KOTA KINABALU, June 25 — The Gabungan Rakyat Sabah government must take the incident involving a deputy chief minister allegedly being served turtle eggs seriously, former state Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Christina Liew said today.
The Tawau MP said it was incumbent upon the current Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Arifin, who oversees the wildlife authorities, to investigate how a plate of turtle eggs ended up on the dining table with the minister.
“I am surprised to see the turtle eggs being served because we have always reminded the people to comply with the laws of conservation.
“Personally, I am very disappointed as turtles and their products are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997. During my short tenure, one of our priorities was the strong emphasis on protection of turtles which are among Sabah’s key tourist attractions,” she said in a statement.
She said that the state had been strongly advocating preservation of its turtle population with a number of conservation projects.
The latest turtle egg scandal started when Tanjung Aru assemblyman Datuk Junz Wong uploaded a photo of deputy chief minister Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin, dining with a companion in what looked like a home setting, with turtle eggs served on a plate.
Wong took Bung to task, saying it was a not the first time a senior Umno leader had been implicated in a scandal over turtle eggs in Sabah, where turtles are a completely protected species.
Subsequently, a Facebook user, believed to be the man in the photo with Bung, and a Lamag community development officer in Bung’s state constituency, said that the photo had been edited by irresponsible parties.
Jafry earlier said that the state government would investigate the case and take action if necessary, adding that no one was above the law.
Jafry is Sabah Umno secretary while Bung is Sabah Umno chief.
In Sabah, turtles are a protected species under the state’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 legislation, and it is an offence to possess the animals or their products (shell, meat and eggs).
Offenders can be fined RM50,000 or jailed for five years, or both, upon conviction.
In 2015, Senior federal Umno leader Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaacob and then Beluran Umno chief Datuk James Ratib was also implicated in a similar fashion, at a dinner where turtle eggs was being served.
Earlier this year, a family member of a former assemblyman linked to the current government was also implicated in a dinner with turtle eggs.
Neither case was convicted, partly due to the difficulty in obtaining evidence to prosecute the case.