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24 Sabah tour guides may lose licences
Published on: Friday, August 11, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: A former president of an association of Sabah tourist guides is among 24 ordered by the Federal Ministry of Tourism and Culture (Motac) to explain why their licences should not be revoked.

Sabah Motac issued a show cause letter dated yesterday to the 24 tour guides, including the former Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA) top official, asking them to respond within a week.

"If they fail to do so, recommendations will be made to headquarters to revoke their tour guide licences," Sabah Motac director Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar told FMT.

"One of the 24 tour guides was a former president of the STGA."

The show cause letter was issued after the guides staged a protest at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport against alleged unlicensed tour guides, causing dozens of arriving Chinese tourists to be stranded for several hours on July 15. The licensed tour guides claimed the presence of unauthorised guides had put sand in their rice bowl.

However, Sabah Motac said the group of Chinese tourists were being handled by licensed tour guides, contrary to the claims.

The show cause letter, which FMT has sighted, said the Ministry had conducted its investigation and found the guides took part in the protest that caused fear among the tourists. "You were found to have held protest placards, taken videos and photos of the tourists, stopped and questioned them, causing the tourists to be in fear and stranded for two hours at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

"You were also found to have obstructed tour guides from their duty to handle the group of tourists," the letter said.

"You have gone against the licensed tour guide ethics through your improper conduct that marred the professional image of the tourism industry and that of the country.

"The Ministry is looking at the incident seriously and therefore you're believed to have committed an offence under sub-section 27(3) of the Tourism Industry Act 1992, which says:

"'A licensed tour guide must abide by the standard ethics as stipulated and can be taken action against under subsection 28(1)(e) of the same Act, which says: 'If any licensed tour guide breaks any conditions of his licence as provided under subsection 24(1) or ethics as mentioned by subsection 27(3), then the commissioner may suspend the licence given under Section 24 and withdraw their card of authority for a period of time as determined or revoke the licence and remove the name of the licensed tour guide from the register, or if the licence has expired, not renew it."

The airport protest had drawn the ire of Motac and state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun.

Masidi had said the tour guides were being "short-sighted" in using the airport as the venue to express any dissatisfaction they had. The STGA said it would compile a list of all its members' needs and problems for submission to the state tourism Ministry.

A tour guide, speaking on condition of anonymity, had admitted to FMT that unlicensed tour guides and operators did exist.

He also exposed illegal practices such as dining trips to have the meat of protected animals and foreign currency exchange for foreign tourists. The Sabah Wildlife Department warned they would act against tourist operators arranging for foreigners to have dinners involving protected animals.

It told FMT one person had been arrested and would be charged in court for possessing meat from two pangolins, served to a group of 10 Chinese tourists.

Bank Negara Malaysia had also told FMT that those found involved in money changing services without a licence faced heavy punishment. It warned that offenders could be fined up to RM5 million and a maximum 10 years' jail.

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