JOHOR BAHRU: The crown prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, has hit out at the authorities over their handling of a toxic waste pollution incident that has so far left more than 2,700 people ill.
In a series of tweets late Thursday (March 14), the outspoken royal said: “Since the first day (Mar 7), an emergency should have been declared and residents temporarily evacuated elsewhere, until it was guaranteed safe.”
“Two thousand people affected and no need to declare an emergency. Wow. Amazing.”
“Never mind that there wasn't (an emergency) declaration. But at least evacuate the area until everything is stable and safe,” he added.
READ: From patrol policeman to royal bodyguard: How a Singaporean came to protect the Johor crown prince
Two schools - Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Pasir Putih and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pasir Putih - were first ordered to shut on Mar 7, after students and school employees breathed in methane fumes from chemicals that were illegally dumped in the nearby Sungai Kim Kim.
Initial cleaning works on Mar 8 had inadvertently worsened the chemical reaction, as the contractor engaged was not experienced in dealing with chemical waste.
A second wave of methane poisoning hit just hours after the two schools re-opened on Monday.
On Wednesday, all 111 schools in Pasir Gudang were ordered shut by the education ministry.
The Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Iskandar has pledged RM1 million (US$244,700) to help aid efforts. He has also ordered authorities to act against those responsible for dumping the toxic waste and asked for a thorough investigation.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday that there was no need to declare a state of emergency in Pasir Gudang. “No … it has not reached that stage (where an emergency has to be declared). There is no need for any evacuation, but we must be careful," Dr Mahathir said.
NONE ARRESTED SO FAR : POLICE CHIEF
Meanwhile, the police said on Friday that no arrests have been made regarding the chemical dumping incident, despite earlier reports that three men have been nabbed.
“We did not say it. There were other parties that mentioned that, but the police do not have any arrests,” police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.
On Wednesday, Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin said that one of suspects involved in the case was expected to be charged on Thursday.
It was believed that the prosecutors later decided to delay the charging of the suspect, in order to build a stronger case.