Arrest linked to illegal operation of carbon filter factory in Bukit Mertajam
For 10 years, a factory has been illegally burning sawdust to produce carbon for filters, forcing villagers and schoolchildren in parts of Bukit Mertajam to breathe dust-laden smoke every day. The matter has now flared up with the arrest of Penang exco man Phee Boon Poh and two of the factory’s directors by the MACC. All three are set to be remanded today.
GEORGE TOWN: An illegal carbon filter processing factory has become a burning issue in Penang with the arrest of state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh and two factory directors by graft-busters from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
All three are expected to be remanded today.
The factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu in Bukit Mertajam was in the news on Wednesday when MACC officers raided its premises and seized several documents.
Yesterday, a team of five MACC officers raided Phee’s office at Level 53 in Komtar at about 11.30am and took away more documents.
Phee, who chairs the state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee, was asked to report to the Penang MACC headquarters in Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah. He was arrested at 3.30pm when he turned up at the MACC building.
MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said Phee was detained under Section 23 of the MACC Act for abuse of power.
The section provides for a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the value of the bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
The 66-year-old Phee was brought back to his house in Butterworth at about 5pm in his car and escorted by two MACC vehicles. It is learnt that he packed some personal belongings from his house before leaving for the state MACC headquarters at 7.05pm.
The MACC also arrested a 70-year-old man and his 37-year-old son, the manager and director of the factory, at 6.05pm and 6.35pm respectively.
The two were summoned to the state MACC headquarters to give their statements before they were detained.
Lawyer R.S.N. Rayer, who accompanied Phee to the Penang MACC headquarters, said the exco man was asked to meet MACC officers after 2pm.
“I was informed that they (MACC officers) went to his office and took some documents including letters that he wrote. They wanted to record his statement regarding the documents.
“He gave his full cooperation and presented himself at the MACC office. I am surprised that he was arrested,” he said before leaving the state MACC building at about 4.30pm.
Earlier, the five MACC officers spent more than an hour in Phee’s office.
Shortly after they left, Phee and four assistants walked out of the office.
Phee declined to comment on the raid.
He is the second member of the current Penang state administration to be arrested by the MACC.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was arrested in June last year over the purchase of a RM2.8mil bungalow in Pinhorn Road.
He was subsequently charged with using his position as the Chief Minister of Penang to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng, by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone in south-west Penang to the company, Magnificient Emblem Sdn Bhd.
He allegedly committed the offence while chairing the Penang State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room in the Komtar building on July 18, 2014.
The charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.
Lim faces a second charge of using his position to obtain a plot of land and a bungalow located at No 25 Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on July 28, 2015, from businesswoman Phang Li Koon for RM2.8mil, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s market value at the time of RM4.27mil.
The charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides for a jail term of up to two years or a fine, or both, upon conviction.
Late last night, Lim was among several DAP leaders and members who turned up outside the state MACC headquarters to stage a candlelight vigil in support of Phee.
Source: The Star by crystal chiam shiying, chong kah yuan, lo tern chern, andlogeiswary thevadass
10 years of smoke in the eyes for villagers
BUKIT MERTAJAM: For about 10 years now, the villagers of Kampung Sungai Lembu have been forced to breathe air laden with pollutants. Children going to school at SJK(C) Kampung Sungai Lembu also have had to put up with the thick dust.
The air is thick with a burning smell from the processing activities at an illegal carbon filter processing factory, just 1km away from the school.
The 5,000sq-m factory, about the size of a football field, has piles upon piles of sawdust, much of it burning in deep pits.
The tall chimneys spout white pollutant-filled smoke into the air which is carried to the nearby villages by the slight breeze.
A source from the Department of Environment revealed that the factory also did not have an air pollution control system.
Kampung Sungai Lembu Development and Security Committee chairman Tan Sing Lee, 58, said the factory also carried out open burning of sawdust to produce carbon.
“Every time the wind blows our way especially in December, the air is polluted. At night, the air is foggy and villagers complain about the smell,” he said.
“We reported the matter to Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin but no action was taken in the past two years,” he said.
The factory is also situated inside an oil palm estate, on land designated for agriculture.
Tan claimed a man in his 30s died in 2015 after he fell into one of the pits while filling it with sawdust.
A check by The Star at the factory yesterday found 20 pits, each measuring about 3m across. The pits were filled with burning sawdust and there was smoke everywhere. The sawdust is burnt to produce carbon which is then used in filters.
Permatang Pauh Umno chief Datuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said claimed there may have been people involved in covering up the issue before the raid on the factory by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on Thursday.
“Several reports have been lodged against the factory.
It is impossible for the Seberang Prai Municipal Council to not be aware of it,” he said during a press conference in Kampung Sungai Lembu.
Also present was Parti Cinta Malaysia deputy president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan.
