Posted on 29 January 2013 – 08:38pm
Last updated on 30 January 2013 – 12:31am

R. Nadeswaran

http://www.thesundaily.my/news/600982

Nades Amend laws with care

EVERY time it rains, colleagues in the office get phone calls from those staying around Bukit Gasing in Petaling Jaya. Most of us are familiar with the callers. It’s either erosion of parts of the hill or fear of landslides.

Speculation or otherwise, clearing hillslopes and building on them always invite public scrutiny and inevitably, bad news. Even the slightest trace of gravel on the road is enough to prompt calls but as a matter of fact, if you see bare slopes of the hill being washed down, what appears to be unfounded, becomes founded.

As this column is being written, there’s a visit to the area by the local MP and other party officials.

Despite sustained opposition from residents and environmentalists since 2005, the developer Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd began earthworks on the Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur City project two years ago.

It had appointed consultant Ikram Engineering Services Sdn Bhd to monitor the construction of 69 bungalows on the 15ha land, which is supposed to put in place mitigation measures to ensure slope stability.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) admitted it could do nothing to stop the development in Bukit Gasing because doing so would require buying the land out of public funds.

Mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib was quoted as saying that DBKL had initially opposed the project, but now has no choice but to abide by a court order.

“(The developer) Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd has already won the court case, how can we stop it?” he asked.

“Now we have to let Gasing Meridian to execute the project but with precautions. If we try to stop them we have to issue a notice of purchase.

“Who is buying? The public.”

Ahmad Phesal is echoing his predecessor, Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail who said: “The land belongs to the developer and DBKL would have to spend RM135 million if it were to acquire the land to gazette as a green lung.”

He said DBKL had already applied to gazette the neighbouring 52.6ha public land as a green lung in December 2010.

Ahmad Phesal is right and wrong. He’s right in the sense that the developer won a court case. Wrong in the sense that he does not want to admit that DBKL has become its own victim after amending the planning laws to suit its needs and to silence residents who wanted to express their views on safety.

DBKL moved the goalposts or changed the law after the then Supreme Court ruled against it in 1992 in the case of Datin Azizah Abdul Ghani v Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur & Others over its refusal to not allow her to take part in the planning decision making process.

The rules had provided that upon receipt of any application for planning permission, DBKL should inform the registered proprietors of the land adjoining the land to which the application relates, to enable them to exercise their right to object to the granting of planning permission.

Azizah, as an adjoining neighbour applied for an order of certiorari to quash the decision of the mayor on the grounds that she was never given an opportunity to object, since she never received the DBKL notice calling for objections.

In 1994, DBKL changed the law and the right to a public hearing was narrowed down to two limbs – if there is a change in land use and if there is an increase in residential density.

This, in short, DBKL used its unfettered powers to amend the laws and now finds itself in this predicament. If those living in Gasing Hill had been allowed to present their case vis-à-vis safety, the mayor and his team would have had some cause not to issue the development order.

Today, the DBKL has discovered that its hands and feet have been bound; their mouths and ears have been stuffed; and they have no authority to listen to the people.

They have belatedly discovered that they had used a sledgehammer to swat a fly and in the process destroyed the basic principle of the right to be heard.

Will DBKL reinstate its laws which will be consistent with the Town and Country Planning Act which governs the rest of the country? Will it learn from its mistakes? How can it happen when there are 3,000 development projects under its jurisdiction and that’s plenty of money floating around?

R. Nadeswaran has nothing against developers or development which does not threaten the safety of those living in the neighbourhood. Comments: citizen-nades@thesundaily.com

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