Audry: The guides complained again about being barred from the parks.
"TOURIST guides want a relaxation of rules on who are permitted to guide in Sarawak's national parks.
Local guides are complaining that the rules introduced several years ago are too rigid as only those trained and licensed by state authorities are allowed to be guides in the parks.
Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF), an umbrella body representing the private sector, is preparing a working paper and will take the matter up with the state. "Recently, the guides complained again about being barred from the parks," said newly-elected STF president Audry Wan Ullok to Star Metro. "They are unhappy that even those trained by the Federal Tourism Ministry, who have been leading groups into national parks for over 20 years, are not allowed to guide in the areas." She added, however, that the tourist guides were not against higher standards. The problem is that the unqualified state guides have to undergo new courses prepared by Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC), which Audry described as time consuming and expensive.
"The course takes a few months. Many complain that they cannot afford this arrangement. This is why there is a lot of resentment." It is understood that the issue was among the key matters discussed at the federation's annual general meeting last Wednesday when Audry was elected to replace three-term president Wee Hong Seng. Audry said that helping the guides find an amicable solution with SFC and the State Forest Department was now STF's priority.
"The federation wants to find out once and for all what is the specific legislation and whether the rules have been gazetted," she said.
She also said that there was confusion in regard to entrance fees to the parks. Audry said it could be several months before agreements could be reached on the two issues, adding that STF could only voice the issues and making changes to the rules were beyond it.
"STF can make suggestions to SFC and the department to consider. It's a complicated process. The first thing is to write a working paper which will be discussed with the relevant ministry. "I hope the ministry personnel will take the matter up with the state Cabinet, and if amendments are required, to the State Legislature. What STF wants for its members is long-term solutions," she said.