Controversy over Sabah Tourism Board manager’s sudden removal

Sabah Tourism Board general manager Suzaini Sabdin Ghani has been asked to leave.

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism players here have expressed shock over the sudden removal of the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) general manager who they say had been doing a good job improving the state’s tourism industry.

Suzaini Sabdin Ghani became general manager in January last year.

Her dismissal was posted on social media by her uncle, Abdul Jalil Ghani.

Jalil, without mentioning Suzaini’s name in his post, said it was unjust for the STB GM, a single mother, to be dismissed from her post without any clear reason or any domestic inquiry carried out.

He further claimed the GM was summoned by the tourism, culture and environment ministry’s permanent secretary on April 6, and was told that the minister, Christina Liew, had instructed him to urge the GM to resign.

No reason was given other than the minister did not want her any more, Jalil alleged. However, he said the GM refused to resign.

Then on April 16, Jalil said a letter indicating the end of her contract with STB, with immediate effect, was served. The letter was signed by newly-appointed STB chairman Ken Pan Ying On.

Jalil’s post has gone viral and garnered surprised reactions from industry players, including hoteliers and tourism agents.

FMT has reached out to these players. However, they declined to comment other than saying that Suzaini’s sacking came as a surprise.

They described Suzaini as a concerned and key member of the tourism industry who always wanted to develop the industry, adding she was doing a “decent job”.

Meanwhile, Liew, in a short text message to FMT, said it was the STB board of directors (BOD) that made the decision to remove her.

“Not me (but) I respect the decision. I’m sure there must be reasons the BOD made the decision.

“We have appointed our new (acting) GM and we have a lot of things to do so we can move on,” she said.

Liew announced earlier today, while attending the Sabah assembly sitting, that STB deputy general manager Noredah Othman, 50, had been appointed to assume the role of acting GM.

There was no mention of Suzaini leaving or the reason why she was asked to go.

Former state tourism, culture and environment minister Masidi Manjun, when contacted, said he was not in a position to comment whether Suzaini’s termination of service was right or wrong.

“But suffice to say that her departure is a loss to the industry and STB. STB improved by leaps and bounds under her leadership, at least when I was the minister.

“Her private sector experience injected a much-needed private sector work culture and mentality into STB,” he told FMT.

Masidi highlighted that Suzaini was not a political appointee and instead was sourced out from the private sector via a proper interview and evaluation process by the previous STB BOD.

He said she started as the head of marketing and was eventually promoted as GM, again through professional evaluation by the BOD, adding she was among three serving officers shortlisted for the post.

“Suzaini has over 20 years’ working experience in marketing with the Shangri-La Group of hotels and with a good academic background. She is well regarded by industry players,” he said.

Former STB chairman Joniston Bangkuai said Suzaini had always given her best.

“I hope the decision will not cause STB to lose focus on its mission and work,” he said.

Efforts are being made to contact Suzaini for her comments.