Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has left it to the state government to take action against the organiser responsible for serving turtle eggs at a function he had attended in Sandakan in August.
He said he was merely a guest at the function and was not involved in selecting the menu which was decided much earlier.
There were several types of dishes that guests could choose to or not to eat at the function, he told reporters after attending a programme with local community leaders in Kota Kinabalu today.
He was earlier asked whether action should be taken against the organiser of the function for serving turtle eggs.
"Take for example, Hindu guests at a kenduri Islam (Muslim feast) where rendang daging lembu (beef rendang) or kari daging lembu (beef curry) would surely be among the dishes served.
"Hindus do not take the beef but at the kenduri (feast) they have a choice of other dishes. So it is not fair to fault them just because beef had been served in their presence," said Ismail Sabri.
A photograph showing the minister and Beluran Umno division chief James Ratib having dinner and turtle eggs on their table went viral on social media and reportedly incurred the wrath of environmental groups in Sabah.
Following the outrage by environmental non-governmental organisations, state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun assured that investigations were being carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Possession of a protected animal or animal products is an offence under Section 41(1) of the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997 which carries a fine of up to RM50,000 or a jail term of up to five years, or both, upon conviction.