Minister: Sarawak eyeing law on crafts development

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah speaks to reporters November 7, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah speaks to reporters November 7, 2019. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

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KUCHING, Sept 9 — The Sarawak Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and Sarawak Craft Council are working with the state Attorney General’s Chambers to develop a law on the development of local crafts, Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said today.

He said it was crucial as the SCC needed a legal framework.

“We hope to table the Bill in the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly sitting at the end of the year,” Karim said at the opening of the SCC office, gallery and retail outlets at the Sarawak Steamship Building at the waterfront here.

He said the Bill would establish a more effective and structured body to plan and develop the craft industry in Sarawak.

Karim said his ministry also planned to build a dedicated Sarawak Handicraft Centre in Kuching, under the 12th Malaysia Plan to showcase and serve as a souvenir centre for authentic Sarawak crafts products.

This would include spaces for capacity building activities, reference centre and modular spaces to create awareness, interest and encourage creativity in handicrafts, he said.

“My ministry is also working with other relevant agencies such as the state Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Industry Terminal and Entrepreneur Development Sarawak (MINTRED), local councils and non-government bodies to establish craft centres in major towns in Sarawak.

“These centres will serve as arts, cultural and creative centres and will not only become part of the visitors’ destination but will also be a platform for capacity building and entrepreneurship development of the local craft communities,” he said.

While the government would assist in developing these facilities, he said it was also crucial to develop talents and skills, both production and business, to ensure the sustainability of the industry.

He said capacity building programmes will be revamped, with the collaboration of various agencies, for a more effective curriculum to increase the number of producers and products quality.

He added SCC is training about 200 producers annually in production and business skills.

“We hope to increase the number of highly skilled active producers from the current 1,000 to 2,000 and a target of sales from RM32 million in 2019 to RM80 million in 2030,” he added.

Karim said his ministry is very much aware of the hardship faced by the tourism, arts and culture industry including the handicraft sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said while many have been able to continue doing business through social media platforms, the volume of sales has not been encouraging.

“From statistics collected by the Malaysian Handicraft Board, the total sales until July 2020 was only RM8.2 million with the lowest sales in May totalling only RM41,000,” he said.

He added the target sales for this year is expected to be around RM20 million compared to last year’s sales figures which were RM32 million.

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