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BY MAYURI MEI LINLIN
KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 — A developer is pursuing a group of Bukit Gasing residents over a judicial review they sought over its project, claiming damages in an extraordinary move observers fear will intimidate private citizens from objecting against government agencies.
Although Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd is now free to conduct its development after defeating the judicial review filed against it and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), it is adamant on claiming damages from the 103 residents who sought to block the hillside project in their neighbourhood here.
According to civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan, the developer’s claim will set a precedent that will make it onerous for private individuals who turn to the courts after exhausting other official avenues to challenge public decisions.
“I am personally very concerned if the developer is allowed to claim damages against the residents from the judicial review application.
“This is a matter within the realm of public interest and the fear is that if the developer succeeds in its application this would discourage concerned citizens from seeking redress with the courts in the future,” he told Malay Mail Online.
The Bukit Gasing residents’ challenge against the developer dates back to 2008, when the group filed for a judicial review to compel DBKL to hold a public hearing over its decision to grant a development order to Gasing Meridian for a hillside project in 2007.
They claimed DBKL did not provide adequate notice of the development or hold a public hearing before it granted the order.
The application was rejected by the High Court and was appealed all the way to the Federal Court in 2013, where it was also ultimately dismissed.
The apex court added a twist to the case when the judges deemed fit to award RM10,000 in costs to both DBKL and Gasing Meridian as well as undetermined damages to the latter, which it sent back for the High Court to decide.
Following another round of appeals against the order for damages, the matter is now back before the Federal Court once more.
“Public hearing is an avenue for the public to actually have their concerns aired and for responses to be made to those concerns,” Bukit Gasing resident Ashok Menon told Malay Mail Online.
“By saying that you can end up having to pay damages for that, that’s like muscling up everyone. That’s what happens in a dictatorship,” Ashok said, adding that it was unclear why the developer was awarded damages.
Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran echoed both men’s concerns, adding that the dispute had been between the residents and DBKL, rather than business-related.
“I feel it’s not right. Just because a group of residents file a judicial review, a third party such as the developer should not be taking legal action to financially penalise the residents, who were bringing up a matter of public interest, and not commercial in nature.”
Not all are against the Federal Court’s decision to allow Gasing Meridian a claim to damages from the residents. Property lawyer Chris Tan explained that such a move would help to prevent the public from pursuing frivolous action against corporations.
He also disagreed that the particular case would set a precedent that would make it burdensome for private individuals with valid complaints to seek legal action against government entities.
“The precedent is not set to aim at the parties asking for public hearing for them to pay for damages, but to prevent the public from being against others without proper grounds, and facts of the case vary from each other,” he explained.
“Any successful party is entitled to damages… provided they can prove the same to the presiding judge. Therefore it is fair in that sense,” Tan said.
The Federal Court was initially scheduled to hear the residents’ appeal against the order for damages, but the case has since been postponed to June 29.
RESIDENTS in Cameron Towers, Bukit Gasing are living in fear of more landslips in the area in view of the rainy season.
The landslip that occurred on May 3 had shocked the residents, with subsequent landslips along Jalan 5/60 and Jalan 5/64 last week, adding to their fear.
Mary Lim, a housewife, said every time it rained, she kept a lookout on the hill, which is opposite her condominium.
“The hill is also very close to our swimming pool. What if there is a landslide when there are people using the pool?” asked the distraught resident.
Cameron Towers Joint Management Body treasurer Jim Khong expressed concern over the recent landslips in Bukit Gasing.
“We fear that if a landslide occurs on Bukit Gasing, it will affect residents in the area as there is a water reservoir on top of the hill,” he said.
Khong said the residents want the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to work together as the hill is situated on the border of Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur.
The building manager, Lee Lai, said they had written to MBPJ after the landslips and that an officer from the council’s infrastructure and engineering department had visited the site.
“He took photos of the landslip and said they would discuss the situation,” Lee said, adding that residents wanted immediate action to be taken to resolve the problem.
PETALING Jaya City Council (MBPJ) workers were kept busy clearing broken tree branches and debris on Jalan 5/60 and 5/64 in Bukit Gasing yesterday morning following a downpour on Tuesday night.
