Malaysia’s Tourism Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi caused international controversy last week when he claimed that there are no gay citizens in his country.
According to national broadcaster Deutsche Welle, he was addressing German media ahead of a visit to Berlin for the annual ITB Travel Fair and made the error during his response to a question about whether Malaysia would welcome gay travellers.
“I don’t think we have anything like that in our country,” he answered during a session that also saw him avoid other issues such as the safety of LGBT and Jewish tourists in the country.
Speaking to online news portal Malaysiakini, a government aide who wished to remain anonymous, said that while Ketapi’s comments were made in a personal capacity, they were in line with official Malaysian government policy, “which does not recognize the LGBT community”.
The aide, however, did add that “tourists coming to Malaysia, like any other country, are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or colour.”
According to CNN, Mohamaddin himself later posted a statement on Twitter, saying 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 further said 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.