PKR rep Norlela glad over action against illegal factory
BUKIT MERTAJAM: Penanti’s PKR assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin (pic) is pleased that action is finally being taken by the MACC over an illegal factory in Kampung Sungai Lembu.
Dr Norlela said she raised the issue of the carbon filter processing factory more than two years ago. “The villagers told me about their concerns in February 2015. I raised the matter at the state assembly sitting but no action was taken for two years,” she said.
It was in November that Dr Norlela broke down and sobbed uncontrollably at the assembly, claiming the state government had failed to respond to her queries.
She lamented then that she had complained of many woes like illegal factories, frequent flooding and the lack of infrastructure like roads and proper jetties for fishermen.
“Early this year, before the state assembly sitting, villagers handed me an 18-page petition, appealing for the factory to be closed as they claimed it was affecting their health.
“It was also found that the factory was not operating according to guidelines,” she said yesterday.
In May, her allocation was withheld after she did not show up at the Yang di-Pertua Negri’s swearing-in ceremony.
Earlier this month, she complained that funds collected for flood mitigation had not been used to help her constituents.
“In Penanti alone, there are nine flood-prone areas that could greatly benefit from these funds,” she reportedly said, citing the Auditor General’s Report 2016 Series 1 which revealed that the Seberang Prai Municipal Council had only used RM2.2mil of RM63.39mil collected from 2008 to June 2016.
Dr Norlela is among several assemblymen who have been at loggerheads with the state leadership, often criticising it for not carrying out its duties or for not caring about the environment,
Last month, she praised the Sungai Buloh-Kajang MRT project and took a swipe at the Penang Transport Master Plan by comparing the construction cost of both projects in a video she posted on social media.
DAP’s lone ranger faces his biggest test
GEORGE TOWN: Two-term Penang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, 66, gained fame as a vocal opposition leader when he took on 38 Barisan Nasional representatives in the state assembly when he was the sole DAP assemblyman from 2004 until 2008.
Despite being overwhelmed, the “lone ranger” raised many issues.
Although PAS was represented by Mohd Hamdan Abdul Rahman, it was Phee who questioned the policies of the state administration headed by Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.
Phee began his political career by winning the Bagan Jermal state seat in 1990, only to lose it to Barisan’s Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum in 1995.
In 1999, he contested the Sungai Puyu seat but lost to Barisan’s Loo Ah Dee. In 2004, he wrested it from Loo with a 607-vote majority.
In 2008, he retained his state seat with a 9,201-vote majority and was appointed state Welfare and Caring Society chairman.
He later took over the environment portfolio from state exco member Chow Kon Yeow.
In the 2013 general election, he beat MCA’s Sum Yoo Keong by 16,207 votes.
Phee is a distant relative of businesswoman Phang Li Koon, who has been charged with abetment in the two corruption cases against Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.
MACC probes Phee’s letters – Directing council to ‘stay away’ under investigation
PENANG: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating two letters, which appear to have originated from state executive councillor Phee Boon Poh, asking that no action be taken against an illegal factory.
The letters, written in 2015 and 2016, directed the Seberang Prai Municipal Council from shutting down the carbon filter-processing factory which had been operating illegally for the past 10 years.
The MACC is also investigating whether Phee or his officials had authorised the letters telling the council to back off.
As Phee and two of the company’s directors were remanded yesterday, the MACC is expected to call up a DAP state assemblyman for questioning.
The MACC is believed to be investigating the role of this state assemblyman in the case.
It is understood that MACC is also probing the relationship between Phee and the factory owners.
It wants to find out how the factory could operate openly despite complaints from the villagers nearby.
“The illegal factory is on an agro-based land. (We want to know) why it has been able to operate without any action (taken against it),” a source told Sunday Star.
Too close for comfort: The illegal carbon filter-processing factory still operating and its proximity to Kampung Sungai Lembu and surrounding areas near Bukit Mertajam.
When contacted, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said the anti-graft body will carry out a thorough probe and look into all angles.
Azam said investigations will focus on the element of abuse of power.
“We have opened an investigation paper under Section 23 of the MACC Act.
“We will look into whether one of the suspects has given (any form of) protection to the illegal factory to enable it to continue operating the last 10 years,” he said.
He declined to elaborate further as investigations were ongoing.
Sources said anti-graft officers revisited the house of the state exco member in Sungai Puyu on the mainland to look for more evidence to assist in the probe.
It is not immediately known if documents were seized.
The homes and offices of two other suspects will also be revisited as part of the probe.
More arrests are expected in the coming days as investigations into the case widen.
The Penang government will not protect any of its officials … Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng says he believes state exco man Phee Boon … Phee, who is in charge of the welfare, caring society and environment portfolio, was arrested yesterday by the MACC over alleged misuse of power.
bestowed ‘awards’ not just to Penang councils but also other Malaysian
institutions. GEORGE TOWN…