JOHOR BARU - Victims of the two recent pollution cases in the Malaysian state of Johor, and those who say their livelihoods were affected, will be filing a lawsuit on July 17 against 11 defendants, including the state government and the Johor Menteri Besar.
News of the lawsuit comes as 11 students from four schools in Johor's Pasir Gudang district, suffered headache, nausea and vomiting on Sunday (July 7), Bernama reported.
The lawsuit will be filed at the Johor Baru High Court by lawyer Kamarudin Ahmad, who is representing the victims.
"The lawsuit is representing 160 people, including 34 students who have become victims and 120 fishermen from Pasir Gudang whose livelihood had been badly affected by the pollution," Mr Kamarudin said at a press conference held in the district on Sunday (July 7).
Mr Kamarudin said a majority of the student victims are from SMK Taman Pasir Putih and SMK Tanjung Puteri Resort schools, who had first been affected when air pollution stemming from the illegal dumping of chemicals into Sungai Kim Kim river in March resulted in methane gas spreading through the air. "Some of them are the previous Sungai Kim Kim victims who had fallen victim again in the recent gas pollution," Mr Kamarudin said.
The incident in March caused victims to experience symptoms including nausea, headaches and breathing difficulties, prompting the closure of 111 primary and secondary schools in Pasir Gudang.
Barely three months later, dozens of students reported experiencing breathing difficulties, along with nausea and dizziness, leading the authorities to shut 475 educational institutions for three days from June 25. But hours after the schools reopened on July 1, dozens of students and their teachers experienced similar symptoms and were rushed to clinics.
On Sunday, State Health, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar said 11 students in Pasir Gudang fell ill with similar symptoms and were sent to rest at the sick bays in their school. The students were from SK Kota Masai 2, SMK Taman Nusa Damai, SMK Tanjung Puteri Resort and SMK Pasir Putih, all of which had students who were affected in the previous cases.
However, there were no new patients warded at the hospital and the situation was still under control, he said in a statement.
Mr Kamarudin said the lawsuit also includes a demand for RM5 million (S$1.6 million) in compensation for the general damages suffered by 12-year-old student Irfan Wafiy Idham Wazir, of Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Bukit Dahlia, who reportedly developed myokymia after he was believed to have been exposed to the toxic pollution in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang in March. The condition causes parts of the body to tremble.
His father, Mr Idham Wazir, last Monday sneaked into a closed-door town hall session between Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin and industry players to deliver a rebuke to Malaysian officials reportedly arguing over who should pay for safety measures after the pollution incidents. The outburst went viral on social media last week.
But Malaysian Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye said on Saturday that the authorities had conducted background checks on the boy and found that he was born prematurely and had a history of fits since he was four.
Mr Kamarudin on Sunday denied allegations that the latest victims had suffered mass hysteria and not gas pollution, saying such allegations painted a bad picture of the students. "It has also caused emotional pressure to the parents whose children's health have been affected by this incident," he added.
He said a majority of the victims are asking for compensation between RM4,000 and RM5,000 each and are leaving it to the court to add any other compensation if necessary.
Other defendants include the Environment Department (DOE), the Irrigation and Drainage Department, Pasir Gudang Municipal Council (MPPG), the state Environment committee chairman, and the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry.
Ms Yeo said last Thursday that joint enforcement operations will be carried out to shut down illegal factories in Pasir Gudang.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry on Sunday refuted rumours on social media that alleged that a woman had died as a result of air pollution in the district.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the woman had suffered from chronic hypertension for the past 10 years. Checks later revealed that the woman, who has been identified as Marini Kasman, 38, had acute high blood pressure in addition to troubled breathing.
Datuk Seri Dzulkefly said that based on clinical reports, her symptoms and test results, the woman's heart functions had worsened due to her chronic illness and expressed his condolences to the family.