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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

> No to hillside development

The Bar Council is deeply concerned with the recent announcement by Works Minister Dato’ Sri Ir. Mohd Zin Mohamed that there will not be a blanket ban on hillside developments.  It is particularly alarming that this statement has been issued at a time when the many controversies surrounding hillside development still remain unresolved, without proper explanation by the authorities.  It is also understood that the Federal Government’s Commission Investigation Report into the cause of the landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa, which has been completed, has yet to be made public.   

The Bar Council released its Report of the Task Force on Bukit Antarabangsa today.  The Report identifies the key likely contributory causes of landslide tragedies, including:  

• The lack of competent expertise in design, construction, site supervision and maintenance and communication during the construction process; and
• The lack of strict compliance by state and local authorities, in giving approvals for hillside development, with the relevant regulations, guidelines, planning procedures and safety requirements.

The Bar Council calls for immediate and urgent measures to protect, as a matter of priority, people’s rights to sustainable development and environmental protection.  These include: 

1. The immediate setting-up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy;
2. The immediate discontinuation of all on-going hillside development projects that do not meet the minimum requirements of safety and/or have not complied with the applicable laws, regulations and guidelines. As a precautionary measure, all hillside development on gradients exceeding 25 degrees should be banned until proper laws are passed;

3. The immediate safety review of all existing hillside development; and
4. The immediate review of the legal framework and existing legislation on hillside development.
It is hoped that together we will learn from the bitter lessons of these tragedies and not allow them to swiftly fade into the past.  The Bar Council urges the authorities to be mindful of the many lives and homes lost and the harrowing memories carried by the loved ones left behind. We must act now if we are determined to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.   

I am pleased to attach here a copy of the Report of the Task Force.    

Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar     

Dated 16 February 2009