PETALING JAYA: PKR wants Sarawak and Sabah to insist against the new national tourism tax being imposed in the two states until their legislative assemblies pass ordinances to authorise the levy there. Sarawak PKR vice-chairman See Chee How said the east Malaysian states should be steadfast in the matter. He said allowing the tax without formal state approvals would be considered as yielding to Parliament’s controversial move in 1994 to include tourism in the Federal Constitution’s Federal List without consent from the states. “Sarawak and Sabah should not submit meekly to the federal government on this matter, because it concerns the autonomous and constitutional rights of Sarawak and Sabah,” he said.
“If we concede ‘tourism” as an item in the Federal List, Sarawak and Sabah will not be able to reclaim those rights that we have lost or have been taken away from us,” he added. The Batu Lintang assemblyman said Section 45 of the 1994 Amendment Act (A885), which provides for tourism’s inclusion in the Federal List, was put in force on June 24, 1994, exactly 23 years ago. In a statement today, he said the states should now jointly make a representation to Putrajaya and Parliament to annul and revoke Section 45. See added that Article 77 of the Federal Constitution provides that a state legislature has powers to make laws on any matter not enumerated in any of the lists (federal, state or concurrent) set out in the constitution’s Ninth Schedule. “In this respect, the power to legislate is vested in the state assemblies of Sarawak and Sabah,” he said. See also said it is wrong to justify the amendment in 1994 as proper and legitimate because Sarawakian and Sabahan MPs then had voted for it.
“Quite simply, the MPs were not clothed with the power which has been vested solely with the state legislatures of Sarawak and Sabah,” he said. On the issue of the Sarawak government suggesting to the federal government that the tax revenues collected from the state be given to Sarawak for its tourism promotion, See said it lacked details. He said such a move may turn out to be impractical or even counter-productive. See cautioned that the state’s revenue from the tourism tax as proposed by the federal government may be smaller than the current total amount it receives from federal agencies for tourism. He said the states would be “walking into a trap” as there would be no more grants via the federal agencies after the tax is imposed.
“We will be worse off, and Sarawak has to face the wrath of all those in the tourism industry, and visiting tourists,” he said. “Sarawak’s contribution to the federal coffers is substantial. The state government should tell Putrajaya to turn the allocations through the agencies into an annual federal grant for Sarawak,” he said. He said the state assembly could then decide if it wanted the tax in Sarawak. The tourism tax will come into effect on July 1. Once implemented, it will see both locals and foreigners paying a levy to operators, on a per-room and per-night basis, at the same rate. The tax for non-rated hotels will be RM2.50, while the tax for two-star ones is RM5, three-star RM10, four-star RM15 and five-star RM20.