Tourism Malaysia DG drama sees board supportive of move while Tiong clarifies "not fired but relegated"

WAN AHMAD  ATARMIZI
WAN AHMAD ATARMIZI
26 Feb 2024 08:34am
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and Tourism Malaysia's now removed Director-General Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar. (FILE PIX)
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and Tourism Malaysia's now removed Director-General Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar. (FILE PIX)
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SHAH ALAM - The Malaysia Tourism Promotion (Tourism Malaysia) Board of Directors has reaffirmed its support for the Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing and the Ministry's strategic direction following the removal of Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar as Tourism Malaysia's Director-General (DG).

“Although the tourist arrivals and receipts have improved, it is still far behind pre-pandemic levels and more importantly, we have to remain competitive compared to neighbouring countries.

“Based on the numerous feedback from the industry, the states and the general public, few will argue that the tourism sector, and how we promote it, needs to drastically improve,” the board said in a statement.

It also stated that the country’s tourism industry was a vital economic sector, ranking as the fifth largest contributor to the country's GDP, expressing unwavering support for the Minister and the Ministry's strategic realignment.

The Board also pledged to actively contribute by providing valuable feedback and guidance.

“We are in full support of the strategic change direction of the Minister and the Ministry, and will strive to provide the feedback and guidance to ensure these strategies are embraced and executed with good governance and with full transparency. We remain guided with doing the best in the interest of the nation,” it said.

News that Ammar was terminated effective Feb 26 as the ministry's DG came out on Friday with his removal being attributed it to disagreements with Tiong.

However, things took a different turn on Saturday when Tiong announced that Ammar was now the deputy director-general due to his underperformance, adding that this was not linked to racism.

The minister told media members this after attending the opening ceremony of the National Craft Day 2024.

"Since he couldn't perform well, I decided that whoever is capable should take on the role, and if someone is incapable, step down to give others an opportunity.

"This has nothing to do with race or religion; we are all Malaysians. Let's not play around with issues of race and religion," he was quoted saying.

Tiong had said both he and his deputy minister, Khairul Firdaus Akhbar Khan, provided extensive advice and sought input from Ammar for the benefit of the nation. He even said there were complaints from various state governments regarding Ammar's lack of engagement.

"I don't know if he lacked ideas or was unsure how to implement them. But if one cannot deliver results, a change is necessary. I didn't terminate his employment; I simply reassigned him," he said.

Ammar has since responded, as quoted in Mingguan Malaysia on Sunday, stating that he had done "nothing wrong" during his tenure to be given such demotion.

He had questioned the judgment behind his demotion to deputy director-general, as he was only given a five-day notice which he said had: "tarnished my image and my reputation". He said he served the ministry for 36 years and did not deserve such treatment.

Ammar had said he should have been given a chance to explain alleged failures: "If I have done anything wrong during my tenure, the government should examine and prove all my alleged errors and give me a chance to explain them. As far as I can remember, I have never questioned or disobeyed any directives while in service."

The notice on the termination of appointment was signed by Tiong dated Feb 22, effective next Monday (Feb 26). According to the letter, the termination of Ammar's services was under Subsection 10 (1) of the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board Act 1992 (Act 481) read together with Section 47 of the Interpretation Act 1948 and 1967 (Act 388).

In other news related to the ministry, a former senior private secretary to a former Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mohd Saifullah Mohd Minggu @ Mohd Hisham was ordered to defend himself against eight charges of receiving bribes amounting to RM1.77 million to secure advertising tenders for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, five years ago.

Judge Suzana Hussin presented Saifullah with three options: to remain silent, to offer unsworn testimony in the witness box without cross-examination, or to testify under oath in the witness box and undergo cross-examination.

Saifullah chose the third option, to testify under oath in the witness box and undergo cross-examination. The court has set April 17 for the first day of the trial of self-defence.