Malaysian minister threatens legal action over allegations linking husband to Pasir Gudang's air pollution

A Facebook post alleged that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin's husband, IOI Properties Group chief executive officer Lee Yeow Seng, owns three chemical factories in Pasir Gudang.
A Facebook post alleged that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin's husband, IOI Properties Group chief executive officer Lee Yeow Seng, owns three chemical factories in Pasir Gudang.PHOTOS: ST FILE, IOI PROPERTIES

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Malaysian minister has warned that she will take legal action against those who spread slander over the ongoing toxic air pollution incident in Johor's Pasir Gudang district.

A Facebook post alleged that Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin's husband, IOI Properties Group chief executive officer Lee Yeow Seng, owns three chemical factories in Pasir Gudang.

The post also questioned why the government was slow in taking action.

Ms Yeo said the allegations were an insult to hundreds of government officers from various agencies who were involved in handling the recent Pasir Gudang air pollution incident.

"I will take legal action against those who spread this defamation and abuse freedom of speech," she said in a statement on her Facebook page on Tuesday (July 2).

Ms Yeo added that the act of politicising the issue is "disgusting and cruel, as these individuals do not consider the feelings and trauma experienced by parents whose children were affected by the situation".

She also noted that among those looking into the Pasir Gudang situation are the Johor state Environmental Department, Chemistry Department, Malaysian Meteorological Department, Fire and Rescue Department's hazmat team, Johor Health Department, Johor Education Department, Pasir Gudang Municipal Council and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

 
 
 

Her Facebook post also included pictures of these agencies and department representatives having a meeting to tackle the issue.

Ms Yeo and Mr Lee got married in March this year.

The allegation in the Facebook post said that Mr Lee owns three companies - IOI Pan-Century Oleochemicals, IOI Pan-Century Edible Oils, and IOI Lipid Enzymetec.

In 2018, the IOI Corporation sold 100 per cent of its stake in IOI Lipid Enzymtec to Loders Croklaan Group BV for RM330.5 million (S$108.2 million).

A Google check revealed that the three companies, located in the Pasir Gudang Industrial Estate, are palm oil refineries and not chemical factories.

Ms Yeo had said that the authorities are still pinpointing the source of the toxic air pollution in Pasir Gudang, noting that it is different from the Sungai Kim Kim situation in March.

There are 250 chemical factories in Pasir Gudang, and 111 primary and secondary schools in the area.

A total of 475 educational institutions in Pasir Gudang were closed for three days last week after more than 100 students from over 30 schools were affected by the air pollution incident, which began on June 20.

This was not the first time Pasir Gudang has been hit with pollution.

 
 

On March, 11 primary and secondary schools in Pasir Gudang were shut for two weeks following the illegal dumping of chemicals into Sungai Kim Kim, which flows into the Strait of Johor just north of Singapore's Pulau Ubin.

More than 5,800 people sought medical treatment after inhaling toxic fumes from the river.

Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said last week that he would propose to the Johor government to "get rid of or relocate" industries that had negative environmental impact on the state, saying that "they endangered not only just the people of Johor but also Singaporeans".