GEORGE TOWN: Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin is now seen as public enemy number one after her efforts to close down the illegal carbon filter factory in Sungai Lembu resulted in the arrest of her comrade from Pakatan Harapan.
Speaking to the New Straits Times (NST), Norlela said that her intention was noble, and that all she had wanted was for the factory to operate according to the requirements of the state authorities.
Her two-year-old battle finally came to fruition when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and other government agencies raided the factory yesterday.
Following the raid, the state Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh was arrested by the MACC on Friday to facilitate investigation into the illegal factory probe.
Also arrested were the factory's 70-year-old manager and his 37-year-old son, the factory's director.
"My people sent me the screenshots of Facebook comments and postings, as if I had planned to do this to Phee, who is from my very own Pakatan Harapan coalition. Some of the comments said I was doing this because the 14th general election is drawing near, but that is not true at all.
"I am truly upset and depressed by this. The fact is I am not the one who lodged the report with the MACC.
"I only highlighted the matter to the relevant authorities and at the state legislative assembly sitting. The enforcement part is beyond my control," she said when contacted this evening.
Norlela also pointed out that there were many other reports made on illegal factories, including the one in Kubang Ulu, which is in her constituency, and it was solved at the local government level.
"I am merely performing my duties as an elected representative and it is my responsibility to solve the people's problems.
"There is nothing politically-motivated in this. People should not look at it in that sense," she added.
Norlela had been speaking out about the illegal carbon filter factory issue for the past two years.
Earlier today, Phee and both the factory manager and director were granted a five-day remand order by the magistrate court to facilitate with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) investigations under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 for abuse of power for gratification.
Their lawyers however took issue with the court's order, describing it as "highly irregular".
Meanwhile, Norlela claimed 12 out of the 500 villagers of Sungai Lembu in Bukit Mertajam were suffering from cancer, allegedly due to pollution emitted by the factory's operations.
She said that the Perkampungan Sungai Lembu's village development and security committee (JKKK) had conveyed the news to her during a meet-up session with the villagers in conjunction with Chinese New Year in February year.
"For such a small population, the figure is quite high. There are claims that the burning of a huge volume of sawdust at the illegal carbon filter factory might have caused these people to suffer from cancer.
"We immediately informed the state Health Department to investigate and diagnosed the cause of the cancer," she said.
Norlela said that the burning activities carried out by the factory were dangerous, and its Myanmar workers did not even wear any face mask.
This was known after a raid conducted by the Land Office and the Seberang Prai Municipal Council on February 18.
"Their activities are very dangerous. I brought my son together during the checks, and after returning from the area, he had to be taken to the hospital as he was having breathing difficulties," she added.
When contacted, state Health Department director Datuk Dr M. Sukumar told the NST that only 11 out of the 12 reported cases were confirmed cancer cases, with the 12th case was due to high blood pressure.
It was also understood that out of the 11, only two had lung cancer.
"The cause of the lung cancer could not be ascertained, but none of the victims worked at the carbon filter factory.
"The factory is also situated at a remote place, and was not the main route taken by any of the victims to travel daily," he added.
According to Norlela's Facebook posting on May 6, she had received a report of an accident at the factory where a lorry driver sustained 93 per cent burns on his body after he accidentally fell into the burning pit which produces activated carbon.
Referring to the incident, she had called on the state authorities to enforce the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 to halt the illegal factory's operations.
Her five motions tabled at the state legislative sitting to highlight the illegal operations were rejected, and at the end of the day, the council only slapped a mere RM250 fine on the factory.