KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — The PAS government in Terengganu in considering a relaxation of its religious laws barring alcohol and gambling, specifically for cruise ships it hopes to entice to the state, according to a state official.

Channel News Asia (CNA) reported Terengganu’s tourism, culture and information technology executive council chairman Ariffin Deraman as saying talks in this area were ongoing with cruise operators like Seabourn Cruise Line.

Terengganu is hoping to be an alternative stopover point for northbound cruises departing from Singapore.

“We are working towards allowing these cruises to stop by Terengganu, and the passengers to visit us. By 2021, god willing, this will be allowed,” he said.


The state, which is the jump off point to popular island destinations like Pulau Redang and Perhentian, is also known for traditional Malay arts and culture like kite flying and top-spinning.

However, Terengganu and neighbouring Kelantan have strict religious laws introduced by previous and present PAS administrations.

Noting that the cruises from Singapore stop at Klang on the west of the peninsula, Ariffin said Terengganu could be a viable alternative on the east for liners on the way to countries like Thailand, Myanmar and Macau.


“The cruises are passing by to explore the beauty of Terengganu. So what happens inside, like casino or alcohol consumption that are against Islam, it’s not really our concern. I personally don’t think it’s a problem,” the Alor Limbat assemblyman told CNA.

“We have received word that there is no opposition for cruises to come. To use an analogy, if a traveller drives pass Terengganu and stops by a stall to buy some banana fritters while drinking a bottle of wine in his car, the sale is fine,” he said.

Ariffin said that the PAS state leaders have made their assessment and will approve cruises stopping in Terengganu for a period of six to eight hours.

Once known only as a stopover for visitors to the nearby islands, the state is now getting more attention with the completion of the Kuala Terengganu drawbridge — the first of its kind in Southeast Asia — that was completed earlier this year.

The 16-storey tall structure spanning around 600 metres received 27,000 visitors since September. It complements another new attraction — the Hulu Takir beach, nicknamed “Miami Beach” due to its resemblance to the well-known Florida attraction.

Ariffin said the state’s tourism target was 6.5 million inbound tourists annually from the year 2025 onwards — an increase of 35 per cent from 2018.

“More tourists mean more jobs, local businesses thrive and income rises. I think it’s important for Terengganu that tourists keep coming,” he said.

The Terengganu state government is also opening its doors to foreign investment that could help fund more tourism activities and other state projects

Terengganu’s trade, industrial, regional development and administrative wellbeing executive committee chairman Tengku Hassan Tengku Omar said he has conducted discussions with a Dutch oil and gas firm to invest between RM3 billion and RM4 billion for a project in the state.

He also said that the state has approved a European luxury hotel chain to open a high-end resort near Pulau Redang. No major announcement has been made, but he confirmed that the resort will attract high end tourists who are part of a “prestigious international club”.

“These are projects that may take five years to materialise. It will take time for us to plan, commission, and execute. But it’s important for Terengganu because it gives our people jobs and money for the government to fund our projects,” Tengku Hassan was quoted saying.

He said that the oil-producing state had to move away from relying on oil royalties and was looking to find investors to fund its own projects and state expenses.

Terengganu received RM1.27 billion in oil royalties from the federal government this year, a new move from the previous federal government’s practice of blocking such payments to opposition states.

According to Tengku Hassan, the money — which is more than the typical five per cent of the value of petroleum extracted — will have to be used for deferred or scheduled payments for the state’s projects, such as the Kuala Terengganu Drawbridge, a new district at Kuala Nerus as well as a water supply venture in the state’s capital.

However, locals interviewed by CNA have expressed concern about the influx of visitors, worried that they might impact its environment when partaking in marine activities and take away jobs.

However, Ariffin said locals should not be xenophobic and be more welcoming instead.

“If foreigners damage our corals, they will be punished. Overall, the visitors have been fine, but if individuals misbehave, it’s normal I think. But we as locals should attempt to explain to them and educate them,” he said.

He also said the state government will try to ensure that foreign corporations who win projects will hire locals as part of their terms of requirements.