Charles Santiago
Sep 9, 10
COMMENT Usually people learn from tragedies. But it’s just the opposite in Malaysia. Here the government and its departments and ministries are well known for their tangos with danger, not to mention disaster.

The latest on its list is the controversial development project in Bukit Gasing.

The recent High Court judgment 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 can 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 judgment, High Court judge Azizah Ali said the proposed building site is private land and not one that was earmarked as a green lung.

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.

Environmentally risky

But this case simply cannot be about the law and jurisdiction as it raises important questions of the 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 laws can 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?

49 percent of the said land, however, consists of slopes measuring 26-35 degrees or higher while 37 percent of the slopes are 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 development.

The Highland Tower collapse (below) and the Bukit Antarabangsa disaster have not been forgotten.

Images of the dead and decomposing bodies, pain and anguish of mourning relatives are 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 work was carried out on a Hindu temple on Bukit Gasing.

On Jan 5 the following year, another landslide occurred, 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 is member of Parliament for Klang.