JOHOR BARU • Johor's ruler has described the second case of chemical pollution in Pasir Gudang district as "despicable and a total disgrace", and taken state and federal agencies to task over the matter.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said he would be summoning the leaders of Malaysia's state and federal bodies to answer for these incidents, which took place in the same area and in the same state within a couple of months.
"We were assured that all was all right and we heard the politicians and officials issuing us assurances but barely three months later, the people of Johor are faced with this issue again," he said. "This is despicable and a total disgrace."
His remarks come as the authorities investigate the cause of toxic fumes in Pasir Gudang which resulted in dozens of schoolchildren being taken ill and the closure of nearly 500 schools.
Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin yesterday said three types of flammable and toxic gases have been detected in the area.
The gases are methyl mercaptan, acrylonitrile and acrolein.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has described the incident as "unfortunate", saying it should not have happened, especially coming hard on the heels of the dumping of toxic waste into nearby Sungai Kim Kim three months ago.
HEALTH COMES FIRST
I don't care about the so-called economic value of these toxic industries, as I am only concerned about the health of Johoreans. That is far more important than money. ''
SULTAN IBRAHIM SULTAN ISKANDAR (above), the ruler of Johor, on two pollution-related incidents taking place in the same place, in the space of three months.
In March, schools were also ordered to close because of toxic fumes coming from Sungai Kim Kim.
Four individuals, including two Singaporeans, have been charged in the Sessions Court for their alleged involvement in the case.
In an interview with The Star, Sultan Ibrahim said the latest incident clearly showed "complete flaws and weaknesses, if not incompetence" in the state and federal disaster management systems.
He said he did not want to be told that such incidents would not happen again, adding: "I do not want to be hoodwinked again and again by empty assurances."
The visibly upset Sultan Ibrahim said he found it hard to accept that two pollution-related incidents could happen in the same place, albeit from different sources, within a mere three months.
He said the people of Pasir Gudang were badly affected by these incidents.
"I read that the state government spent about RM6.4 million (S$2.1 million) to clean up the Sungai Kim Kim of the toxic waste in March.
"Then, we have conflicting statements from a minister who first affirmed that the latest incident was related to the earlier case in Sungai Kim Kim but later denied it.
"These are very confusing and conflicting statements to me, as they should be speaking authoritatively on such an important matter," he said, insisting that the officials should carry out their jobs competently and effectively.
Sultan Ibrahim said he would propose to the Johor government to "get rid of or relocate" industries that had negative environment impact on the state, saying that "they endangered not just the people of Johor but also Singaporeans".
He cited a plastic manufacturer that was allowed to operate in Johor "when other states did not want it".
"I don't care about the so-called economic value of these toxic industries, as I am only concerned about the health of Johoreans. That is far more important than money," he said. "I don't want the politicians, whether state or federal, to tell me about the economic impact. Please stop these," he added.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK