No gays in Malaysia, says tourism minister

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister has caused consternation, following reports that he told German media there are no gays in the country.

According to the broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi - who was in Germany for the ITB Berlin travel fair - was asked on Tuesday by the country's media whether Malaysia would welcome gays.

"I don't think we have anything like that in our country," he replied.

Deutsche Welle also claimed that Mr Mohamaddin had sidestepped a question of whether Malaysia was a safe destination for homosexuals and Jews.

An aide to the minister later told news portal Malaysiakini the comment was Mr Mohamaddin's personal view, although it was in line with the Pakatan Harapan government's stance of not recognising lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) culture.

Still, the aide, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "Tourists coming to Malaysia like any other country are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or colour."

Opposition Malaysian Chinese Association's deputy president Mah Hang Soon said Mr Mohamaddin's remarks on homosexuality have made Malaysia a laughing stock, The Star news website reported yesterday. "He was asked by a reporter if Malaysia is safe for homosexuals. All he needed to say was that Malaysia is a safe country and every tourist is safe here," Datuk Mah said.

Concerns have been mounting in Malaysia about a deteriorating climate for the LGBT community.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'No gays in Malaysia, says tourism minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe