S4S: Govt has no right to impose tourism tax in Sarawak

tourism-tax-Peter-John-Jaban-sarawakPETALING JAYA: Sarawak4Sarawakians (S4S) spokesperson Peter John Jaban has taken Umno supreme council member Nazri Aziz to task for calling Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah a “gangster”.

Calling Nazri “arrogant” and “uncouth”, he said the minister’s act of “bulldozing” the Tourism Tax Bill in the Dewan Rakyat without consulting Sarawak was against the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“As a senior minister, Nazri shouldn’t have acted in such a way, risking further animosity between Sarawak and Malaya. Instead, he should have set a better example as a senior minister to his juniors.

“Karim was simply expressing the enshrined rights of Sarawak,” Peter said in a statement today.

Yesterday, Nazri, who is tourism and culture minister, told Karim to watch his mouth when issuing statements against the federal government.

This was after The Borneo Post reported Karim calling the new tourism tax a glaring example of the federal government imposing tax laws in Sarawak without consultation.

“Learn to be a minister before you open your mouth and remember that in politics you shouldn’t talk so big.

“If you think you’re a gangster, there are bigger gangsters than you,” Nazri had said while speaking to reporters.

Peter said Sarawakians were feeling more and more victimised.

“Sarawak’s sovereignty as an equal partner in the federation of Malaysia is threatened through this blatant act of disregard by the federal government in the jurisdiction and administration of a sovereign state,” he said.

S4S central zone spokesman Bill Jugah also criticised the way in which the matter was handled, calling it “totally inappropriate”.

He said Nazri and Karim should have ironed out the creases before announcing a major change in taxation.

“Nazri should have read the Malaysia Agreement over and over again before coming out with a press statement on such an important issue affecting Sarawak,” he said.

Citing a statement by Bingkor assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan, Bill said Sarawakians should realise what to do for their own future instead of leaving it to the federal government.

He said the government had no right to impose the Tourism Tax, which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat on April 6 with a simple majority, thanks to the support of Barisan Nasional MPs from Sarawak and Sabah as well. According to Nazri, the new tax is effective from July 1.

“The central government has no right to impose such a tax as far as Sarawak is concerned, as this will amount to double taxation by hotels and lodging houses.”

He said Nazri was unaware that there are three tiers of government in Malaysia: the federal government, the state government and the local government.

“The power of the local government belongs to the state government and not the federal government,” he said.

As such, the federal government could not simply pass a law and take over the power of the state government to impose the tourism tax in Sarawak.

He added that the tax was part of the local government revenue which belongs to individual municipalities.

“Even the state government dares not touch this revenue which belongs exclusively to each of the municipalities,” he said.

Pointing out that lodging houses and hotels come under the Sarawak & Sabah Local Government Ordinance 1961 Section 49(46)(i), Bill asked how the federal government could pass the Tourism Tax Bill in Parliament without asking for the state’s consent.

“Parliament cannot pass any law as it pleases.

“When Parliament tables a bill, it is a federal law and the MPs from Sarawak do not represent the Sarawak state legislative assembly which makes and passes laws for Sarawak.

“Therefore, the approval that Sarawak MPs (give) in Parliament is not binding to Sarawak unless consent is given by the Sarawak legislative assembly.”

Tourism tax: Watch your mouth, Nazri tells Sarawak minister