KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 ― Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said today he has directed his lawyers to initiate legal action against those accusing him of consuming turtle eggs, after more photographs of a dinner where the dish was supposedly served emerged on social media.
Referring to the new photographs, one of which shows him holding a fork, the Umno minister pointed out that he would not have chosen to eat the eggs with the utensil.
“I don't want to issue any more comments. Why would I eat turtle eggs with a fork? If I comment again, this issue will continue,” he said in his response to Malay Mail Online.
“I have directed my lawyer to take court action against the relevant parties, especially the media organisations that accused me of consuming the turtle eggs,” he added.
Malay Mail Online reported this morning that the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) will be expanding its investigation on the controversy to include the new photographs of the Umno dinner in Sandakan that was held in August.
The photographs show close-ups of the Umno leaders who attended the dinner as well as fragments of turtle eggshells on the table in front of some of the diners, suggesting that the their contents had likely been consumed.
However, none of the four photographs showed any individual in the act of consuming the eggs.
They were posted on the Walai Penyu Resort Libaran Facebook page late yesterday evening by an Internet user who goes by the moniker “Deadturtles Sabah”.
The controversy started on November 4, when a photograph emerged on social media showing Ismail Sabri, Umno Beluran division chief Datuk James Ratib and Sandakan municipal council deputy president Mohd Hamsan Awang Supain among five other men seated at a restaurant with turtle eggs and lobsters placed on the “Lazy Susan” in front of them.
In this photograph, believed taken during the Umno Beluran division meeting dinner at Restoran Indah Keranamu, in Sandakan, the turtle egg dish appeared untouched.
Ismail Sabri later denied eating the turtle eggs on doctor’s orders due to his high cholesterol level.
Turtles and its products are a totally protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment and Section 41 of enactment states it is an offence to possess these animals or its products.
Offenders can be fined RM50,000 or jailed five years, or both, upon conviction.