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KOTA KINABALU, Feb 2, 2016:

Rural and Regional Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob will be hearing from the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) soon.

Its director William Baya in confirming this today said this was part of the standard operating procedure (SOP) in investigating a case and to get statements from all involved.

“We will be contacting him (Ismail Sabri) soon,” he told The Rakyat Post, in a text message, when asked about the federal minister’s claims that no one from SWD contacted him to get his statement over the turtle egg fiasco.

Ismail Sabri, who was on a working visit to Sabah, said he was ready to give his statement, if he was called in by SWD.

Baya, meanwhile, said that the department’s investigating officers were well trained in getting statements, and based on the SOP, he said: “We cannot simply take statements anywhere you like.”

He also said that the department had never issued any statement saying that Ismail Sabri had refused to cooperate, and that a local daily came up with such a statement without consulting them.

“We have actually sent an email to theDaily Express protesting over the sensationalised issue. We have yet to issue any letter or contact the minister to get his statement because of logistics issue, as he is in KL (Kuala Lumpur).

“We will only record his statement after all the local YBs (Yang Berhormat) involved have done theirs and by then it will be easier for us to arrange logistic to get his statement,” said Baya.

He added that to date, 14 people had been called in to record their statements, including Beluran Umno division chief Datuk James Ratib, while Kuala Penyu Assemblyman Limus Jury, who admitted to being at the dinner but claimed that he “was not directly involved”, was expected to give his side of the story sometime this week.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, who seconded Ismail Sabri Yaakob, stressed that the federal minister was never a target of investigation.

While he had in previous reports absolved Ismail Sabri from blame, stressing that he was just a guest at the event, Masidi still hoped that the federal minister would come forward to help wrap up the ongoing investigation.

In November, several photos were posted on the Walai Penyu Resort Libaran Facebook page showing Ismail Sabri and Ratib among others seated at a restaurant with turtle eggs and lobsters placed on the “Lazy Susan” in front of them.

The photo was believed to have been taken during the Beluran Umno division meeting dinner in August at Restoran Indah Keranamu, in Sandakan, but Ismail Sabri denied consuming the eggs due to his high cholesterol level.

It is illegal to consume or be in possession of turtle eggs in Sabah.

Turtles and its products are a totally protected species under Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment and Section 41 of the enactment stated it was an offence to possess these animals or its products, and those who failed to oblige could be fined RM50,000 or jailed five years, or both, upon conviction.

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