Much ado over nothing in shorts and booze claims in Langkawi

IS THIS what local politics has disintegrated into? Shouting matches in parliament and waging verbal battles online with clams and counter-claims, and blowing things out of proportion?

The recent verbal tug-of-war between Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, and Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor seems very much to be a case of the latter.

The latest verbal spat centres around alleged claims that tourism in Langkawi was being adversely affected by laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol and tourists were banned from wearing shorts.

Sanusi stressed there were no laws imposed to prohibit the wearing of shorts and the consumption of alcohol in Langkawi.

Sanusi was reported to have invited Tiong to visit Langkawi following Tiong’s initial statement on the matter during the debate on the 12th Malaysia Plan mid-term review in Dewan Rakyat on Sept 19.

According to Tiong, the issue was raised to address existing weaknesses in the tourism industry nationwide rather than being focused exclusively on specific states like Kedah.

The first thing to note from this entire episode is that the tourism industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. The closure of borders mean that many citizens were deprived of livelihoods seemingly overnight. It is not just hotels and its thousands of staff but includes the vast supporting network of small and independent businesses.

Both sides are right and wrong

Think of the many thousands of cab drivers, chefs and beach ride operators who depend on the hospitality and tourism industry to earn an income. Langkawi is a small island with limited alternative work opportunities.

Visitors coming to enjoy a cold brew whilst lounging in shorts at the beach help put food on the table for many, many people in Langkawi.

On the one hand, Sanusi is absolute right that these claims harm Langkawi’s reputation as a tourist destination. Isn’t the minister’s role to promote and boost tourism industry, especially when the island is trying to get back to its feet post-pandemic?

On the other hand, perhaps Tiong’s alleged statements on the issue is to give Sanusi and PAS a taste of their own medicine.

They, too, constantly harp on issues merely to gain brownie points among conservative elements without taking into account the economic consequences of their words and actions.

As pointed out by MUDA supremo Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, opposition to concerts by foreign artistes have inadvertently led to loss of economic opportunity. Instead, such shenanigans just re-direct much needed tourist income to neighbouring countries that welcome the staging of these high-profile gigs.

While politicians bask in the warm glow of publicity that their verbal spats generate, ultimately, it is the common working man that pays the price of missed opportunities. – Sept 28, 2023

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