Klang MP proposes extraterritorial law to prosecute Malaysian firms burning land in Indonesia

Klang MP Charles Santiago proposes to make the Environmental Quality Act 1974 extraterritorial, to empower the federal government to prosecute Malaysian firms burning land in Indonesia. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Klang MP Charles Santiago proposes to make the Environmental Quality Act 1974 extraterritorial, to empower the federal government to prosecute Malaysian firms burning land in Indonesia. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 ― A DAP lawmaker said today he would be writing to Attorney General (AG) Tommy Thomas on Monday urging the latter to issue certificates under Section 22 of the Courts of Judicature Act (CJA) to make the Environmental Quality Act 1974 extraterritorial.

Klang MP Charles Santiago said this was to empower the federal government to take action against Indonesia-based Malaysian companies whose subsidiaries were accused of contributing to the smog through slash and burn forest clearing activities in Indonesia.

“As such, I hope the Attorney General would give my suggestion due consideration and the Indonesian government must cooperate to name the rogue Malaysian companies or it would be impossible to implement the extraterritorial jurisdiction,” he said in a statement here.

Santiago then cited two lawyers Surendra Ananth and Datuk Gurdial Singh Nijar, affirming that it was very much possible for the powers vested in the AG to do so.

“Looking at the phrases ‘offences under any other written law the commission of which is certified by the Attorney General to affect the security of Malaysia’ and ‘by any person against a citizen of Malaysia’ under CJA, one possible written law is the Environmental Quality Act 1974, specifically section 29A which prohibits open burning,” he said.

He then said Gurdial had also pointed out that extraterritorial powers upon laws was not without precedent as noted in a US Court ruling in 2006 against a Canadian company for discharging hazardous untreated effluents into the into the Canadian part of a river that flowed into the US State of Washington.

“The AG can therefore declare the commission of such an offence as a national security offence thus giving the Malaysian courts jurisdiction,” he added.

On September 18, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government may legislate new laws to hold Malaysian firms operating outside the country responsible for contributing to the haze.

However Santiago said Dr Mahathir’s suggestion was time-consuming as the latter was willing to wait it out to see if the companies took the initiative to extinguish the fires.

“Our schools remain closed and people are choking on the smog. Many are complaining of incessant cough, blistered throat and eye infections,” he said.

He also threw his support behind today’s Global Climate Strike march set to take place near Dataran Merdeka later, saying it was significant for Malaysians to register our concerns about the climate crisis as a way of preventing an environmental catastrophe.

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