Tiong sticks to MM2H order despite Sabah blowback

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (pic) is not backing down despite criticism by his Sabah counterpart Datuk Christina Liew over his decision to stop all licensed agents handling the Sabah-Malaysia My Second Home (Sabah-MM2H) programme.

Instead, the federal minister urged the Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister to understand the issue before laying the blame on him or his ministry.

In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Tiong said his ministry had extended “several invitations” to Liew to discuss the MM2H issue, but she “deemed it not worthy of her (time) to turn up and discuss the matter for Sabah”.

Not only did she fail to turn up, she also did not delegate it to any representative, he added.

“My advice to her, as the state minister for tourism, is not to rush into making criticisms, 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 sub-leasing their permits or disappearing with collected agency fees,” said Tiong.

He also said the renewal of MM2H visas is not related to agents’ permits.

MM2H agents must reapply for permits with the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry after the latest regulations are released or gazetted.

“The ministry will no longer recognise existing agents; all expired permits must be reapplied for, and (agents will) undergo strict background checks. Renewal of permits is only approved for those who qualify under the new regulations,” he added.

He said that in a Cabinet meeting, he had suggested that authority on the matter be delegated to Sabah and Sarawak, adding that he is expected to meet Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor and Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg, as well as others that had worked hard in drafting MM2H policies.

He said these policies come with many repercussions, so arbitrary actions cannot be taken.

Tiong said Liew must come to his ministry to understand the whole issue, including matters that could lead to abuse of power.

“It is not about 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 said.

On Friday, Liew said the Sabah-MM2H programme had been unnecessarily disrupted after more than a year of planning and preparations.

This, she said, was due to a sudden directive from the federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry to all licensed agents handling MM2H applications to stop their operations.

However, she said the programme would proceed whether or not the federal authorities gave their green light.

Meanwhile, Sabah Housing and Real Estate Developers Association (Shareda) president Datuk Chua Soon Ping said the association is ready to step in as agents, ensuring that applicants meet the prerequisite of purchasing property valued at and above RM600,000.

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