TOURISM, Art and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi is very relaxed, as he sits surrounded by his officers.
A long line of people from all kinds of fields had waited patiently to see him at the Malaysia Tourism Centre office in Jalan Ampang, and yet after hours, he is still sitting relaxed and smiling as we enter to interview him.
From the start, he says he is not deterred by those who criticise the way he works. For him, his results speaks volumes.
To allegations that he has not performed according to high public expectations as the one in charge of the country’s tourism ministry, Mohamaddin says one can’t possibly please everyone.
“Who do you bow to? Those who keep saying you are wrong? They can criticise but I too have my own right and my own way to do it. I don’t care.
“See my results,” says Mohamaddin, a law graduate of University of Buckingham, England.
Mohamaddin is not someone who minces his words and he says that he is not merely being defensive.
He has proof that the ministry is performing as it should be, he says, to promote Malaysia to the world.
“If we are not doing enough, would it have been possible for us to get RM21.4bil in the first three months of this year?
“If we did not do enough, how is it that we have seven million tourists in the first three months of this year?
“These kind of accusations and dumping on the wall that we are not doing enough are empty stories.”
Mohamaddin, who is also the MP for Silam in Sabah, hails from Warisan, the Pakatan Harapan partner that formed the government in the state.
“As far as what I have done, I am only doing good for the people.
“I cannot guarantee everyone satisfaction. I only want to please those who really need help.
“For those who do not need help, I don’t care,” he says.
Although he has yet to fit completely into the conventional “minister mould” after over a year in the post, he still gets things done, Mohamaddin notes.
“Sure, I have not really fit into the mould. It will take some time... different things come at different times.
“I cannot tell you I know everything. What I can say is that if anything is thrown at us, we can settle it. It is a little bit comfortable now.
“I am not new to this kind of job; in 1986, I used to be the assistant minister to the deputy chief minister of Sabah.
“The role as the Tourism Minister is a little bit bigger but still, I am able to handle it. Nothing is too difficult to handle in this ministry as we have the experts with the experience to handle it,” says Mohamaddin.
He believes that as Malaysia has much to offer – be it tourist spots, food or culture from the diverse ethnic groups – Malaysia can attract tourists easily.
Mohamaddin cites eco tourism and medical tourism as the top draws – Malaysia has high rankings in the region for these two industries.
As to neighbouring countries laying claim to some of our foods and cultural practices, Mohamaddin feels there are still many things, like Kaamatan celebrations, that no other countries can emulate or lay claim to.
“Our budget is quite tight where we have to promote Malaysia. This requires more budget but we have managed to promote with the present budget and a little bit more hard work.
“We are targeting for 30 million tourists next year,” he says.
On taking care of tourism stakeholders such as hoteliers whose businesses are affected by digital tourism facilities such as Airbnb, Mohamaddin stresses that he cannot take sides although he understands the problems of the hoteliers.
“We have a policy that Airbnb should be registered with the ministry. We want them to operate legally and ensure that the government tax is collected from them.
“We have received complaints from medium class hotels that their business have been affected due to Airbnb.
“But we can’t close Airbnb to solve the problems of these hoteliers. It would not be fair to the former, if we were just to appease the latter.
“We understand the hoteliers’ problems as they are paying big overheads, but we can’t close Airbnb.
“We are still working on a win-win solution for both,” says Mohamaddin.