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Political persecution or environment disaster?

  • If irregularities from a previous administration should be spared, then why should the voters in Penang vote in a DAP government in the first place? Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily

Before we pass our judgments on the detention of DAP's Phee Boon Poh, perhaps we should first ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Is it a political persecution or environment issue?

2. Should the public target their wrath at Norlela Ariffin or Phee Boon Poh?

3. Is the Penang state government supporting the illegal carbon filter processing factory or the health of Kampung Sungai Lembu folks?

DAP leadership and supporters perceive Phee's detention by MACC as political persecution aimed at undermining DAP and the Penang state government.

Phee claimed that it was the darkest moment in Malaysia's history and we all need to stand together and not to give up. He also said leaders must be ready to sacrifice for the people, and that there will be change only if there is sacrifice.

The detainee takes on the image of a superhero with his fiery political jargon meant to camouflage the suspended particles in the air and the thick fumes discharged from the factory.

As if that is not enough, banners, candlelight vigils and tearful hugs have all succeeded in intensifying public emotions.

Perhaps we should open our eyes to see some facts in a more unbiased manner:

The factor about the size of a football field is continuously burning carbon filter round the clock, with about 2,000 tonnes burned every month. The process sets free enormous amounts of hazardous fumes and suspended particles.

The factory is adopting an opening burning method, meaning it has no facilities to filter the effluent gases. Imagine the consequences of forest fires hundreds of kilometers away in Sumatra and this one merely a kilometer from the houses of Kampung Sungai Lembu residents!

The unlicensed factory has been built on agriculture land without the environment assessment permit. For the past ten years local residents have been protesting against its operation, while the local state assemblywoman Norlela Ariffin has made pleas to act against the factory.

Kampung Sungai Lembu village chief Tan Sing Lee said the incidence of cancer in the new village had shot up dramatically, with more than ten villagers out of a total population of 1,000 suffering from cancers. This number has been confirmed by state health director Dr Sukumar Mahesan.

In Malaysia, the incidence of cancers is merely about 88 for every 100,000 people, i.e. less than one in a thousand.

In other words, the cancer incidence at Kampung Sungai Lembu is over ten times the national average!

Although we cannot prove the direct relationship between cancer incidence and the factory, doesn't the situation warrant some urgent attention from us all?

What I was trying to say is that an illegal factory that has been constantly belching toxic fumes has been spared by the state government. Why?

As a state exco in charge of environment, shouldn't Phee have some responsibility at all?

According to the information made available to The Star, Phee wrote to the municipal council twice in 2015 and 2016, instructing the council not to take any action against the factory.

He claimed that he made the sacrifice for the people but what about the health of Kampung Sungai Lembu residents?

Lim Kit Siang accused the MACC of detaining Phee for the motive of masking the widespread corruption problem in the country. But then what is the Penang state government trying to hide by siding Phee?

Lim Guan Eng said Phee is the richest exco in the state and will therefore not be corrupt. But, so far no one has said that Phee is corrupt. In its stead, the issue is all about sheltering illegal factory and lapse of duty. Moreover, if the argument that "a rich man will not be corrupt" can be substantiated, this country will be virtually corruption-free by now.

He also claimed that inaction on the illegal factory was in line with the state government's policy of not taking actions against problems left behind by the previous BN administration unless it contravenes the law and public interests.

If irregularities from a previous administration should be spared, then why should the voters in Penang vote in a DAP government in the first place? Moreover, isn't an illegal smoke-belching factory violating the law and public interests?

As for Norlela, she was only doing her job as an elected representative for the well-being of her constituents.

We should have a clear answer to the above three questions by now.

 

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