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Friday, June 30, 2017

A Gabungan Sabah Government Would Reject Tourism Tax – Dr. Jeffrey

KOTA KINABALU - “Despite the Hari Raya festivities, Sabahans and Sarawakians felt let down by the federal government and their respective Sabah and Sarawak governments for bowing to the wishes of Putrajaya and accepting the implementation of the new tourism tax,” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) President cum Bingkor Assemblyman in response to U-turn of the Sabah and Sarawak governments in agreeing to accept the tourism tax amidst reports that 3,000 tourists from China have cancelled their bookings and changing their destination to Thailand.

Despite the hoo-ha and rhetoric of the Sarawak Tourism Minister and defiance of the federal Tourism Minister, the Sarawak and Sabah governments had to bow to the wishes of the federal Tourism Ministry. This was forewarned when the Deputy PM had earlier told off the Sarawak government to back off from their stand in opposing the tourism tax.

The Sabah government fared even worse and none of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet Ministers dared to raise any objections to the tax in the first place let again oppose its implementation.

Sabahans should now realize that their BN State government and its leaders can no longer be relied upon to protect their interests while being spineless and subservient to their political masters in Putrajaya.

Rumours are flying that the Tourism Ministry especially the Tourism Board are heavily in debt and unable to pay suppliers and contractors amidst the recent closures of domestic Tourism Board offices. Hence, the urgent need to bring forward implementation of the tourism tax to 1st July and which is expected to raise RM654 million.

The promise to share the tourism tax with Sabah and Sarawak is nothing more than lip service to appease the public outcry against the tax. In Sabah, the situation is more acute with the tourism industry employing the most people in Sabah with many others heavily reliant on the tourist dollar.

There is no sincerity in the federal promise to return the tourism tax.  If the intention is to return the tax to Sabah and Sarawak, it can easily be resolved with the State governments empowered to collect the taxes since it is the local hotels who would be collecting the tax.

However, the root of the problem is not the RM15.00 to RM20.00 per room tourism tax collection or its return to Sabah and Sarawak. It is a much deep-rooted issue which has been side-tracked with the public spat. 

The real issue is that “Tourism” was a State residual power and ought not to have been included in the Federal List of the Federal Constitution.

The stand of a STAR/Gabungan Sabah government is pretty straight-forward. A Sabah government with STAR as a component will reject the tourism tax as it is constitutionally unlawful.

The federal government has no legal locus standi to collect the tourism tax. If at all, any such “tax” is to be collected, it should be the right of the Sabah government. 

Any such tax collection should be returned to Sabah and this does not even involve the return of 40% as constitutionally provided and which the federal and Sabah governments have failed to comply with. This is despite each and every member of the federal Cabinet and Sabah Cabinet including the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister being sworn under oath to protect and uphold the Federal Constitution.

Come PRU-14, Sabahans should be wise enough to vote in a new Sabah government that is not spineless and not subservient to Putrajaya but who are willing to uphold and protect the interests and welfare of Sabah and all Sabahans irrespective of race, religion or creed. Sabahans should also wise up that if the tourism tax creates a slow-down in the tourist arrivals into Sabah, it will be them who will be most affected, not the Umno Ministers and the federal government who will be still be cosy in Putrajaya.

A STAR/Gabungan Sabah government will ensure that Sabahans and Sabah will be well looked after unlike the present Umno-led BN government. Sabahans should know who to vote for in the forthcoming general elections.

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