Hornbill Unleashed

June 28, 2017

See Chee How suggests Sarawak and Sabah governments take tourism tax to court as last resort

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:03 AM

Image result for See Chee HowAs a last resort, the Sarawak and Sabah governments should take the controversial tourism tax to court, says Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How.

The state PKR vice chairman said the imposing and implementation of tourism tax reeks of unconstitutionality, irrationality, illegality and injustice, and it ought to be brought to Court for judicial review.

“The Sarawak and Sabah governments can choose to ask for an exemption from the Prime Minister who is the finance minister to exempt or defer the implementation of the tourism tax in the two East Malaysian states, as an immediate and short term measure.

“But it is foreseeable that the controversial tax will be implemented fully and immediately after the impending general election,” he said in a press statement yesterday.

See said he would expect the administration of the two East Malaysian states to make it clear to Putrajaya that they are not conceding that ‘Tourism’ is a federal subject matter, as they should do to safeguard their rights and interests.

“With their responses, the nicety of Sarawak and Sabah governments in approaching this delicate matter appeared to have been seen as confused, ignorant of the laws or are being weak.”

He added that: “It is derogatory to say that the Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is confused or ignorant of the legislative jurisdiction and powers of the Federation and Sarawak when the CM emphasised that ‘tourism’ is a state matter.

“The CM knows the bound of the state’s jurisdiction, and he understands the unconstitutionality of the passing of the controversial Constitution Amendment Act 1994. I think he was just being careful and restrained in his words, saying that there are a lot of matters that are still being discussed.”

See pointed out that although the BN MPs from Sarawak and Sabah may have all voted for the constitutional amendment in 1994, the inclusion of the clause to make ‘tourism’ a federal subject matter in section 45 of the amendment bill should not have been there in the first place.

“The MPs form the two states cannot usurp the power of the Sarawak and Sabah legislative assemblies, to give consent to make ‘tourism’ an item in the federal list of Schedule 9 of the Federal Constitution.”

He said it is now incumbent on the Sarawak and Sabah governments to make it clear with Putrajaya, in their proposed joint tourism tax memorandum, that the said Section 45 of the Constitution Amendment Act 1994 should be revoked and ‘tourism’ be taken out from the federal legislative list.

“In the proposed joint meeting involving the Sarawak and Sabah governments, I certainly hope that the ministers, officers and key persons involved in the tourism industry who may be invited to the meeting will raise the matter (of seeking judicial intervention) for discussion.”

See said by safeguarding the constitutional rights of Sarawak and Sabah, with regards their legislative jurisdiction over ‘tourism’, the two East Malaysian states are certainly doing a huge service to the eleven states in Peninsular Malaysia.

“The tourism industry has emerged as one of the most significant revenue earners for all the states in Malaysia, the municipalities and local governments are and will also benefit considerably from this sector.

“The states should be the authorities to decide on levies affecting the industry. Particularly, the present ‘tourism tax’ proposed are in fact ‘bed tax’ or ‘hotel tax’ wrongly but purposely labelled as ‘tourism tax’.”

He said: “Let us be firm and emphatic with the joint representation of Sarawak and Sabah governments, for the economic interests of Sarawak, Sabah and all the other states.”

See recalled that Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, in his winding-up speech in May, revealed that Sarawak had received 4.66 million visitors in 2016, bringing in an estimated tourist receipt of RM8.37 billion.

“The minister had forecasted that there will be five million visitor arrivals and Sarawak is expecting RM8.98 billion in tourism receipt in 2017.

“On the other hand, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun had said in February this year that Sabah had 3.43 million tourist arrivals and RM7.25 billion tourism receipts in 2016.

“These are clear testimonies that our states can reap substantial economic benefits from our relatively new and developing tourism industry. It is just not the time yet to consider the levying of any tourism tax.

“To emulate our neighbouring countries in imposing tourism tax will certainly take away our competitiveness and drive away the tourists to other countries in the region.

“The lesson from the cancellation of a tour group involving 3,000 tourists who are to visit Malaysia, due to the ‘tourism tax’, must be learnt.”

Therefore, See urged both the state administrations to pool the legal minds in the two states and start to look into the legality and propriety of imposing this tourism tax and the constitutional and legal ramifications it may have on the rights and interests of all Sarawakians and Sabahans.

Source : The Borneo Post Online



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