The Sarawak state government will soon decide on its action over the new tourism tax imposed by the federal government, The Borneo Post reported.
Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah clarified that the state cabinet will be meeting soon and the issue of the implementation of the tourism tax on hotels in Sarawak would be discussed in detail.
“This matter is higher than just being about my ministry. It is the sole right of the state government and the people of Sarawak,” Karim was quoted as saying.
He also responded to a comment by Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz, who yesterday had called Karim “ignorant” and “inexperienced”, saying the Sarawak state minister should have spoken to him first before commenting on the implementation of the tourism tax in the state.
“We’re both Barisan Nasional ministers. You’re a new minister and still wet behind the ears whereas I’ve been a minister for years and years. Come and see me, don’t talk so much.
“Learn to be a minister before you open your mouth and remember that in politics you shouldn’t talk so big,” Nazri said of Karim.
Nazri had said the levying of taxes is under the jurisdiction of the federal government and with the passing of the Tourism Tax Bill by the Dewan Rakyat on April 6, Sabah and Sarawak are also bound by the new law.
Last week, it was revealed that the new tourism tax, would take effect from Aug 1. However, Nazri later clarified it was effective July 1, despite the law not having been gazetted as required.
Karim had previously been reported as saying that the tourism tax was a glaring example of how the federal government imposes tax laws in Sarawak without consultation.
According to the Sarawak-based daily, Karim said the state government did not mean to oppose the implementation of the tourism tax or the federal government, just that it was not consulted on the matter.
“We know that tourism is a matter which was not discussed when the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was signed. In fact, nobody knew about tourism at that time in 1963 and I don’t know whether there was such a term as tourism in 1963.
“So it was not in what we call the Federal List, State List and Concurrent List. So when matters are not in these three lists, any law students or constitutional lawyers will look at it as what we call the Residual List.
“When something is in the Residual List, it is to be discussed between the parties who are signatories to the agreement (MA63) on who should be taking care or looking into this. So that was the reason why I am asking why Sarawak was not consulted?” Karim was quoted as saying.
He added that he was referring to the MA63 agreement because it is related to the formation of Malaysia, and every party should respect the agreement.
Karim said tourism was one of the areas previously solely the responsibility of the state government that had been eroded over the years, with the federal government taking over.
“Malaysia is a country that practices democracy, I believe our forefathers who signed the MA63 wanted it to remain like that. If there is anything that needs to be discussed, we must discuss it amicably,” Karim said, according to The Borneo Post.
He added that Nazri does not know him well enough and so, should not say he was “ignorant”.
“It is not polite to call somebody ignorant, especially if you’re a senior minister and when this is the month of Ramadan.
“But to me, I’m not slighted. What I’m doing is based on the laws, based on what I know as a lawyer and to look after the interest of Sarawak,” Karim said.