PETALING JAYA: A law to take local companies to court for causing pollution abroad will be effective only if it is properly enforced, carries a deterrent sentence and there is a change in mindset, according to two environmentalists.
Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia chairman Gurmit Singh said Malaysia lacked the will to implement such legislation.
He said there were already about 40 acts to cover all kinds of pollution in the country, yet it continues to be a perennial problem.
He cited the cases of pollution in Sungai Kim Kim and Pasir Gudang that occurred within months of one another earlier in the year, which affected thousands of people.
“Despite knowing that they could be charged in court, these people continued to carry out their activities because all they were likely to face was a fine,” he said.
“Although the Environmental Quality Act 1974 provides for a jail sentence, only one person has been imprisoned so far.
“Most companies can afford the fines but if there is a risk of being sent to jail, they would think twice.”
Gurmit said for the law to be successfully implemented, cooperation from the countries where Malaysian companies operated was also essential.
Klang MP Charles Santiago had suggested that Malaysia introduce a law similar to Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act to prosecute companies and individuals based on the island republic for causing pollution in other countries.
Gurmit pointed out that in 2002, Asean members agreed to set up the Asean Coordinating Centre for Transboundary Haze Pollution Control but until today, it was still not up and running.
Environmental non-governmental organisation EcoKnights president Yasmin Rasyid said apart from implementing new laws, there was also a need to change the old mindset that regarded pollution as “okay”.