MACC and IRB swoop on illegal sawdust factory
BUKIT MERTAJAM: Failure by the authorities to take action against an illegal sawdust factory in Sungai Lembu here despite numerous complaints prompted the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to launch a massive operation yesterday.
Besides the sawdust factory, MACC also raided the factory’s office and Seberang Prai Municipal Council’s (MPSP’s) Licensing Department at Bandar Perda here.
MACC officers were seen entering the MPSP building at 10.30am, and left three hours later with bags of documents, believed to be on the factory’s operations.
They were also seen leaving the factory’s office with stacks of documents. The Inland Revenue Board, which joined the operation, also left with documents.
Sources said the owner of the factory might have under-declared its income.
A 70-year-old supervisor at the factory was detained and taken to the MACC office in Seberang Prai for questioning.
Sources said the sawdust factory had been operating illegally for 10 years on a plot of agricultural land.
“The factory has caused much hardship to residents and resulted in health problems.
“There has also been an influx of illegal migrant workers,” a source said.
“Prior to this, reports have been lodged by the locals to the authorities on the factory’s operations but no action had been taken.”
Meanwhile, nine Myanmar migrant workers in the factory, including a woman, were detained by Immigration officers, who were also involved in the operation.
The Department of Environment (DoE) will take action against the factory for not installing an air pollution control system.
In May 2015, during the Permatang Pauh by-election, the New Straits Times reported PKR’s Penanti assemblywoman Dr Norlela Ariffin’s frustration with the goings-on in her constituency, which includes Sungai Lembu.
Norlela, a first-term assemblywoman, did not hide her frustration when her move to table five motions in the state legislative assembly then — among others to resolve land clearing and the setting up of illegal factories in the constituency — was shot down.
In the email made available to NST then, she had detailed
the land clearing in Mukim 18, Sungai Lembu, and the establishment of three illegal factories in Tanah Liat as the main cause of flash floods.
Norlela had expressed grave concern as the factories had not adhered to the standards set by DoE, especially on waste discharge procedures.
She had lamented that pollution from factories had affected the health of locals, and had urged the state planning committee to authorise MPSP to take action against such factories, which she claimed, were built without planning permission.
She had said there was a tin ore factory in Kubang Ulu and a carbon filter factory in Sungai Lembu that caused health issues among the locals, while in Tanah Liat, the setting up of a factory had caused flash floods in a nearby village.
The illegal sawdust factory in Sungai Lembu. (Inset) MACC officers leaving the Seberang Prai Municipal Council building with documents from the council’s Licensing Department.