Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg said the tourism tax might not come into effect beginning July 1 in the state, as discussions are still ongoing on how to disburse the tax revenue.
“How to disburse (revenue from tourism tax collection) will be based on negotiations because you must understand that tax is under (the) Federal (List), although tourism is under us,” Abang Johari said at his Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house in Kuching yesterday, as reported by The Borneo Post.
He was responding to questions on whether the tourism tax issue had been finalised and whether it would come into effect on July 1.
When pressed on whether the tax will be enforced starting July 1, he said, “It depends on our discussion and it is still in negotiations now”.
He also said that Sarawak was probably going to have a common stand with the Sabah state government on this matter.
It was previously reported that tourism officers from Sabah and Sarawak had met in Kuching last week with the attorney-general of both states to discuss the tourism tax.
The chief minister is also aware that the Penang state government had been collecting hotel tax, but was also quick to point out that “Penang charges a fee but not tax”.
Penang’s hotel tax comes under the jurisdiction of the Local Government Ministry.
Abang Johari said that “disposing of tax is a federal matter”, as stipulated in the Federal Constitution.
Earlier, the Sarawak state government had accepted the implementation of the tourism tax, which would see customers being charged between RM2.50 and RM20 per hotel room per night, on the condition that they wanted a share of the tax to be channelled straight back to the state government.
This comes after a feud broke out between Sarawak minister in charge of tourism, Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, and his federal counterpart Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
Nazri had rained insults on Abdul Karim, calling him “setahun jagung” (immature) and telling him not to behave like a “samseng” (thug), after Abdul Karim proposed the tax be deferred for East Malaysia and asking Putrajaya to respect the Malaysian agreement by first consulting the state.
The Sarawak government retaliated against Nazri’s comments by withdrawing its representative from the Malaysian Tourism Board.
This feud prompted Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to meet with Abang Johari to resolve the issue.