KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah DAP has urged the federal tourism and culture ministry to listen to the grouses of Sabah tour guides instead of taking action against some of them for carrying out a protest at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on July 15.
According to a statement, Sabah DAP chairman Stephen Wong handed over a letter to federal Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz at Parliament yesterday, asking him to look into the protest against allegedly illegal foreign tour guides.
Wong said in the letter that the government should hold a dialogue with the local tour guides and listen to their grievances.
“The fact is that the local tour guides are unhappy about ‘sit-in’ tour guides who are hired by tour operators with lower pay, and their income is seriously affected.
“These sit-in tour guides are allegedly not fluent in Mandarin and therefore tour guides from China would normally take on the role of introducing local tourism spots in Mandarin.
“Although it’s not illegal, it has ended up with local tour guides losing their jobs.”
He said he hoped the government would look the issue in greater depth.
“We are looking for a win-win situation where local tour guides should be given priority when it comes to the selection of tour guides to guide Chinese tourists.
“Apparently, they are more experienced and it is eventually good for Sabah’s tourism industry,” Wong said.
According to the statement, Nazri, while receiving the letter from Wong, replied that he is willing to meet up with the tour guides in person at Parliament on Aug 7.
Wong expressed hope that the minister would not revoke the tour guides’ licences and that a holistic approach could be taken to create a fair and reasonable profit-sharing guideline involving every player, including tour guides and tour operators in the industry.
In the letter, Wong also criticised the ministry’s Sabah office director Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar for taking harsh action against the tour guides who took part in the protest.
He said Ahmad Zaki was being unreasonable in punishing the tour guides instead of listening to them. In the statement, Wong added that Ahmad Zaki was unfit to be director.
Wong reminded Nazri that every citizen of Malaysia had a constitutional right to assemble, adding that the KKIA incident was a peaceful assembly.
“The government should not simply take sides and be ignorant about the tour guides’ difficulties and problems,” he said.
The tour guides’ protest reportedly caused dozens of arriving Chinese tourists to be stranded for two hours at the airport’s arrival hall.
Ahmad Zaki’s office has recorded statements from 24 tour guides who participated in the protest.