KOTA KINABALU: This refers to the Interview by Overseas Chinese Daily News (OCDN) in regards to Sabah’s bid to set up casino and duty-free heaven
The following are the key points of the response to the said issue by Tan Sri T.C Goh, President of The Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) cum a member of The Sabah Economic Advisory Council (SEAC):
1. We welcome and support the call made by Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan yesterday, urging the Sabah state government to seek for the Federal government’s consent to develop Sabah into a ‘duty-free heaven’, and to allow for construction of casinos at designated tourist destinations. We also proposed the state government to establish a Special Committee, as soon as possible, to conduct a thorough study on the implementation of this proposal.
2. We wish to emphasise that FCAS does not encourage gambling, but is of the opinion that the Deputy Chief Minister’s proposal can be a strategic plan to expedite economic recovery for the country, Sabah in particular, post Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the combination of duty-free heaven, casino and tourism has been a global trend for a long time, hence the time has come for us to play catch up, so as to be left behind.
3. We believe, first and foremost, the state government should identify the “designated tourist destinations” which are suitable for the establishment of duty-free heaven and the casinos. These places must among others have the attributes to attract domestic tourists and an added advantage of attracting foreign tourists.
4. We suggest that these places designated for the development of duty-free heaven and casinos, must also have good potential for a comprehensive development of holiday resorts, and recreational and entertainment establishments, and not just for the casino alone.
5. We believe, Sabah which is internationally-renowned for its rich and diverse culture, religious harmony, beautiful nature and abundance of tourist attractions, a wide variety of indigenous cuisines, and couple with its political autonomy, has a vast potential for development of this “new tourism industry”, and we hope it can be implemented as soon as possible.
6. We also hope this proposal will not be exploited by some irresponsible individuals or organizations, by turning it into a racial or religious issue. We must all view this matter positively from the perspective of economic and tourism development.
7. Currently, in Sabah, only the Federal Territory of Labuan is bestowed with duty-free status; however due to its geographic position and unique attribute as an “offshore financial centre” all these years, it was unable to fully realize its tourism potential. We believe both the state government and the federal government should promptly look into this matter and take appropriate measures to rectify it.
8. We therefore welcome and fully support Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan’s proposal proposing the Sabah state government to transform Sabah into a premier tourist destination in ASEAN, and the proposed duty-free heaven move is certainly a viable one.
9. We hope the Federal government could give its full support and cooperation to the Sabah state government to translate this dynamic proposal into a reality, so as to help boost the state economy and to create jobs for the people, and to bring about long-term benefits for the state and its people.
10. We believe, when it comes to development of our national economy and tourism industry, we must not rest on our laurels, but be more pragmatic and visionary in marching forward, and the duty-free and casino schemes are certainly a viable-and-effective move to stimulate the local economy and to create jobs for the people.