A Malaysian minister has denied denying the existence of gay people in his country.
Instead, what Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohammaddin Ketapi had apparently meant to say was that there were no tourism campaigns focused on the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, his ministry clarified according to The Malay Mail.
The ministry stressed that there were no plans to hold such campaigns in future and was quoted by The Malay Mail as adding:
“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 beliefs".
Original comment made at major tourism fair
Mohammaddin had made his original remarks on Mar. 5 while in Berlin, Germany to attend ITB Berlin, a major tourism trade fair.
In response to a German reporter's question if gay people were welcomed in Malaysia, Mohammaddin replied:
"I don’t think we have anything like that (gay people) in our country.”
MCA deputy president slams comment as "outlandish"
Mohammaddin's comment attracted criticism from Mah Hang Soon, the deputy president of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), who slammed Mohammaddin's comment as having made a laughing stock of Malaysia, The Malay Mail reported.
Mah added that Mohammaddin could have just replied that Malaysia was a safe country for tourists in response to the reporter's question.
"Instead, he made this outlandish remark that homosexuality does not exist in Malaysia."
The Malay Mail further quoted Mah as stressing:
"Malaysia does not ask or care about the sexual orientation of tourists. He just needed to say every tourist must respect the laws and cultural sensitivities of their host countries and it ends there".
Mah also made a larger point to question the competency of several appointed ministers, adding:
"It’s clear that some of them are non-performers, and that they need to be dropped soon".
Here's why Mohammaddin's comment reflects Mahathir's stance:
Top image collage from Malaysian Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and Jon Tan Facebook