PENANG: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Hilmi Yahaya has denied interfering in an alleged sexual harassment case.
“I am a victim of malicious allegations by certain individuals. The allegations levelled against me are entirely false and defamatory and my reputation has been disparaged,” he told a press conference at his Komtar office here yesterday.
He was referring to reports in an English daily, which quoted social activist Lim Ai Yim as naming him as the senior politician who interfered in an alleged sexual harassment case.
Lim was quoted as saying that Dr Hilmi had allegedly used his public office to appeal against a decision by the Immigration Department to terminate the work permit of an expatriate accused of sexually harassing his subordinate.
In his three-page statement released at yesterday’s press conference, Dr Hilmi assured the people that he was concerned and sensitive over incidents of violence against women, including sexual harassment against women at the workplace.
He also said that he had been contacted by Anti-Corruption Agency's investigation deputy director, who told him that the agency had no case on him over the issue.
Asked whether he would lodge a police report over the matter or sue Lim, Dr Hilmi, who is also Teluk Bahang state assemblyman, said that as a politician, he would prefer that the issue not drag on further.
“It is up to the police to investigate the matter if they (police) are interested, and I am willing to give my full co-operation,” he said, adding that he would not take legal action.
In refuting Lim’s allegations, Dr Hilmi said the complainant had sought an appointment with him at his office and complained of being victimised and unfairly dismissed from her post as a manager in a pharmaceutical company in Penang.
She claimed she was dismissed because of her complaint that she had been sexually harassed by one of her superiors and requested Dr Hilmi to help get her re-instated in the company.
Dr Himi said he then requested for a meeting with company officials. Two senior officials met him and explained that the complainant's allegation was made six months after the alleged incident and had not been proven by an inquiry conducted by the company.
He was informed that the complainant had lodged a report with the Industrial Relations Department and the case had been referred to the Industrial Court.
“At the meeting, it was apparent to me that the company was disputing the complainant's allegation,” he added.
Dr Hilmi said the officials also informed him that the Director-General of Immigration had taken steps to cancel the expatriate’s work permit due to the alleged sexual harassment case and they requested the state government to look into the matter.
The company subsequently submitted a formal request to the state government.
Dr Hilmi said following enquiries, he was told by the Immigration Department that the revocation of the permit was not due to sexual misconduct but because of technical reasons as the expatriate’s application form was incomplete.
Dr Hilmi said following the formal request by the company, he wrote to the minister concerned to provide information on the background of the company and supported the appeal in respect of the work permit.
Dr Hilmi said he did not in any way condone the alleged sexual harassment, which was under inquiry by the Industrial Court.
Responding to a report quoting Lim as saying she had with her copies of letters, including those sent from Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi instructing that the work permit not be renewed, Dr Hilmi said it was a serious offence to disclose Government documents.
Dr Hilmi said Lim, who is a member of the Malaysian Association of Working Women (AWAM), could be charged under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).