Thursday, 21st March, 2002
Kadir Makes Strong Pitch On Tourism

Berlin: Malaysian Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir explained to journalists at the ongoing International Tourism Bourse (ITB) here, rated as the world's largest tourism show, about the idiosyncrasies of Malaysia and some of its tourist attractions.

"Take the diversity of our cultures, religions and races…Malaysia has all the ingredients for an explosive situation.

"Thus, at the time of the country's independence we made provisions in our legal system that all religions and races should be respected and treated equally. Consequently, you have a Muslim mosque next to a Hindu temple, a Buddhist place of worship next to a Christian church….all coexisting in harmony," he said.

The Minister emphasised that Malaysia would not tolerate extremism.

"We believe in taking pre-emptive steps under our Internal Security Act to obviate any kind of violence and extremism.

"We were being criticised in the past by Western human rights activists for violating the rights of people who showed a propensity to violence. But events of Sept 11 have vindicated our actions and made Western countries understand us much better," he said.

"Except for the incident at Sipadan two years ago, off the coast of Sabah where Filipino pirates kidnapped some Western tourists, Malaysia is a safe destination. Our navy patrols our waters regularly to keep out such elements from our shores," he said.

The remarks were also intended to assure Western tourists that Malaysia is a safe destination and that tourists have nothing to fear.

Abdul Kadir said that his ministry was, meanwhile, trying to project Malaysia as a sporting destination, attracting some 90,000 people during the recently-concluded Formula-1 racing event.

Malaysia, with its wide open and green space, also has some excellent golf courses. "Indeed, we have the world's highest number of golf courses in proportion to our population. A total of 200 golf courses exists in a country of 23 million people," he said.

Highlighting the significance of tourism for Malaysia's economy, he said that tourism today accounts for 10 per cent of Malaysia's GDP. Indeed, tourism was the second largest industry after manufacturing.