High cancer incidence in Sungai Lembu, a cause for concern

AUDREY DERMAWAN

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government owed the people, especially those in Sungai Lembu, an explanation why a carbon filter factory was allowed to operate illegally the last 10 years.

Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications deputy director Datuk Eric See-To said residents had complained for years that the factory was hurting their health and the high cancer incidence rate in the area is a cause for great concern.

This was raised by Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin and subsequently confirmed by State Health department director Datuk Dr M. Sukumar who revealed there were 11 people who are suffering from cancer in Sungai Lembu.

"The people's lives are at stake here," See-To said adding while there was no direct medical evidence that points to the illegal factory - which was burning 2,000 tonnes of sawdust monthly to make activated carbon - as the cause of the cancer, the high anomaly requires caution and further investigations by the authorities.

"More shockingly, Norlela said she had tabled five motions at the state legislative assembly sitting to highlight the illegal factory operations, and all were rejected," he noted.

The illegal carbon filter factory in Sungai Lembu was raided on Thursday by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and other government agencies after numerous reports lodged with the authorities fell on deaf ears.

On Friday, Phee Boon Poh, who is state Environment Committee chairman, was arrested when he went to the state MACC office here to have his statement taken to facilitate investigations into the illegal factory.

Later the same day, the factory's 70-year-old manager and his 37-year-old son, a director, were also arrested. Yesterday, the magistrate's court granted the trio a five-day remand order, which expires next Wednesday.