Malaysian environment minister brushes off calls for resignation amid alleged conflict of interest in handling haze issue
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin on Tuesday (Sep 24) brushed off calls for her resignation, as the opposition pointed to potential conflict of interest in her handling of the regional haze issue.
This came after it was revealed that IOI Corporation, which is linked to her husband's family, has a plantation subsidiary in Indonesia suspected of causing haze.
Responding to media queries, the minister said that it is up to the Indonesian government to take action against those who infringe the laws there.
“I hope the opposition can give more constructive proposals to address the problem which has affected the country for decades,” she said.
The Star also quoted her as saying: “We welcome ideas from either the government or the opposition”.
Malaysia has been on the receiving end of cross-border haze from Indonesia since August, which forced schools to be closed and flights to be cancelled.
The haze also led to a diplomatic incident between the two countries, with Malaysia sending a diplomatic note to Indonesia to urge prompt action over the fires, while Indonesia said some of the fires in the archipelago were on palm plantations operated by Malaysian-owned companies.
Mdm Yeo has said that her ministry would seek the advice of the attorney-general on drafting a Cross-Border Pollution Act that would apply to Malaysian companies and individuals.
In a tweet dated Sep 14, the minister wrote: “If anyone is proven to be causing forest fire after investigation, Indonesia should take action against them according to the law, regardless of who they are and without fear or favour. Most importantly, the fires must be put out ASAP.”
The opposition has criticised her handling of the haze issue.
Over the weekend, Malaysian Chinese Association’s youth chief Nicole Wong called on the minister to resign immediately
"She (the environment minister) said five days ago that the Transboundary Haze Act must be introduced right away for Malaysia and Southeast Asian nations, which have always been hit by haze, but her husband's company is among the four named by the Indonesian government responsible for forest fires," noted Ms Wong.
"Therefore, it is not suitable for YBY (Yeo Bee Yin) to handle the issue while her husband's company is one of those involved," she said, adding that the issue is a serious one because it involves people's safety.