KOTA KINABALU, Oct 22 — A group of 31 civil society organisations and 289 individuals are calling for an investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct by a high-ranking individual in a government department here.
In a statement issued today, the collective expressed deep concern regarding claims made by a former member of staff via social media, which recently came to light, about the alleged conduct of the senior member of the department towards his female subordinates as well as his use of funds for the department.
The former staff member, a foreign veterinarian who worked for the department in 2018 and 2019, alleged that the individual was misusing funds meant for the conservation and rescue of wildlife, and created a “tense and hostile work environment” by inducing an alcohol-filled work culture and hurling abuse at staff members.
“She claimed that the funds were not properly allocated to necessary services, and salaries were not paid in full, while used lavishly on unnecessary and inappropriate expenses. She also highlighted several disturbing incidents of harassment and unethical behaviour, including name-calling,” the statement read.
The veterinarian had shared her concerns in a letter to the Sabah Wildlife Department director after her resignation and posted the letter on Facebook.
She also posted what she said are screenshots of inappropriate WhatsApp messages sent by the individual to staff members.
“We believe that this is cause for concern as this involves public funds. We are also concerned with the disrespectful behaviour and treatment towards women working in the department.
“In light of the above, we strongly urge the Sabah government to investigate the claims in Wildlife Rescue Unit (WRU) and provide a proper response as this is a matter of public concern,” the statement added.
Public scrutiny intensified after a recent Facebook post shared by the individual of a photo of three women members of his team in which a derogatory term was used to describe them.
The post garnered criticism and was taken down shortly after the caption was amended, together with an apology.
The statement today was signed by the All Women’s Action Society, Advocates for Non-Discrimination and Access to Knowledge (ANAK), Pacos Trust, Sabah Human Rights Commission, the Danau Girang Field Centre, G25 Malaysia, Sisters in Islam and Future Alam Borneo, among others.
Individuals who signed the statement include Sabah DAP women chief Jannie Lasimbang, along with prominent state conservationists, veterinarians, biologists and activists.