Tourism in Malaysia

Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Ra’ayat on the Tourist Development Corporation of Malaysia Bill on Friday, 7th January 1972

Tourism in Malaysia

Tourism has become very big business in the world today. In Europe, for instance, it has become a heavy industry, on the scale of steel or cars, and a much bigger earner of foreign currency. For Spain, Italy or Greece, it is the largest source of foreign exchange.

The tourist industry in Malaysia has great potential to become a leading earner of foreign currency. However, until now, it has lacked a dynamic and imaginative government policy to fully exploit the tourist resources and potential in Malaysia.

Malaysia, for instance, has earned less from tourism than the island republic of Singapore, although in many respects, Malaysia has greater tourist resources and potential.

The government has on the one hand, failed to develop and exploit tourist resources and potential in country, and on the other, has allowed tourist attractions to be jeopardized.

The Malacca town is an example of the government failure to develop and exploit tourist resources and potential. It is no exaggeration to say that for many people in other parts of the world, Malacca is more well-known than Malaysia, because of Malacca’s 500-year-old history, and the pivotal role she played in commerce in early history.

Its history, from its founding by Parameswera in the 14th century, the Malacca Sultanate, down to the Portuguese, Dutch and British phases, the confluence of cultures and commerce of three ancient civilizations, the Chinese, India and Indonesian, could all be reconstructed to draw tourist from all corners of the world.

But what do you have in Malacca today? Unkept ruins and relics.

Another example of government failure to develop and exploit to the full tourist resources and potential are the zoos of the country. Both the zoos at the Federal capital and Johore Bahru are quite pathetic places, and do not really justify visits by tourists who want to see Malaysian animal life. The Taiping zoo is better, but still far from satisfactory.

An imaginative tourist promotion drive would include development of a national zoo, which not only has a representative collection of Malaysian animal life, but world tropical animal life. Such a zoo will establish an international reputation, and tourist will make a point of wanting to pay a visit when they come to this part of the world.

Singapore, in its tourist promotion drive, has established the Jurong Bird Park, with the world’s largest flight-in aviary and tallest man-made waterfall, which is quickly establishing a name for itself. Malaysia, with greater natural resources, has done nothing. There cannot be half-hearted measures in tourist promotion.

The beaches of Port Dickson is the example of government neglect and indifference in protecting tourist resources. Port Dickson had one of the finest beaches in the country, but now, it is swiftly become one of the most dirty and foul, because of oil pollution. Unless something quick is done, Port Dickson will be known for its dirty, oily and stinking beaches.

Cultural Diversity – a great asset for tourism

Mr. Speaker, Sir, one of our richest asset in the promotion of tourism is our multi-cultural diversity, the variety of colours, mode of dress, dances, art-forms, food, etc.

Tourists travel to another country to see something different, and what is more different than different ways of life of another people?

It is a mistake to build casinos, gambling dens and flesh-pots all over the country for tourists. For they can seek these pleasures and desires in their own country. Invariably these casinos, gambling dens and flesh-pots end up monopolized by local people.

We should therefore fully exploit our multi-cultural way of life, of unity through diversity. Unfortunately, there are people in our midst who want to destroy our multi-cultural diversity.

For instance, it has been asserted by a top government leader that the lion dance is unMalaysian. Such obscurantist attitudes will not only squander away Malaysia’s rich assets for tourist promotion, what is more important, will positively cause greater national disunity and divisiveness in the country and people.


Kuala Lumpur is now a beehive of activity to prepare for the PATA Conference at the end of this month. I would urge the government, however, not to ride roughshod over the interests and welfare of the poor, just to present a good image to the PATA Conference.

Thus, the Municipality have given notice to evict squatter families in unconscionably short time in Jalan Bukit Bintang, Jalan Tong Shin, Jalan Walter Grenier and Jalan Sarawak areas.

Hawkers, petty trades and even cobblers are being harassed, summoned and fined.

The Government is trying to hide poverty, squalor and the slums to give PATA participants the impression that there is only affluence, plenty, luxury in Kuala Lumpur, by driving the poor to even worst straits in evicting them from their squatter families and hounding them from their petty trades.

This is unconscionable, immoral and irresponsible. I call on the government to stop its high-handed treatment of the poor, and to treat them not only as human beings, but as Malaysian citizens who have a right to government protection and assistance in their poverty and misery.

PATA or no PATA, the poor will remain poor. They should not be made poorer so that the government can create a good image for PATA.