Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Western media should highlight the hypocrisy of their governments back in their own country for their failure in regulating and monitoring how they treat their domestic plastic waste.

Media statement by PH-DAP ADUN for Banting, Selangor LAU Weng San on 2nd April 2019 in Banting:

When I was first elected on 9th May 2018 as the Selangor State Legislative Assemblyman for the constituency of Banting, of which the small village of Sungai Jarom, a close-knit town of 30,000 people, is also part of the constituency, the first immediate major issue that I needed to tackle was the air pollution caused by countless illegal plastic recycling plants operating from within and outside Sungai Jarom. I am still keeping the first email I received from the residents sometimes in June 2018.

The locals, including members and leaders of the Sungai Jarom Village Committee, who were amongst the first to release the information to me, demanded that the local council, Kuala Langat District Council (MDKL) alone, to take stern action on the illegal recyclers. 

In my first press conference held on 8th June 2018 in the iconic local landmark Dong Zen Temple, I share my years of experience as an elected representative from the ruling authority both at state and federal level, that while MDKL has all the rights and legal powers to take action on these illegal recyclers, they lack the technical know-how and will be severely disadvantaged if they were to act alone. 

I further stressed that Department of Environment (DOE) is the answer and the key to overcome the problem. This explains why such complaints from local residents often fallen on deaf ears from January to May 2018 as the Department of Environment is a government department under the Federal Government of Malaysia, which only witnesses a change of guard in the General Election held in May 2018.

Since then, I have been working closely with various government authorities to deal with the issue under the coordination of the local authority. The Enforcement Department of MDKL was instructed to launch an in-depth investigation against all the complaints they have received.

The results of the month-long investigation was tabled in a meeting co-chaired by the MP for Kuala Langat, Hon. Dr Xavier JAYAKUMAR when it was the first time officers from both local, state and federal government were gathered on 19th July 2018 to discuss and to chart out steps to be taken. 

Interventions from Selangor State EXCO (equivalent to State Minister) for Environment and Local Government, Hon. HEE Loy Sian and Hon. NG Sze Han as well as aids from Federal Environment Minister, Hon. YEO Bee Yin has a lot of bearings on our works on the ground.

What happened after July 2018 are already widely reported by local press and the results are encouraging. Illegal plans ceased operations. Water and electricity supplies were cut off. Land owners and illicit operators were charged at court once they are identified. Licensed operators are placed under close monitoring to prevent them from abusing their permits and licenses. 

However, the focus of many media reports in the West do not seem to focus on the failures of their municipal councils in solving their domestic plastic waste problems except for the first foreign report published by NZ Radio correspondence, Nita BLAKE-PERSEN, sometimes in September 2018. Have they even traced and reported what happened to a plastic bottle after being thrown into a public bin in Westminster, Berlin, Auckland or New York?

Blake-Persen’s report highlighted the shortcoming of her own governments in dealing with plastic waste produced by the Kiwis and the report even published a straight confirmation that NZ recyclers did not have any information as to how the rubbish was handled after exported to Malaysia.

Then comes the issue of HS3915, the codes used internationally to identify such plastic waste. Such labelling of the waste does not differentiate between clean and recyclable plastic wastes from those which are unseparated, uncategorized or unrecyclable. More effort will have to be put in to create more sub-categories to help importers, exporters, port authorities and custom department to better understand the type of plastics shipped in and out.

Illegal dumping of plastic waste from first world countries to third world countries like Malaysia is a global environmental issue and the root cause of the contamination suffered by the villagers. They no longer enjoy the cheap labours provided by the Chinese since 2018 and other neighbouring third world countries are at the receiving end of such dumping. In short, first world countries as of today are still in heavy reliance on third world countries to resolve their environmental issue often at the expense of the people.

Western media should highlight the hypocrisy of their governments back in their own country for their failure in regulating and monitoring how they treat their domestic plastic waste.

Local council in Kuala Langat, the place where all the media attention were focusing at one year ago, have been on a proactive mode in eradicating and stamping out such illegal plastic processing plants in Kuala Langat.

A year later, the council has improved its licensing procedure in regards to such application from recyclers or any manufacturer. DOE’s definite and affirmative endorsement on their application is a must now. 

Without such qualification, their application for Planning Approval and Building Plan approval from local authority will be rejected. However, the people and the government of Kuala Langat do not create the problem nor the waste. 

If authorities in the West continue doing nothing on the matter, it will be questionable as to how the situation can be improved as we will still be at the receiving end of the lackadaisical attitude of the West.

LAU Weng San.
Member of Selangor State Legislative Assembly for Banting, Kuala Langat.

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