Johor Baru—On Saturday, April 6, an action committee was formed to look into possible compensation for the victims of last month’s poisoning incident at Sungai Kim Kim, in light of bringing a civil suit against the government of Johor.
There were 5,848 people who were affected due to the illegal chemicals dumped in the river, which occurred on March 7, 2019. All 111 schools in the area were closed.
Many of the victims, which included children, emergency responders, and health workers, were hospitalised due to the poisoning, with some even needing intensive care. The last victim of the incident was released from hospital only on March 25.
The Sungai Kim Kim Victim’s Compensation Action Committee, is claiming negligence and is naming the Johor chief minister Datuk Osman Sapian, the Department of Environment (DOE), the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID), the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council (MPPG) and the factory involved as respondents in the civil action suit.
There are now around 120 residents in the committee.
The Malay Mail reports Kamarudin Ahmad, the lawyer for the group, as saying, “We plan to file the civil suit by early June after we get more details and the medical reports of the victims of the Sungai Kim Kim toxic fume incident.”
It was further reported that Mr Karamudin had led over 70 families who have been suffering from health issues due to chemical poisoning to file police reports at the Seri Alam district police headquarters. These reports were filed so that victims could claim damages from alleged negligence of the state government, as well as other parties.
“Due to the incident, the residents suffered from symptoms like breathing difficulties and vomiting. One family claimed that their child suffered nerve damage and could not walk.
We are also worried about the long term effect of the incident on the residents,” said the lawyer.
He said that the committee has briefed the victims concerning their rights, as well as what course of action they can take.
“We plan to file the suit in early June. By that time, I expect the number to increase because currently, many affected residents do not know their rights or where to turn to for assistance.
We are still gathering information on the case, including the health report of the affected residents.”
The lawyer added that he has been told there are other groups looking into making similar claims.
The police chief of Seri Alam, Superintendent Ismail Dollah, confirmed that their headquarters have received the police reports.
Investigations into the incident resulted in two directors of a used tire processing company, one Singaporean and one Malaysian, being charged in the Sessions Court under two environmental regulations for the disposal of scheduled waste and air pollution in the river. A third man, a Malaysian who drives for the tire company, has also been charged.
The three individuals apprehended are Singaporean Wang Jin Chao, 34, and Malaysian Yap Yoke Liang, 36, who are the directors of a company that processes used tires, as well as N. Maridass, 35, a truck driver.
The charge sheet indicates that Mr Maridass was accused of illegally dumping the chemicals into Sungai Kim Kim on March 7. Mr Yap and Mr Wang were accused of conspiring with Mr Maridass.
Should the men be convicted, they could be fined as much as RM 500,000 (S$ 166,000) and face a five-year jail sentence.
According to Mohd Khalil Kader Mohd, the chief of police in Johor, there is another Singaporean whom the police are looking for in connection to the illegal dumping. Sim Wei Dee, age 49, is also a director of the company that processes used tires./TISG
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