Former MP’s irresponsible food dumping highlights ignorance of food security, waste management issues

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The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) is astounded by the recent revelation of former Kuala Krau MP Ismail Mohamed Said’s disposal of a massive amount of staple food including rice, sardines, flour and other food items at a dumpsite in Temerloh, Pahang.

Videos of the discarded items in a dumpsite were circulated on social media, infuriating the public.

Following that, Ismail, who is also a former deputy home minister, issued a statement on 19 April, admitting to discarding the food items and explaining that they had been stored for a long time and were now contaminated and unsafe for human consumption.

Nevertheless, his actions raise several pertinent questions of governance that must be answered.

Firstl, why was such a substantial amount of food stored for so long that it expired? Ismail stated that the food stocks were procured in 2022 before the general election later that year and stored, as it is prohibited to distribute goods to the public during the campaign period.

However, why wasn’t the food distributed to the constituency after the election? Was this influenced by his loss in the contest? His actions, especially amid a national rice shortage, raise serious concerns as to whether this practice occurs in other constituencies in Malaysia.

In addition, discarding food items in an allegedly illegal landfill area is negligent and unacceptable conduct coming from a former MP and minister. It is not sufficient to merely accept responsibility for the disposal and express regret, as Ismail had done in his statement.

The action of illegal disposal of waste can be charged under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007, which carries a fine from RM10,000 to a maximum of RM100,000, or a jail term of six months to five years or both.

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Not only that, some of the items in the dumpsite seen in the circulated videos were burnt, which is a crime under the Environmental Quality Act 1974, where an offender can be fined a maximum of RM500,000 or subject to a jail term of up to five years or both.

Both of these actions are egregious considering Malaysia is already dealing with existing illegal dumping and waste management issues.

C4 Center’s report “Malaysia is not a garbage dump: Citizens against corruption, complacency, and climate crisis” uncovered the major challenges facing Malaysia’s waste management, especially since China’s 2019 ban on waste imports, which led to it being redirected to Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries.

Furthermore, early investigations by the Pahang Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp) have found that the dumpsite is not gazetted as a rubbish disposal site.

Had this incident not been exposed, the massive piles of food waste and their packaging would deteriorate and contaminate the surrounding environment, affecting waterways, land and air, negatively affecting the health and livelihood of local communities.

As a former MP, Ismail should have known of the impact of his actions. He and his team should have worked together with waste management agencies such as SWCorp, along with the paddy and rice supervision section of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Ministry to dispose of the rice.

Moreover, cabinet members should have taken more prompt and serious action on this matter.

Hence, C4 Center strongly urges the government to:

  • Take action against the former MP and ensure Ismail and his team is accountable for the clean-up of the dumpsite and disposes of the food waste in an environmentally sound manner
  • Incorporate measurable, inclusive and sustainable targets into the national blueprint on solid waste management and circularity to address domestic waste management issues
  • Incorporate proper accountability and transparency procedures in procurement involving a substantial amount of controlled items
  • Strengthen enforcement in waste management and enhance monitoring systems to prevent illegal dumping from occurring
  • Enhance public participation through public complaints systems for the public to report any suspicious and illegal incidents
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C4 Center

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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