It is time Nazri seeks clarity as to why his government portfolio is known as the Tourism and Culture Ministry and not Tourism and Brash Ministry

COMMENT

He may enjoy mucking about stirring controversies or is aversed to keeping a low profile but there is nothing Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz can do to win the mind of the critical Malaysian.

The minister’s hostile and unwarranted aggressive approach to brooding issues and his penchant for haughtiness and refusal to recognise the significance of diplomacy and mutual respect has left a bitter taste in many mouths.

Take the issue of the contentious tourism tax. When his Sarawak counterpart Abdul Karim Rahman, the Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister urged that Putrajaya delay the implementation of the new tourism tax, Nazri hit the roof.

Scheduled to originally take effect on July 1, Nazri had then announced that the tax would be collected from Aug 1 this year with hotels bearing a rating of three-star and below excluded.

The Tourism Tax Bill 2017, which was passed in the last parliament sitting with a majority vote, allows imposing tax rates of between RM2.50 and RM20 for overnight stays at registered hotels and inns.

Also exempted were foreign tourists who had booked their accommodation with travel agents in the country for the period until March 31, 2018.

Karim had then cited the Malaysia Agreement in asking that the tax be deferred in Sabah and Sarawak.

A disgruntled Nazri condemned Abdul Karim, saying he lacked understanding of the bigger picture when the latter argued that such a tax should be a state matter.

“There’s no need for him to mention about the (Malaysia Agreement). We know (what we are doing),” Nazri lampooned Abdul Karim during iftar last month.

Nazri was adamant that the impending tourism tax was part of the federal list and that Putrajaya decided to make it a federal government tax to avoid confusion.

“It is not about seizing Sarawak’s rights when it has become a federal tax.

“He (Karim) is a new minister, he is a BN minister, he should not be showing his arrogance.

“He can just meet me, I’m also a BN minister. (And) I have been a minister for many years.

“You are still new. Setahun jagung (still immature). You shouldn’t say much,” Malaysiakini quoted Nazri as ranting.

Nazri needs to reflect ‘culture’ in his demeanour

Whilst the Padang Rengas MP’s partisan loyalty to Umno is open to interpretation, his lack of finesse as a seasoned federal minister, now more than ever, has come under the radar.

That Abdul Karim had only recently made it to the state cabinet was no reason for Nazri to deride him.

“You should not talk big in politics. If you want to show samseng (thuggery), we are bigger samseng.

“I won’t let him be samseng like that; I have been a minister for a long time. He could have met me and asked me first if he didn’t understand.

“Don’t be a samseng when you are a new minister. If you want to learn to be a samseng, you can learn from me,” Nazri threatened.

Is this how an experienced government minister shows off his competency and maturity in dealing with important issues?

Or does a senior federal minister in Nazri’s capacity care less about tact and being conciliatory in his actions and behaviour?

The face off with his fledgling colleague Abdul Karim was a narrative displayed by Nazri last month.

Two days ago, on Thursday, there was no room left for arrogance and hostility with Nazri forced to eat the humble pie after he announced that the proposed tourism tax would only see the light of day when the Royal Malaysian Customs Department is ready to proceed with it.

Nazri said that the taxation system required a proper and comprehensive mechanism before it can finally be implemented.

How did it slip Nazri’s mind that it was for this precise reason that Sabah and Sarawak had requested implementation of the tax postponed to next year to ensure a mechanism on its implementation is achieved?

“The date will be determined by the Customs Department. I believe that they will announce it, and it all depends on their readiness.

“After the bill was passed (in parliament), the cabinet had proposed for it to be implemented starting July 1. But as I said the collection isn’t as simple as setting up counter but requires mechanism,” Nazri had said.

It is time Nazri seeks clarity as to why his government portfolio is known as the Tourism and Culture Ministry and not Tourism and Brash Ministry.

Enough of the drama and comeuppance, it would for the salary the tax payers afford him, be imperative that Nazri starts reflecting “culture” in his demeanour.

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