Tiong slams Liew for not attending meetings to discuss Sabah’s MM2H

KOTA KINABALU (June 8): Federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Dato Seri Tiong King Sing has hit out at Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew over her criticism on Sabah’s Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) issue.

Tiong claimed that Liew never turned up to any meetings to discuss the MM2H matter for Sabah.

“Not only did the minister not attend these meetings, she did not even delegate a single representative to the table to discuss the situation,” he said in a Facebook posting today.

Since assuming her ministerial post, Tiong said Liew had very rarely attended meetings that were convened by the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac).

“Liew criticises the policies of the MM2H, yet refuses to attend meetings personally to understand the details of the programme related to agent registration. If she does not understand this policy issue of MM2H, she has failed to take the necessary steps to fully grasp its entire policy,” he said.

On May 27, Motac issued a directive to suspend the operations of all licensed agents handling MM2H applications, including those in Sabah and Sarawak.

Tiong said he had repeatedly called on Liew to address tourism issues in Sabah but issues discussed beforehand have not been resolved.

“This is not nitpicking or assigning blame on anyone but when it comes to matters of tourism, policies must be adhered to before criticisms are made. This is not a simple matter; it relates to national safety and reputation.

“If basic tasks are not handled well, how can we attract foreign visitors to boost the tourism industry?” he questioned.

Tiong added Liew is welcome to take full credit for bringing visitors to Sabah, through direct or chartered flights but the safety of tourists must come first.

“In fact, I had met with the Chief Minister of Sabah (Datuk Seri Panglima Hajiji Noor) to discuss tourism safety issues within the state. I regret that many unresolved tourism issues entrusted to Liew have not been resolved. Is the minister immersed in her own world and oblivious to crucial matters?

“I advise Liew as the state minister for tourism not to rush into criticism but rather focus on addressing the issues of tourism safety first.

“I have repeatedly explained in Cabinet that existing agents of MM2H must re-register themselves to address the prevailing problems of agents subleasing their permits or disappearing with collected agency fees.

“I must stress that the renewal of MM2H visas is unrelated to MM2H agent permits. However, we want MM2H agents to strictly adhere to transparency including collecting fees for applications once they are successfully approved,” he said.

Tiong said the MM2H agent permits in Malaysia must be reapplied with Motac after the latest regulations are released (or gazetted). Motac will not recognise existing agents; all expired permits must be reapplied for and undergo strict background checks. Renewal of permits is only approved for those who qualify under the new regulations.

“Furthermore, I have informed Cabinet that authority in this matter will be delegated to Sabah and Sarawak. I shall meet the Chief Minister of Sabah and Premier of Sarawak on the matter.

“Motac and other related parties have spent much time and effort in drafting policies for the MM2H programme which comes with many repercussions so arbitrary actions cannot be taken.

“Will Liew personally account for the repercussions of the MM2H programme?

“She must meet with Motac to fully understand the situation and review issues that could lead to abuses of power. It is not whether Sabah is allowed to appoint its own agents but she should understand the issues, be clear with our constitution and not mislead the people,” he added.

Liew’s press secretary Mary Chin said the minister declined to comment on Tiong’s statement.

Yesterday, Liew said that her ministry will proceed with the MM2H in Sabah even if Motac fails to give them an approval.

Liew said that her ministry had appointed qualified agents to help applicants of the MM2H programme with their applications and she has informed Hajiji of this, as well as Motac.

She also said that proceeding with the programme in Sabah will not contravene with the law as her ministry has met with the Immigration Department, the police as well as the relevant authorities to approve the applications under the programme.