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Civil Group Wants Sabah Govt Unit Investigated After Toxic Workplace & Harassment Claims

The senior executive allegedly made employees post a selfie every morning to "enhance camaraderie", even on off days.

Cover image via Facebook

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A group of 31 organisations and 289 individuals are calling for an investigation into allegations of sexual and financial misconduct by a senior executive in a government department in Sabah

In a statement issued today, 22 October, the collective, Civil Society Organisations, expressed deep concern that a senior heading a unit under the Sabah Wildlife Department has been accused of sexual harassment and misappropriation of funds.

"We demand an immediate response from the relevant authorities regarding this matter," the group said.

The group cited claims made on Tuesday, 19 October, by an alleged former employee on Facebook.

The former staff had publicly posted her resignation letter — detailing the senior executive's unethical behaviour and several disturbing incidents — after she saw the man recently post a photo of three female employees on his Facebook account and called them "my b*tches".

Image via Facebook

In the resignation letter dated 5 July 2019 and addressed to the department's director, she said the senior executive had fostered a "tense and hostile work environment" and it seems to have stayed that way

The woman said she worked as a veterinarian in the unit from 2018 to 2019 under him, and the poor way he treated the employees was the reason she left.

She said name-calling was normal and he often sent inappropriate WhatsApp messages to their staff members' group chat as well as individually, calling them 'stupid', 'b*tch', or commenting on their clothes or makeup.

"He unprofessionally uses vulgarity and foul language in work groups. There is a frequent use of sexual innuendos in his way of speaking that makes it very uncomfortable to engage with him in a conversation," she claimed.

She said the senior executive had also made employees post a selfie every morning to "enhance camaraderie", even on off days — anyone who did not was declared "not a team player".

Image via Facebook

The Facebook user also accused the man of misappropriating unit funds by spending the money on food and beverages, instead of reimbursing employees

She claimed that the man used the expenses to entertain guests and staff members, and also consumed alcohol with some employees during work hours, instead of allocating it for veterinary equipment and outstation allowances for their field work.

According to her, employees always had to pay for work expenses out of their own pockets and many of them have debts that remain unsettled even after they leave.

The former employee also claims that boundaries between work and personal time were further blurred as the senior always expected them to answer his calls or messages immediately, even if the topic was not related to work.

In light of the employee's claims, the Civil Society Organisations and concerned individuals have strongly urged the Sabah government to look into the matter of public concern

As of writing, the woman's Facebook post has garnered over 600 shares, with other former employees sharing similar experiences of poor treatment in the comments.

"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," said the group.

The collective believes necessary action needs to be taken to ensure women at the unit have an opportunity to work in a safe and respectful environment, and that the state needs to show commitment in upholding human rights.

The statement was signed by the All Women's Action Society (AWAM), Sabah Human Rights Commission, Sisters in Islam, Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (KUASA), Future Alam Borneo, and Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), among others.

Individuals who signed the statement include Kapayan assemblyman Jannie Lasimbang, along with other state wildlife conservationists, veterinarians, and activists.

SAYS has reached out to Sabah Wildlife Department for a comment on the issue and has yet to receive a reply.

If you or someone you know may be at risk or has experienced sexual abuse or assault, please reach out to these Malaysian organisations:

1. WOMEN'S AID ORGANISATION (WAO)
Operating hours: 24-hour
Contact: +603-30008858
SMS/WhatsApp: +6018-9888058
Website | Facebook | Twitter

2. ALL WOMEN'S ACTION SOCIETY (AWAM)
Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9.30am - 5.30pm)
Contact: +603-78770224
WhatsApp/Telegram: +6016-2284221 | +6016-2374221
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

3. WOMEN'S CENTRE FOR CHANGE PENANG (WCC PENANG)
Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9am - 5pm)
Contact: +604-2280342 | +604-3988340
WhatsApp: +6011-31084001 | +6016-4180342
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

4. SARAWAK WOMEN FOR WOMEN SOCIETY (SWWS)
Operating hours: Monday (7pm - 9pm),Tuesday to Thursday (9.30am - 11.30am), Saturday (2pm - 4pm)
Contact: +6082-368853
SMS/WhatsApp: +6016-5822660 | +6013-8044285
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

5. SABAH WOMEN'S ACTION-RESOURCE GROUP (SAWO)
Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9am - 5pm)
Contact: +6088-280200 | +6011-27908020
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

6. PROTECT AND SAVE THE CHILDREN (PS THE CHILDREN)
Operating hours: Monday to Friday (3pm - 12am)
WhatsApp: +6016-7213065
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

7. INTERNET WATCH FOUNDATION (IWF)
Anonymously and confidentially report child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images with IWF's Reporting Portal.

Last year, a survey found that a majority of Malaysian women have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment at the workplace:

Malaysia has had a concerning slew of sexual harassment allegations in the workplace in the past year: