PETALING JAYA: Nazri Aziz today downplayed the Sarawak government’s decision to withdraw from the Malaysia Tourism Board, saying “life will go on as usual” and that it would not affect the state’s tourism.
“I can always replace them with someone else,” Nazri told FMT, a day after he lashed out at his Sarawak counterpart Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah for questioning a new tourism tax which kicks in next month.
Following this, the state government today announced it was withdrawing from MTB, Putrajaya’s agency to promote the tourism industry.
“I will continue to promote Sarawak with or without their representatives. That’s what I’ve been doing all this while,” said Nazri.
Sarawak’s announcement comes as tensions mount over Nazri’s move to push ahead with the new tourism tax, which could see hotels nationwide forced to charge between RM2.50 and RM20 per night.
“The state government deems that the participation of its representatives in Tourism Malaysia is not necessary as this is duplicating the role and functions of the Sarawak Tourism Promotion Board,” the Chief Minister’s Office said today.
Karim had said the new tax was an example of the federal government imposing tax laws in Sarawak without consultation, drawing strong reaction from Nazri.
“You (Karim) should not talk big in politics. If you want to show samseng (thuggery), we are bigger samseng,” said Nazri.
The comments were condemned by Sarawak politicians across the divide, with Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Youth chief Fadillah Yusof telling off Nazri for insulting Karim.
To this, Nazri said Karim’s claim that the federal government was trying to seize Sarawak’s powers was also insulting.
“That accusation was not true, so isn’t that insulting too? Does Fadillah think only the Sarawakians are sensitive? The rest of the Malaysians have no right to be sensitive?
“Doesn’t he think that Karim, as a new minister, should have said that he would seek clarification from me, rather than bluffing by saying it’s typical of West Malaysians to seize state’s powers?”
Nazri denied the suggestion that Putrajaya failed to consult Sarawak over the implementation of the tourism tax.
He said the Tourism Tax Bill was first presented at the federal cabinet which also included Fadillah who is the works minister, before it was debated in Parliament.
“So what is it with the talk about us wanting to seize Sarawak’s powers? The bill was debated in Parliament with all the Sarawak MPs present.
“When we tabled the tourism tax bill, it never even crossed our mind that it might be perceived, or used to take over the power of Sarawakians.
“I think we should all grow up, and start thinking as Malaysians,” said Nazri.