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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tourism tax should be collected by local authorities, by principle

COMMENT: It is reassuring to see the stand taken by both the Sabah and Sarawak governments is converging; the people have hope that the outcome would be optimal for the rakyat in both states respectively.

It appears that both Sabah and Sarawak will agree to the Tourism Tax and is now talking about the mechanism of collection and the reimbursements to Sabah and Sarawak. It is disappointing to see that both states did not talk about the principle of the Legislative List in the Constitution.

The crux of the matter is that the Central Government is already wrong in adding Item 25A in the Federal List in the Constitution. This is because the power to add any item in the legislative list belongs to the state. This is specifically provided in Article 77 of the constitution.

It is not a matter of Members of Parliament from Sabah and Sarawak failing in their job to stop the bill from passing. They simply cannot do it even if they tried. Sabah and Sarawak combined only have 25 percent of parliamentary seats and you need to have at least 33 percent to block a bill.

In addition, Sabah and Sarawak MPs do not represent the respective State Legislative Assembly. This begs the question, what did the opposition Members of Parliament do in Parliament to make up the 33 percent?

Zainnal Ajmain stands in front of a giant poster promoting his book – The Grand Design – in Kuching.

It also does not matter whether Sabah and Sarawak take up this matter today, tomorrow or even in the next decade. There is no time limitation to challenge the Constitution; therefore there is no time limit to challenge the insertion of the item 25A, Tourism Industry Act or the imposition of the Tourism Tax.

This confirms that the Central Government is only interested in resolving immediate concern rather than the long-term consequences of their actions.

Hopefully, both the Sabah and Sarawak governments will make a stand that whatever their decision, it will benefit the two Borneo states.

In addition, after 54 years of broken promises and shattered dreams, the Sabah and Sarawak Governments will not be allowing the Central Government to manage and administer Tourism in Sabah and Sarawak.

Tourism is a state matter; as such the State knows best how to manage it. The Central Government’s management of Tourism especially in Sabah, is far from satisfactory – there is LACK of ENFORCEMENT.

As a matter of principle, firstly, these Taxes should be collected by the Local Authorities rather than the Royal Custom. It is the State to determine how much the Central Government should be given to promote Tourism overseas.

Secondly, both Sabah and Sarawak must take a stand that the Central Government should allow direct flights to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu International Airports especially from Europe, Middle East, India, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and China.

Kuala Lumpur should not be monopolising international flights. Stop all Charter Flights into Kuching and Kota Kinabalu and make it a regular flight instead.

This will make sense for Kuching and Kota Kinabalu to organize feeder flights to Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia. There is simply no way Kuala Lumpur International Airport can compete with Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok – therefore, why the need to flog a dead horse at the expense of Kuching and Kota Kinabalu?

Thirdly, all Tourism-related licenses or permits and their enforcements should be managed locally by Sabah and Sarawak and NOT by Putrajaya. Putrajaya needs to understand there is a need for boots on the ground to manage these types of situation and NOT by remote control from Putrajaya.

Our forefathers had warned of this situation during the formation of Malaysia, that was the reason for them to come up with the Inter-Government Committee Report and the Malaysia Agreement 1963. For Nazri Aziz (the federal minister of Tourism) to be condescending about the Malaysia Agreement 1963, he is touching something sacred in Malaysia.

By Zainnal Ajamain (Zainnal Ajamain is an economist by profession)

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