Gay rights campaigner slams Malaysian minster for saying no gays in the country

World | 7 Mar 2019 3:52 pm

Malaysia's tourism minister has denied the existence of gay people in the country, according to reports in German media, CNN reports.

Ahead of attending the ITB Berlin travel fair, Tourism Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi told German reporters that he was not aware of gay people in the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country.

"I don't think we have anything like that in our country," he said, responding to a question as to whether Malaysia would welcome gay travelers, according to German national broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

He also sidestepped a question concerning the safety of LGBT and Jewish travelers in the country, according to the broadcaster.

Mohamaddin later posted a statement on Twitter stating that his response to the reporter's question referred to the non-existence of specific LGBT-focused tourist campaigns in the country.

He added that the country adopts an open policy in welcoming foreign tourists and would "never (place) any unnecessary obstacles to our guests based on their sexual orientation, religion and cultural practices."

The statement added that the country has, as a sovereign nation, its own views on both the LGBT community and Israel, and expected other nations to respect the country's sovereignty.

An aide told Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini that the comments were made in a personal capacity, but were in line with official Malaysian government policy, which does not recognize the LGBT community.

The aide, who was not named in the report, added: "Tourists coming to Malaysia like any other country are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or color."

Gay rights campaigner Thilaga Sulathireh told CNN that the remarks were "outlandish (and) completely disconnected from reality" but not entirely surprising to hear.

"With the exception of a few politicians, the rest hold varying degrees of discriminatory and exclusionary position on LGBTIQ people and issues, willfully or otherwise."

She added that it was "also an embarrassingly ignorant comment which carries high socioeconomic costs," should it impact LGBT tourism to Malaysia.

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