Investigation into the claims of a tour agency forcing opposite sex accommodation on its tour guides has revealed that the complainant had breached Tourism Ministry regulations.
Its minister, Dr Ng Yen Yen told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday that the female tourist guide confessed under interrogation to have voluntarily given her room keys to the male tour bus driver.
“The results of the investigation by the ministry has found that there was a specific room ready for the tour guide and that there were no orders for her to share her accommodation with the bus driver in question.
“In fact, the bus driver was also given an allowance for accommodation by the bus company.
She said this in response to opposition parliamentarian Er Teck Hwa's (DAP-Bakri) adjournment speech in which he had asked why the ministry was not enforcing the rules and regulation it had set two years ago.
MP lists out ministry's shortcomings
Er accused the ministry of failing to act on reports of sexual assaults against the female tour guide , pointing out that there are over 2,000 tour operators.
“The question is why isn't the ministry intensifying enforcement to solve the problem?” he asked.
He added that this issue shows the minister's inability to solve the problem and should resign in favour to those with the capability to effectively put a put to the problem.
In her oral reply, Ng said the ministry had initiated their investigations on May 24 and recorded statements of the bus company, the tour agency operator hotel staff, the bus driver and the complainant herself.
Last month, the Malaysian Women Tourist Guide Association (MWTGA) rebuked the ministry for negligence in its monitoring duties as the rules banning employers from forcing female and male colleagues to share rooms while on assignment were being flouted.
Later, Tourism Ministry officials, at a meeting with MWTGA and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said in their defence that they had not received any complaints on the matter previously but promised to probe the one received.
MP's accusations prompt defence
Ng said that the ministry had taken proactive measures when the rules and regulations were being amended and wrote to every party in the industry, including MWTGA, on March 13, 2009 to educate tour guides on the new measures which came into force in June 1 of that year.
She added that the rules were distributed to all tour operators and agencies when they renewed their licenses or applied for new ones.
In addition, she said since 1996 it has been compulsory for every tour guide to undergo a 500-hour course.
Therefore, they should know that sharing a room with a member of the opposite sex is an offence.
Ng also complained that, to date, the ministry had received only one complain from MWTGA, none from the tour guide who had claimed to have been sexually assaulted.
“From 2009 to April this year, the ministry had received 724 complaints from tour operators, tour guides, tour vehicles and hotels but none on the issue of room sharing.”
Meanwhile, MWTGA chairperson Erina Loo Siew Ming, when contacted, declined to comment on Ng's remarks since the association has yet to receive the ministry report.
She said was only aware of the ministry's probe when contacted by Malaysiakini yesterday.
“I do not want to comment for the time being, I want to read the official report by the ministry first."
After that the MWTGA will follow up with the ministry before deciding whether to call for a media conference, Loo said.