. If US, New Zealand can do it, we should look into it too. If we look at the we do banking right now we can have faith in telebanking, everything is safe, why can’t EC look into something like this. We are getting more advanced, it can’t be we don’t trust our system, until now want to show our inked fingers? Only in India they do that because India have billions of people.

I spoke on these when our media friends asked me on when the state election could be held, after which our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had given some indication that it will depend a little on how the Covid-19 situation in the state progresses, and will find somewhere to slot it in between now and June next year. It might not be when CM initially had planned it. He wanted it much earlier this year. And with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, we still have time (to hold it). And if  the EC is able or not to conduct election properly with new SOPs, new guidelines, they did not do this in Sabah, unfortunately. They should be more stringent and must be proactive.”

Every month next year will have its own holiday. In February, there’s the Lunar Chinese New Year, March there’s school exam, April there’s the fasting month, and in May we have Hari Raya Aidilfitri, while in June there’s Gawai. We will find a slot somewhere between Nov to June next year.