Former tourism minister Nazri Abdul Aziz has come under criticism for suggesting that Malaysia's floods be used as an opportunity for volunteer tourism.
“If you know it is coming, then start planning now. Maybe we can have voluntary tourism where people come to the country to help us with the floods, and it is not about them coming here just to enjoy but for them to also learn,” he told Sinar Daily in an interview published on Saturday (18 June).
Asked by the news outlet to comment on a report that the there would be a recurrence of massive flooding at the end of this year, the 68-year-old Umno MP added, "In Kuala Krai for example, the flood is like a festival. Every monsoon, we have a flood festival, and people will come.
"Because now there is volunteerism, where foreigners come to do volunteer work and they pay (to buy tickets and so on),” he said.
Pahang assemblywoman Young Syefura Othman chided Nazri for being out of touch and insensitive to the predicament of the victims of last year's floods.
"Come and listen to the complaints of the many flood victims and have a dialogue over the trauma they faced and continue to endure,” she told Free Malaysia Today.
“Perhaps this way, leaders whose hearts are deaf and blind, can better understand the feelings of the people who are still trying to reconnect the scraps of their lives after all their possessions were swept away by the floods.”
Meanwhile, Klang MP Charles Santiago called Nazri's comments "stupid" and called for an apology.
"He has undermined the problem, the plight of the people, the loss of lives, the people whose houses were affected by the flood on a daily basis including the properties which were destroyed due to the floods,” he told Sinar Daily.
“The rule of an MP is not to be a circus clown but to actually make recommendations to solve people's problems. This is not theatre sports where people come to see what's happening, but it is a matter of life and death. You don't joke about such things,” he reportedly added.
Drop in ringgit an opportunity to attract Singaporean
In the interview with Sinar Daily on Saturday, Nazri also said a drop in the ringgit was also an opportunity to attract international travellers, especially Singaporeans.
“When our currency falls, it’s time for us to promote tourism for the country because it is cheap for them," he said.
“The Singaporeans will come because they spent only one-third of their salary and to them, our 5 or 6 stars hotels are just so cheap when they come to our country to travel,” he added.
Nazri, a lawyer, was Tourism and Culture Minister from 2013 to 2018. Among other portfolios, he was also previously Deputy Minister of Finance and Minister of Entrepreneur Development.
Earlier this month, Nazri brushed off rumours that he would be appointed Malaysia's ambassador the the United States.
“Until now, there has been no news. It’s just speculation right now. It’s pointless for me to say anything, so let’s just wait,” he told Free Malaysia Today.