KOTA KINABALU, Nov 11 — Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said early investigations by authorities here show that the turtle eggs served illegally at an Umno dinner in Sandakan may have been brought in by an outsider.
The minister said that initial reports from the Sabah Wildlife Department could not determine if the restaurant where the event was held had supplied the eggs from the endangered and protected marine reptiles.
“Sabah Wildlife Department has not completed investigation and at this point of time we don't even know for sure whether that the restaurant is responsible,” he said when asked about the progress of the investigations and whether the restaurant will be shut down.
When asked if this meant the eggs were brought in by a third party, Masidi said it was “possibility.”
“Let's wait for the investigation to be completed,” he said to Malay Mail Online.
Last Wednesday, Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said he was instructing a two-person team to investigate a photograph of federal Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Beluran Umno division chief Datuk James Ratib and Sandakan Municipal Council deputy president Mohd Hamsan Awang Supain among others, being served turtle eggs on the table.
The dinner, at Indah Keranamu restaurant in Sandakan, was believed to be held last August but the photograph only recently surfaced on social media where it gradually went viral, drawing heavy criticism from conservation groups.
A department official also confirmed that restaurant staff who gave their statements to the department said that the eggs were brought in by the event organisers.
They were also due to take a statement from Hamsan, who has been on leave since last week.
Ismail Sabri has denied any offence, saying he was merely a guest and had not consumed any eggs during the dinner.
He also said he was not aware of any laws against serving the eggs.
Turtles are a totally protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment and Section 41 of enactment states it is an offence to possess, or consume these animals or its products.
Offenders may be fined RM50,000 or jailed five years, or both, upon conviction.