Johor Baru—The Sultan of Johor has called for a full-scale investigation to find the people behind the chemical dumping in Sungai Kim Kim in Pasir Gudang, as well as for justice to be meted out at the soonest.
He has not hesitated to show his outrage over the matter, since 250 people have fallen ill, and 13 schools have closed because of the noxious chemicals that were illegally dumped into Sungai Kim Kim.
Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar did not hesitate to show his deep displeasure and even anguish at the chemical dumping, which caused hundreds of people to be hospitalized, including young people.
Many of the victims are students of Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Taman Pasir Putih and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Taman Pasir Putih. These schools are all located near the river where the chemical was dumped.
He said, “These are innocent schoolchildren, teachers, and health workers … don’t those responsible feel any remorse at the thought that children in the ICU are fighting for their lives?
Johor Health director Dr Selahuddeen Abd Aziz had said in a statement on March 11 that four of the victims were confined in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), while 35 were in need of further treatment.
While calling for a thorough investigation into the matter, the Sultan of Johor also thanked the medical staff who helped the people affected by the chemical dumping.
He said, ”These are my rakyat (people) and I will not let this matter go unanswered. I urge all government agencies to apprehend and punish the culprits immediately,” speaking to the Royal Press Office on March 12, Tuesday.
He reminded everyone living in the affected areas to take utmost care of their health and to obtain medical treatment immediately should they show symptoms of having inhaled the noxious chemicals.
He also urged that schools remain closed at this time. “Schools also should not be opened until the situation is completely safe for students and teachers. I also urge residents to stay indoors as much as possible.”
On March 12, the Johor Department of Environment (DOE) announced that it has finished its investigation papers and that these will be sent to the public prosecutor.
The team of investigators will be charging two firms that operate factories responsible for the chemical dumping which was considered scheduled waste into the river in Pasir Gudang.
Mohammad Ezzani Mat Salleh, Johor DOE director, said that there are three male suspects in the case, all between the ages of 40 and 50. The men were arrested on March 11.
According to Malay Mail, he said, “The DOE investigation team are satisfied with the probe and have recorded evidence from three suspects who had also verbally admitted their involvement in the illegal dumping of chemical waste into Sungai Kim Kim last Thursday.”
The DOE has also seized items considered evidence in the case, from two factories on Kulai and Pasir Gudang.
He added, “We are waiting for the green light to submit the papers and also haul the suspects and the two companies to court. We investigated the case under Section 34B of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 which provides for a maximum fine of RM500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years.”
Investigators from DOE identified the chemical that was illegally dumped as marine oil. This substance, in turn, gave off flammable methane and benzene fumes.
Because of its hazardous nature, marine oil needs to be disposed of properly and is classified as scheduled waste.
The DOE has also arrested a chemical factory owner in Kulai on March 10, as well as the owner and a worker of a shredded waste factory in Taman Pasir Puteh in Pasir Gudang on March 11.