Malaysian minister Yeo Bee Yin ignores calls to resign for conflict of interest over haze

Malaysia's Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin brushed aside calls for her resignation over a supposed conflict of interest in handling the issue of transboundary haze. PHOTO: ST FILE

SERI ISKANDAR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Ms Yeo Bee Yin has brushed aside calls for her resignation over a supposed conflict of interest in handling the transboundary haze issue.

Responding to media questions about an oil palm plantation in Indonesia linked to her husband's company, IOI Corporation, which is said to be among companies causing the regional haze, the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister said the matter should be handled by the Indonesian government.

She said the Indonesian government should first investigate the matter and take necessary action against any company found guilty of the offence.

"I hope that instead of criticising, the Opposition can give constructive ideas to resolve similar issues in the future. This situation has been occurring for decades, and we welcome ideas from either the government or the opposition," she told reporters after opening the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) Centre and officiating a prize-giving ceremony at Universiti Teknologi Petronas here on Tuesday (Sept 24).

"If there are constructive ideas, we will accept and execute them," she said.

It was reported that four plantation companies in Indonesia with ties to Malaysians were among the industry players blamed for causing the haze currently blanketing the region, because of slash-and-burn land-clearing methods.

The companies include Sukses Karya Sawit, a unit of IOI Corporation, and Sime Indo Agro, which is related to Sime Darby Plantation.

MCA Youth chief Nicole Wong has called for Ms Yeo to step down due to the link with her husband's company.

Ms Yeo is married to IOI Properties Group CEO Lee Yeow Seng.

The minister also said that a new law that would see Malaysians causing pollution overseas being held accountable was being drawn up.

She said the Cross-Border Pollution Act would apply to Malaysian companies and individuals.

"We are preparing the policy and will bring it to the Cabinet for approval. Once approved, a draft will be prepared," she said.

Ms Yeo said that while it usually took months - sometimes years - to bring a new law into effect, her ministry had contacted the Attorney-General's Chambers about the urgency for it.

"We will work closely with the AGC once we receive the nod from the Cabinet," she said.

Ms Yeo also said that the Indonesian government had not responded to offers from Malaysia and Singapore to help handle the haze crisis.

She assured that the haze situation in Malaysia would improve by the end of the week.

"Our Meteorological Department has announced that there would be changes in the wind direction and we are expecting the monsoon season to arrive," she said.

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