Usually people learn from tragedies. But its just the opposite in Malaysia. Here the government and its departments and ministries are well-known for their tango with danger, not to mention disaster. The latest on its list is the controversial development project in Bukit Gasing.

The High Court judgement throwing out the application by 108 residents for a judicial review to challenge the development order issued by the Kuala Lumpur mayor means Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd could now continue to build 70 bungalows on a 15.5-hectare site in Bukit Gasing, amidst protest by residents who fear their safety.

But in her judgement, High Court judge Azizah Ali said the proposed building site is private land and not one that was earmarked for green lungs.

She also stated the Federal Territories Planning Act 1982 applies to the development and therefore, the residents would not have the right to be heard on the development — unless it falls within the rules under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976, which did not apply in this case.

But this case simply cannot be about the law and jurisdiction as it raises important questions of planning policies of City Hall, involves the lives of thousands of residents and is clearly an environmentally risky project.

For example, although freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution, various policies including the Police Act are frequently used to clamp down on peaceful gatherings.

My question is simple – if various Acts could be used to curb legitimate dissent in the country, why can’t other merits of the case be taken into consideration before a verdict is delivered?

Forty-nine percent of the said land, however, consists of slopes measuring 26-35 degrees or higher while 37 percent slopes between 16-25 degrees.

Bukit Gasing is also highly susceptible to land erosion due to its soil composition.

And, Malaysians have no faith in the planning authorities due to their complacency when it comes to implementing controls to ensure safe developments.

The Highland Tower collapse and Bukit Antarabangsa disaster has not been forgotten. Images of dead and decomposed bodies, pain and anguish of mourning relatives is yet to be wiped off our memories.

Let’s now look at some statistics – over the last 15 years, at least 14 major landslides occurred in Peninsular Malaysia alone that led to the death of 68 persons.

If this is not frightening enough, one landslide occurred in March 2007 after renovation works were carried out on a Hindu temple on Bukit Gasing itself. On Jan 5 the following year, another landslide followed near the same temple.

Both the developer and City Hall have not entertained residents’ requests for copies of the soil and other tests that allegedly prove Bukit Gasing can be safely developed.

As such, I urge the City Council to hold a public hearing to enable the residents to air their concerns on the environmental and safety issues concerning the project.

The City Council should exercise complete transparency and not perceived as engaging itself in back door deals with the developer to push through the project.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang


Santiago dismayed over Bukit Gasing ruling-FreeMalaysiaToday