MBPJ personnel from the council’s Quick Response Team as well as Fire and Rescue Department personnel were on hand to help clear the roads.
The landslip is the latest to occur, after a similar incident in Jalan 5/64 on Sunday afternoon.
Nearer to Fraser Tower, contractors were seen cutting an uprooted tree which had fallen and damaged a resident’s car on Tuesday night as she was driving back to her condominium.
MBPJ Engineering Department deputy director Abdul Shukor Mohamed Noor and slope consultants engaged by the council to find ways to strengthen the slope also visited the site yesterday morning to assess the situation.
Council public relations officer Zainun Zakaria said a preliminary study on May 6 found that the slope failure area covered 1,625 sq m, and was due to soil erosion.
Among the possible causes of the slope failure was the sloping topography and constant heavy rain.
“We have put in place short-term measures, such as clearing trees and undergrowth at the affected area and near drains, as well as placing tarpaulin on the surface to prevent erosion,” said Zainun.
In addition, a contractor has been hired to build a gabion wall along Jalan 5/60, measuring two to three metres in height, to prevent mud flow.
The uprooted tree, blocking the roads was also cut up and removed.
Zainun said the council would be using the prism method to monitor soil movement.
For the long-term, however, a soil nailing system, together with a beam grid, will be used to create a berm along the slope.
Additionally, the drainage system near the slope will also be upgraded to reduce water seeping into the soil.
“The contractor for the soil nailing project also just received his letter of appointment today, and will start clearance work as soon as possible to prevent further mishaps,” said Zainun.
The contractor has been given seven months to complete the project.
By M. KUMAR and YVONNE LIM
KUALA LUMPUR: A landslide buried nine cars at a car park along Jalan Ampang, near the Jalan Dang Wangi intersection.
No casualties or injuries occurred as the cars were parked.
Reports indicate that the area is still unstable as soil movement can still be seen.
Parts of Jalan Ampang near the scene have been closed to traffic.
Earlier, Twitter users were reporting a landslide in front of the Dang Wangi LRT station near Bukit Nanas in Kuala Lumpur.
Some motorists were tweeting that a number of cars had been buried by the landslide.
User @Preez_bridabel tweeted; “Landslide at bukit nenas due to heavy rain, I was on my way to Dang Wangi Lrt station..please drive safe”.
Another user, @Pijoel94 tweeted, “Tanah Runtuh di Hadapan Stesen LRT Dang Wangi. Banyak kereta tertimbus (Landlside in front of LRT Dang Wangi. Many cars covered)”.
Over in PETALING JAYA, a woman narrowly escaped with her life after a landslip in Bukit Gasing caused a tree to fall on her car while she was driving home.
Shanthi Kanthaswamy, 48, was driving along Jalan 5/60 during heavy rain on Tuesday night when the tree fell on the bonnet of her Honda Accord, badly damaging the engine.
“I was driving home at about 8.15pm when I heard rumbling sounds on my left and a tree came crashing down in front of me.
“Luckily I was driving very slowly, or else the impact could have been worse and I could have been thrown off the road.
“I am thankful to have escaped with my life,” said a visibly shaken Shanthi.
Fraser Towers joint management body chairman Mohd Kamar, said residents in the area had been complaining about landslips in the area for years.
“We have been fighting this issue for more than five years, trying to get the authorities to solve the problem but not enough has been done.
“It is endangering the lives of the residents,” he said.
Bukit Gasing’s newly-elected state assemblyman Rajiv Risyakaran said that he would help to expedite efforts to prevent further landslips from occurring in the area.
“I am told that the slopes where the landslips are happening is on privately-owned land, and I hope that the owner will take responsibility for it.
“In the meantime, I urge the Petaling Jaya City Council to speed up works,” he said, adding that he had met mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad earlier to discuss the issues in Bukit Gasing.
Bukit Gasing – 3, May 2013
The KL High Court’s decision on 2nd May 2013 to allow the developer, Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd, to seek damages from the petitioners of Bukit Gasing residents is a very sad day for concerned citizens of this country. The residents sought a judicial review for the Mayor of DBKL to grant us a public hearing to alleviate our fears for the lives and safety of the residents in the surrounding area. For the residents efforts, the developer is asking for damages, which in the residents’ view, are unfair and unjustified as this is a public interest case.. The residents have no choice but to appeal the court’s decision.
