Malaysia’s tourism minister has sparked controversy after suggesting there are no gay people in Malaysia.
Dutch media reported Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi made the comments while in Berlin for the ITB Berlin travel fair after being asked if Malaysia is welcoming for LGBT+ people.
“I don’t think we have anything like that in our country,” he said.
Dutch publication Deutsche Welle also reported Mohamaddin avoided confirming if Malaysia was safe for LGBT+ and Jewish people.
An aide to the minister has since told Malaysian media the statement was Mohamaddin’s own view but it was in line with the government’s stance of not recognising LGBT culture.
“Tourists coming to Malaysia like any other country are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or colour.” the aide said.
Malaysian opposition leader, Mah Hang Soon has condemned the comments and said Malaysia is “a safe country and every tourist is safe here.”
According to the Straits Times, the ministry released a statement explaining Mohamaddin’s response referred to a lack of LGBT+ focus on their tourism campaigns.
“As a main tourism destination in Asia, Malaysia has never and will not do anything to stop our guests based on their sexual orientation, religion and cultural belief,” the statement said.
The statement also said there were no plans to focus on LGBT+ culture in the future.
Homosexual intercourse is illegal in Malaysia and gay marriage is not recognised.
“These laws must be respected and followed, not just by foreign tourists but Malaysians as well,” the ministry said.