Despoiled soil. Poisoned water. Polluted air. The bauxite mining fiasco in Pahang triggered a massive environmental disaster in Kuantan last year. Yet if you were to have asked local officials about who had been responsible, you would have received the usual response: “Not us!”
Earlier this year a couple of officials were indeed held responsible for their parts in allowing unlicensed operators to break the law. The two officials, who worked for the state’s Land and Mines Office, were charged at the Special Courts for Corruption in Kuantan for allegedly accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to illegal bauxite mining activities.
Fadly Abd Malek, an assistant land officer, was slapped with two charges of corruption for having allegedly accepted RM35,000 and RM30,000 in bribes from a local miner, respectively last November and in January, in return for allowing the miner’s illegal activities to go unimpeded. If convicted, Fadly could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of five times the transacted amount. Syed Umar Khalil Syed Khalid, assistant director of enforcement, is facing a charge of complicity in the crime by accepting RM30,000 from the same miner. Both Fadly and Syed, who are out on bail, pleaded not guilty.
How about anyone else? It’s hardly feasible, after all, that only these two gentlemen were involved in turning a blind eye to rampant illegal bauxite mining activities throughout last year. True to form, however, Pahang’s senior government officials have denied any wrongdoing and refused to take any responsibility for the massive environmental damage that happened on their watch. The state’s MB, Adnan Yaakob, defended his administration’s actions, which had been widely decried as halfhearted and ineffectual, and stressed he did not want to “play the blame game.” Presumably he meant either “stop blaming me” or “don’t ask me to blame any of my esteemed colleagues,” or both. In any event, his stance highlighted the entrenched culture of impunity among senior officials in Malaysia. Read more