Federal tourism ministry ‘illegal’ in Sabah, Sarawak, says activist

Activist Zainnal Ajamain says Sabah and Sarawak should have autonomy over tourism because they know better how to promote their products.

KUCHING: Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) activist Zainnal Ajamain is questioning the legality of the federal tourism, arts and culture ministry to regulate tourism in Sabah and Sarawak.

Before tourism matters in Sabah and Sarawak were placed under the federal list in 1994, they were under the residual list – as they were neither in the federal nor state list.

There have, therefore, been efforts by Sabah and Sarawak to reclaim autonomy over tourism from Putrajaya because under the Federal Constitution, matters that fall under the residual list should be under the state’s purview.

Speaking to FMT, Zainnal described the insertion of Sabah and Sarawak’s tourism in the federal list as “wrong” since it fell under residual power.

He said that according to Article 77 of the Federal Constitution, Parliament must first get the consent of all states in Malaysia before inserting any matter that falls under residual power into the federal list.

“As it is now, the tourism, arts and culture ministry at the federal level is illegal and Putrajaya has been continuing with this lie,” he said.

“How can a federal government be a federal government when they breach the Federal Constitution?” he asked.

Although the issue was believed to have been brought up for discussion in the Steering Committee meeting to review MA63, Zainnal said the matter had yet to be resolved.

He said this was because the federal government had made a “mess” of the Federal Constitution when it amended Article 95C in 1965, which was meant for the devolution of power to the Borneo States.

“Substituting the phrase ‘a Borneo state’ to ‘any State’ in the article means the devolution is also for all the other states in Malaya.

“If the federal government was to give a say over tourism to Sabah or Sarawak, then the other states may demand for it as well.

“Therefore, there is no way the federal government will give autonomy for tourism matters, specifically to Sabah and Sarawak, according to the MA63,” he said.

He said it would be better for Sabah and Sarawak to have autonomy over tourism because Sabahans and Sarawakians would know better how to promote their own tourism products.

“For example, some of the officials from the tourism, arts and culture ministry at the federal level are unaware about the tourist sights in Sabah. Most of them only know Mount Kinabalu,” he said.