In this age where citizens have to be concerned about the environment and the consequence of development, as a fundamental right to live in an environment which does not endanger their right to a home or worried of losing their right to a home, this decision, in a sense is, a denial of their fundamental right. Hereafter, it will deprive concerned citizens from seeking remedy in the Courts of Justice and give the developers special rights. This is against the constitution because there is no equality of rights between developers and citizens. The role of the legal system is of great public concern. The public needs to know: today is our homes, tomorrow it will be theirs.
The coming Election is of utmost importance to protect our homes and the right to live in a safe environment. We need to change the laws, and only a Government concerned for the people can.
Joint Action Committee for Bukit Gasing
By EDWARD R. HENRY
Monday February 25, 2013
PETALING Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has obtained a magistrate court order to demolish Sivan Temple in Bukit Gasing after a council report recommended it to be torn down as it posed an imminent danger to people’s lives and properties in the surrounding area.
Petaling Jaya mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad said the temple building was in danger of collapsing as further rains could weaken the soil strength.
A slope failure could trigger a major landslide that would see earth coming down on Jalan 5/60, close to Fraser Towers apartments.
“Landslides had occurred of late. Now, Sivan Temple is in imminent danger of collapse.
“MBPJ has to take immediate steps to eliminate the danger,” she said.
The mayor stressed that the court order was requested “in the best interests of the people, to protect the lives of devotees, people living at Fraser Towers and the students of SMK Taman Petaling that is located below the apartments.
“The council’s legal department has served the court order to the chairman of the interim temple committee, T. Maharathan, and solicitors of Datin Seri Indrani Samy Vellu.
“Both parties have been informed about the demolition exercise.
“We respect the religious sensitivity and have given full responsibility to the temple committee to handle the demolition exercise.
“But before it is done, MBPJ’s Buildings Department must be briefed on the methods of demolition to ensure no untoward incidents,” she said.
She added that the seriousness of the Sivan Temple issue was brought up at the Selangor Economic Action Council and at the state exco meeting on Feb 13.
The MBPJ engineering department had taken into account Maharathan’s proposal to demolish the temple based on safety concerns and had agreed to it.
Alinah said the council would assist and was willing to offer advice if required.
“We assure the committee and devotees that the land on Bukit Gasing remains for the Hindu temple.
“For the new temple, building plans must be submitted and our officers will facilitate the process,” she said.
On Feb 1, StarMetro highlighted that the concrete roof of the Sivan Temple had tilted and more cracks were visible.
Sculptures of huge deities, a cow and the ornate tower on the roof of the two-level building had tilted and Maharathan had said he was worried the temple would collapse in view of the rainy spell.
After several landslips along Jalan 5/60, Alinah visited the area early this month and instituted immediate measures such as earthworks to strengthen the slopes in two areas where tarpaulin sheets were used to cover the bare terrain.
U-shaped box drains had also been constructed, costing about RM1mil.
Alinah said the council’s engineering department had suggested nail soiling as a long-term measure, along with building a network of slope drains that would cost MBPJ RM3.2mil.
02 February 2013
By SHEILA SRI PRIYA | firstname.lastname@example.org
DANGER: The council’s failure to monitor the area affected by the Bukit Gasing landslides is worrying
PETALING JAYA: RESIDENTS fear the lackadaisical attitude of the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) towards the protection of the hill slope of Bukit Gasing may invite catastrophe.
The concern was conveyed by councillor Derek Fernandez during the council’s full board meeting on Thursday.
He said the council failed to play its role to ensure the hill slopes affected by the landslide on Jan 25 were well monitored, especially after the incident.
Fernandez said the area affected by the landslide, which is on private land, may still pose a danger to neighbouring areas if it’s not attended to.
“There were uprooted trees, and drains clogged with mud from the soil erosion.
“Tarpaulin sheets were also not placed on all areas of the affected site.
“Excuses about the slow tender process, and other reasons for not monitoring the situation are unacceptable.
