Nazri says his outburst a response to accusation of him eroding, not respecting Sarawak’s rights

Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri
Abdul Aziz

KUCHING: Federal Minister of Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz says he is upset at being accused of eroding and not respecting Sarawak’s rights.

“It is very hurtful to be slammed with such allegations when my intention is to help promote Sarawak tourism,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

Nazri explained that his statement calling  state Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah  a ‘little gangster’ and a greenhorn in ministerial duties was because he was stung by the Abdul Karim’s accusation that he was trying to erode Sarawak’s rights.

“When he accused me of eroding Sarawak rights, it was very hurtful. He shot me from the hip.

“So when I do all these to help in promoting Sarawak, it upsets me when I get accused of eroding Sarawak’s powers. This is not true. That’s not my intention. He (Abdul Karim) got it all wrong,” he said.

Nazri stressed that he has no personal problem with Abdul Karim and his public outbursts were ‘normal things’ in the course of reacting to issues. When told that Karim is a nice person, Nazri said during campaign trails in Sarawak he had no chance to know Abdul Karim on personal level.

Nazri added that the other two things that upset him were when he was accused of not consulting the state government before the Tourism Tax Bill become law and not abiding by the spirit of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Tourism tax, he said, would benefit Sarawak more as the collection of the tax would be divided equally by three regions of Sarawak, Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia; instead of by 14 states and 75 per cent of the 300,000 rooms per night are in Peninsular Malaysia.

“What is most important is for The Borneo Post to tell the people of Sarawak that people who would be most affected are those from the Semenanjung (Peninsular Malaysia) because 75 per cent of the 300,000 rooms per night (subjected to the Tourism tax) is from Semenanjung, but Sarawak benefit the most because the overall tax collection would be divided by three regions and not by 14 states,’ he said.

“Sarawak would benefit one-third of the total collection. So Sarawak is not going to lose but in fact, gain,” he stressed.

He added that the biggest tax collection  would come  from hotels in Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang because these four states have the most number of five star hotels.

Nazri said he wished Abdul Karim had come over to see and talk with him first as that has been the way forward for Barisan Nasional (BN) comrades all this while.

“I wish (Abdul) Karim had come and see me and seek clarification first. First of all he talked about the Malaysia Agreement when the issue is nothing about eroding rights of Sarawak. I am a Malaysian and pro-Sarawak.”

Nazri said he has discussed with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to make sure that the federal law is sound. The Tourism tax law must be under federal law to overcome constitutional issues.

However, he insisted that before the matter became law it was already discussed in the federal cabinet and debated in Parliament, which was attended by Sarawak MPs and federal ministers.

Consultation was duly done by virtue of these, he pointed out.

Nazri pointed out that Sarawak opposition MPs also participated in the debate and as usual they opposed government bill while Sarawak MPs agreed and approved it.

“So what I want to say is that the state not being consulted is not true.

Nazri said he will always promote Sarawak although he resides in Peninsular Malaysia.

He admitted directing the closure Malaysian Tourism Board (MTB) office in Kuching because its role and functions duplicated those of Sarawak Tourism Board (STB).

The closure is a business decision to  cut 35 per cent of MTB’s running cost.

Nazri also said he was not surprised with the state government’s decision to withdraw its representation in MTB for similar reason – duplication of role and functions as well as cost cutting for STB.

“I welcome the state’s decision and it is in fact in line with my thinking,” he said.

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