KUALA LUMPUR: Penanti assemblyman Norlela Ariffin said she had only wanted to help the villagers of Kampung Sungai Lembu, out of goodwill when she raised concerns of the illegal carbon filter factory.
However, she has now become public scrutiny and blamed for state Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh’s arrest and the shutting down of the factory.
Since orders for the factory’s shutdown had been issued, Norlela had been receiving feedback from the public that she had political motives behind her actions and accused for ‘whistle blowing’ for an isolated case.
Speaking to the New Straits Times today, Norlela clarified that she did not intend to get her fellow Pakatan Harapan colleague arrested.
“I was doing my job as a wakil rakyat (people’s representative) by attending to complaints that were brought to me by the villagers.
“It was since 2015 that this issue was brought up, and until today, there has been no action taken by the local authorities.
“In May this year, the villagers handed me an 18-page petition signed by 180 villagers objecting the operations of the illegal carbon filter factory. I think it is about time that someone take this seriously,” she said.
For a village that is populated by 500 villagers, to get 180 signatures in support for a petition proves a strong stand said Norlela.
“Back in 2015 even when the lorry driver who fell into the burning pit and sustained 93 per cent burns on his body, nothing was done.
“People are falling sick and it doesn’t have to be cancer. The village head told me today that about 10 of the villagers were down with cancer but they are shy to admit that they are unwell.
“They thanked me today and said that they are very relieved that the illegal carbon filter factory is finally shutdown,” she said.
Norlela added that when she brought up concerns over the illegal carbon filter factory, she was merely the villagers’ messenger to the authority.
“I didn’t propose for the factory to be shutdown. I proposed for the authorities to assess the factory and its operation legalities. If they are illegal, I’m sure they can find a way to legalise the factory.
“If they have not been following proper operation guidelines, the authorities could have demanded for them to do something to correct their operating procedures to make it safe for the surrounding environment.
“They didn’t have to shut it down if there are ways that the factory can be sustained,” she said.
Previously, Norlela’s five motions tabled at the state legislative sitting to highlight the illegal operations were rejected.
“My question is, why had the two-term state exco (Phee) not do anything when he had also received the 18-page petition?
“This factory is not new. If it is safe, explain this to the people and if it isn’t, something needs to be done.
“By saying that, I am not isolating this case because I have brought up previous cases of other illegally run factories and they had taken action before,” she added.
Phee, a senior DAP lawmaker in the state, was arrested on Friday afternoon while having his statement recorded by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers at its state office in Penang.
The MACC had also taken in the factory's manager and the factory director to assist investigations into the factory's operations.