“Disaster will strike when we least expect it. We are lucky to have been given warnings,” he said, adding that interim preventive measures, well supervised by those with the expertise, must be taken soon.
Fernandez also urged for more consideration for neighbouring residents such as those living at Fraser Tower.
He added that the landowners must be held responsible for the failure to safeguard their areas.
An earlier report by the Minerals and Geoscience Department Malaysia revealed that Bukit Gasing has the “Kenny Hills formation”.
This means the hill consists of rock and not reclaimed soil.
The findings were highlighted at the full board meeting.
Mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad said recently she would make a site visit soon.
“All respective department heads must go to the site and see what needs to be done.
“If funds are lacking, inform me and the problem will be addressed,” she said.
A Streets visit after the full board meeting saw workers clearing the site.
Story and photos by EDWARD R. HENRY
Serious matter: Tengku Nazaruddin and Sharifah Nur Armina discussing landslip matters with Alinah in Jalan 5/60.
IMMEDIATE corrective measures have been ordered to curb the movement of mud and uprooted trees on the slope of Bukit Gasing along Jalan 5/60 leading to Fraser Towers, where six landslips have been noted.
Yesterday, at 8.25am, Petaling Jaya mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad paid a surprise visit to the area and was taken aback on seeing the extent of the mudflow at various locations from the top of the hill to Jalan 5/60.
“It is bad. The mudflow from the top of the hill looks like it has increased. Roots of mature trees are exposed and some have fallen onto other trees.
“It is a progressive slipping of the earth and it will continue with the evening rains. Appropriate short-term measures have been activated and long-term remedial measures must be taken to counter this grave problem,” she said.
Alinah had made a visit on Jan 9 and said that based on her observations from the first visit, the situation had worsened.
On an urgent note, she called the Selangor government to obtain special approval to engage contractors to remove the mud and fallen trees and to prune trees that are in danger of falling.
She said a geo-membrane would be used to cover the exposed slope as it would offer an effective, impervious barrier to water and run-off.
Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) complaints department director Tengku Nazaruddin Tengku Zainuddin, engineering department deputy director Abdul Shukor Mohamed Noor, private secretary Sharifah Nur Armina and junior officers from the council’s landscape department were also present during the visit.
On seeing the small crowd of MBPJ officers, Fraser Towers joint management body chairman Mohamed Kamar came forward to discuss the worrying situation with Alinah.
Alinah told the officers and residents that the landslip in Bukit Gasing area had been classified as a “priority matter”.
She made a quick decision to get the contractors to start work immediately and warned them not to dump the mud on the other side of the slope leading to SM Taman Petaling, as had happened last Sunday.
“Quick decisions must be made in matters of such a nature. We cannot allow it to endanger lives and property.
“We have Fraser Towers here, and below that, SM Taman Petaling and residential properties.
“I made the decision as landscape department director Zuraidah Sainan is not here,” said Alinah.
Alinah told StarMetro that she would meet with Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib to discuss development projects on Bukit Gasing’s Kuala Lumpur border, which are believed to have caused the soil movement.
“We must see what can be done to minimise the impact on our side of Bukit Gasing and to avert more landslips in the future,” she said.
Mohamed said he and the residents were glad to see Alinah providing immediate solutions to address the landslip.
“We want the council to maintain the hill.
“Our residents want the council to institute effective preventive measures and MBPJ must install equipment to monitor the movement of soil.
“In addition, no development must be allowed on the slope as it will be a recipe for disaster,” he said.
By Stephanie Sta Maria
KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 29): Property developer Gasing Meridian has shot down news reports that have linked its development work to recent landslides in Bukit Gasing.
Koh Jun Lin | Jan 28, 2013
Despite a recent series of landslides, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) could not stop the hillslope development in Bukit Gasing because doing so would require purchasing the land out of public funds.
Mayor Ahmad Phesal Talib told a press conference today 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?
“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,” he said at a press conference today.
When it was pointed out that there had been a series of landslides in the area over the weekend, he said, “If there are landslides, we will take action together with the developers. It is no problem.”
Read more here: http://m.malaysiakini.com/news/220120