Action taken against senior Sabah Wildlife Dept staff accused of sexual misconduct, says state minister

KOTA KINABALU, Oct 22 — Action has been taken against a senior member of staff of the Sabah Wildlife Department who has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Arifin said that the department had acted according to the rules and regulations of the Sabah civil service over a written statement deemed to contain elements of sexual harassment that was posted on Facebook last Monday.

“The ministry is taking the claims of the former staff of the Wildlife Department seriously.

“We took action on October 20, 2021 against Dr Senthivel KSS Nathan,” he said, adding that the actions of the assistant director had tarnished the reputation of the department and civil service.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said that Senthivel has been removed from the Wildlife Rescue Unit, where he had been leading a team of 30 vets and rangers, and is placed directly under the department.

Jafry said that the ministry was also looking into other allegations of financial misconduct involving the private funds of the Wildlife Rescue Unit and had contacted the CEO of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council on March 8, 2019 for clarification.

“According to the report received, funds spent outside of the unit were allowed at the discretion of the officer handling the funds.

“However, further action on the officer will be determined soon,” he said.

“The ministry will not compromise and will take action against any staff who takes advantage of or abuses their power. We prioritise the safety, welfare, and quality of our people and want to cultivate a culture of integrity and high professionalism.”

The controversy began earlier this week, after Sen, an assistant director of the department, allegedly shared on his personal Facebook a photo of three female staff, with a derogatory caption.

The post garnered criticism and was soon taken down with an apology, but the situation has since evolved into more serious claims of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour towards staff of the unit, as exposed by a former veterinarian who was attached to the unit between 2018 and 2019.

A group of some 31 civil society organisations and 289 individuals, many working in the wildlife and conservation field, issued a joint statement calling for a thorough investigation into the claims.

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