PENANG: A mini-petrol station at an isolated area in Padang Besar, Perlis, where there are no houses or factories, is said to be selling about 30,000 litres of fuel per month.
Two other similar stations in Wang Kelian, with only 300 residents, reportedly always run out of fuel.
As far as the villagers in these areas are concerned, the lack of enforcement and purported smuggling are to be blamed.
Journalists investigated the complaints and observed over three days that something was indeed going on in an organised manner.
At the mini-petrol station that allegedly sold about 30,000 litres monthly, a few lorries from across the border that had lined up at the station started moving out slowly soon after the media group got to the area, possibly because they had been alerted by tontos or lookouts.
In a bigger petrol station in Padang Besar, it was found that vehicles from Thailand were allowed to buy more than the 20 litres allowed.
The situation in Wang Kelian was even more interesting several Thai pick-up trucks were not stopped for checks at the Customs complex.
When the media group approached the officers to say that it wanted to observe them conducting checks, one officer stopped a Thai pick-up truck carrying some packets which the driver claimed was cooking oil.
He pulled out just one packet and the officer did not bother to get him to show the others despite being asked by the media to do so, saying that the driver was in a hurry as the border gate closed at 7pm.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had recently criticised Malaysians who had been smuggling fuel to neighbouring countries, and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Mohd Shafie Apdal had also said that he wanted a detailed report on mini-petrol stations operating in odd locations.
However, questionable activities appear to be still going on.
A villager at Wang Kelian who declined to be named said although there were only 300 people in the village, the two petrol stations were always out of fuel.
Not all of us own vehicles, and yet we see more than five tankers delivering fuel to these stations daily, he claimed.
Many villagers, he added, were being paid to put diesel into packets, which he claimed were smuggled across the border.
If an unknown car or a 4WD comes into the village, the workers will be asked to stop work immediately, he claimed.
When contacted, state Investment, Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Zaihibi Zainul Abidin said the state executive council and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry enforcement unit would work closely on the media findings.
We need to ascertain whether the findings are genuine. We will also meet the unit to ask if they are facing any constraint in tackling this problem, he said.
Did you find this article insightful?