Some of you may have seen the film “A Bridge Too Far” or have heard the phrase “a bridge too far”. Is SaveBukitGasing digressing a tad too much? I hope not.

On 17 September 1944, thousands of US & British paratroopers descended from the sky by parachute or glider up to 150 km behind enemy (German) lines. Their goal was to secure bridges across the rivers in Holland so that the Allied army could advance rapidly northwards and into Germany with hope to end WWII before Christmas 1944. Alas, after 10 days of intense fighting, the failure to secure the bridge at Arnhem (the last major bridge that had to be secured) amidst various problems, caused the Allied army to withdraw and the campaign failed.

For SaveBukitGasing and the residents affected by proposed development by Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd, our fight is against DBKL and FT Ministry. Our fight had been driven by a fear of “Highland Towers” disaster at our doorsteps. Our determination had been further stiffened by the unfortunate landslide disaster at Bukit Antarabangsa.

As early as September 2005, residents of Section 5 in PJ had written to the then Mayor of KL raising concerns about proposed development at Bukit Gasing (KL side). Numerous other letters and petitions were sent to DBKL and FT Ministry. Meetings were held with senior officers of DBKL and FT Ministry since 2005. Letters were written to the former Prime Minister. Two previous Mayors of KL even gave categorical assurances that no development would be allowed on Bukit Gasing.

Despite all the above, on 31 December 2007, DBKL issued letters to residents opposing the proposed development that their request of public hearing will not be entertained. As a result, concerned residents had no choice but to file an application for Judicial Review of DBKL’s decision. Subsequent inter-parte hearings on the application revealed that DBKL was not merely denying residents their rights to a public hearing. DBKL had in fact given certain approvals to the developer whilst presenting a facade of listening to the residents’ safety concerns and paying lip service to application of building regulations to development applications.

DBKL had presented developer’s application for sub-division of land as an administrative approval that landowners are entitled to. Yet, that approval seem to be the basis that approvals for erecting hoardings and earthworks were given, almost as an administrative process. Residents’ request for a copy of the approval of sub-division of land received no responses.

Those that had been monitoring the news on Bukit Gasing would have noted the farce of the Deputy FT Minister having been told that no development orders were given whilst the Director of Planning DBKL said that DOs had been given in stages. How did the Director of Planning justify approving earthworks on steep hill slopes when the Federal Town and Country Planning Department’s “Total Planning Guidelines” 1997 (2nd edition, 2001) prohibits development on hill slopes greater than 25 degrees gradient? The reason for this is to ensure the safety of residents. Almost 50% of the hill slopes of the proposed development are above 25 degrees gradient, a figure submitted by the developer.

The High Court was initially scheduled to announce its decision on leave to proceed with the residents’ application for Judicial Review on 20th February 2009. It seems events are such that 3 postponements had to be issued at short notices by the High Court. “D Day” is now set for Monday, 13 April 2009 at 2:30pm.

So, will the case of Bukit Gasing’s request for Judicial Review in its fight against development on Bukit Gasing be “a bridge too far”? We hope not, if the case of the Former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin is to be used as the most recent bench mark. Our solicitors had presented a very strong case to demonstrate that application for Judicial Review is neither frivolous nor vexatious.

Whilst the Allied Forces may have failed in the setting of “A Bridge Too Far”, their challenge on that front contributed eventually to the full liberation of Holland in May 1945.

Our country is now under a new regime, that of our “1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now” Prime Minister. Will the new FT Minister and Mayor of KL realize that too many have suffered from inappropriate and unsafe hillside and hill slope developments? Will they act now in obedience to the former PM and our new PM who had both called for a ban on hillside development?

The people are watching and waiting.

Gary Yeoh

JAC for Bukit Gasing.