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We are not privy to the PWD Bukit Antarabangsa initial report December 18, 2008

Posted by elizabethwong in Bebal-ism, Democracy, Economy, Environment, Huh?!, Human Rights, Malaysia.
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12 comments

My office has been on a state of high alert to receive the initial assessment report on Bukit Antarabangsa today. I even cancelled my working trip to Singapore just to be in office to go through it.

But …. Public Works Department told us that the Selangor Government can’t have a copy of the report. 

Six pm came and ran off; we’re definitely not going to see it.

This is a disservice to the residents of Bukit Antarabangsa, and yet another good reason why there should be a Freedom of Information Act (not just a state enactment) in this country.

PRESS STATEMENT
18 DEC 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SELANGOR HAS A RIGHT TO INFORMATION REGARDING BUKIT ANTARABANGSA

Today, the Selangor State Government should have received a copy of the initial assessment report from the Public Works Department, including that of the potential geo-hazardous zones, of the landslide-affected areas at Bukit Antarabangsa for the state’s own study and assessment on the integrity of the hillslope and its surrounding areas.

With the said report, the Selangor state would meet with the residents on Friday morning 10 am, to make public the report and to convey the options that would be available for the affected residents, including whether or not they would be allowed to return to their abandoned homes.

This pledge was conveyed to the residents during a closed-door meeting with affected residents and families of the deceased on Sunday, 14th December 2008, with the Selangor Menteri Besar, state representatives and the Public Works Department.

Thus, it is of grave concern that the state has been informed that a Ministerial order has been given to deny the Selangor State Government of this initial assessment report today. Despite being informed of this fact this morning, we gave time for the Public Works Department and the Minister to reconsider their decision.

Instead, we have been told that the information is only for the eyes of the Minister of Works and that only after the Minister makes his announcement, then would the Selangor state government be allowed to view the report. It is further disconcerting to be informed that one of ‘reasons’ given was that because the report was funded by the Federal Government, thus it would be for their eyes only until they ‘allow’ us to view it.

I find this attitude is repugnant and disturbingly partisan.

Both the Minister and the Selangor State Government have a right to the information contained in the initial assessment report compiled by the Public Works Department. We are equally as anxious as the residents to ascertain the safety of Bukit Antarabangsa considering it may affect thousands of people and the future of development in the area.

Instead of wrangling who should read it first, one should reason that the report should be available to both the Federal Minister and the State Government.

I urge the Minister of Works to release the report to the Selangor State Government without further delay so that we are able to have enough time to study the report and to honour our collective pledge to the people of Bukit Antarabangsa.

ELIZABETH WONG
Exco for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and the Environment
Selangor State Government

 

Landslide: PWD decides not to hand report to MB
Jimadie Shah Othman | Dec 18, 08 6:32pm
Malaysiakini.com 
Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim is disappointed with the Public Works Department over its decision not to hand over the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide report to the state government.  

first 100 days khalid ibrahim interview 160608 01This has resulted in Abdul Khalid not being able to announce the next course of action as scheduled tomorrow.

According to sources, PWD revealed its decision on the matter to the state government this afternoon.

However, the department did not provide a detailed explanation as to why it decided as such apart from stating that “there were too many implications” if the report is handed to Abdul Khalid.

Sources said the menteri besar has expressed ‘puzzlement’ over the decision. 

Promise given during dialogue

Previously, during a dialogue between the menteri besar, PWD officials and Bukit Antarabangsa residents, the department had promised to hand over the report so that proper follow-up action could be taken by the state government.

It is believed that Works Minister Mohd Zin Mohamad would announce the report tomorrow after it is tabled before the Cabinet.

bukit anatarabangsa landslide pdrm aerial photographs 101208 03The New Straits Times today reported Abdul Khalid as saying that the state government is expected to make an announcement on the safety of Bukit Antarabangsa after going through the report from PWD and the Public Works Institute of Malaysia (Ikram)

“We are waiting for the report from PWD, geologists and Ikram,” 

The massive landslide in the Bukit Antarabangsa area on Dec 16 left four people dead and destroyed 14 bungalows in Taman Bukit Mewah and Taman Bukit Utama.

Following this, Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Chuan said there were no indications of human negligence as the cause of the incident.

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Bukit Antarabangsa: A govt must do what is right and not what is popular December 9, 2008

Posted by elizabethwong in Economy, Environment, Malaysia.
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22 comments

One of the earliest policy announced by the new Selangor State Government after the March 8 General Election was to ban any development on Class 3 and Class 4 hill slopes. This would mean that no development could be carried out on hill slopes 26 degrees and above.

This decision was heavily criticised by the developers and their association. The state government was accused to be hostile to development. Citing that land is already scarce in Selangor, the developers argued that there would be no more land to be developed in a few years time.

However, the recent tragedy in Bukit Antarabangsa had silenced these critics but with four deaths and thousands displaced, it is inappropriate for the state government to brag that they are correct to impose the ban. A government should do what is right and not what is going to be popular.

The same thing goes for the current crisis in Bukit Antarabangsa. The experts have announced that almost 2,000 people need to be evacuated as their homes are unsafe. If further reports confirmed that these homes could never be made safe then a decision on the future of Bukit Antarabangsa must be made. Even if this would mean demolishing these homes or closing down certain parts of Bukit Antarabangsa, the state government must do what is right and not what is popular with the people.

Allowing the people to move back into their homes and announcing that they are safe would be very popular but what is the point if this tragedy would repeat itself in the future?

Ministers, deputy ministers and VIP’s would visit the site, make sympathetic statements and pose for the cameras but at the end of the day, the state government, the Menteri Besar and Excos, would be burdened with the decision making. The people should brace themselves for the worst as this decision would be based on the safety of the people and not on the winning of elections.

Iskandar Abdul Samad
Selangor State Exco for Housing, Building Management & Squatters
8 December 2008

Bukit Antarabangsa landslide: Bitter vindication December 7, 2008

Posted by elizabethwong in "We can do better", Economy, Environment, Malaysia.
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80 comments

One of the earliest policy decision made by the new Selangor state govt of Pakatan Rakyat was to throw out any housing and building applications on Class 3 and Class 4 hillslopes, in order to preserve environmentally sensitive areas and prevent the recurrence of landslides. This was decided on April 2, 2008 Executive Council meeting.

Selangor became the first and only state in the Federation to have complied with the Federal Town and Country Planning Department’s “Total Planning Guidelines” 1997 (2nd edition, 2001) which states that no housing development should be allowed on 25 degrees and above gradient slopes. 

Developers thought it was a late April Fool’s joke. Since our ban, they have used all means – the media, blogs, lobbying of ADUNs and MPs etc. to change of our minds. We were labelled and villified as “anti-business” and “anti-development”. I have even had some of our Pakatan MPs asking us to make exceptions for Class 3.

I was told they particularly disliked me and called me “lan-si” (very ‘action‘) just because during a public meeting of developers, NGOs, residents and the Exco, one of the key developers questioned how could the state government stop hillslope development, and I answered, “Because we can…”. And none were too happy when I had to repeatedly and literally wave the ‘Total Planning Guidelines” book at them. 

And every couple of months, we have to repeat our policy decision again. Even as recent as last month, developers were insisting that they had theright to develop hillslopes and some had told a couple of ExCo members that they were planning to sue us. One of them said we would have to compensate them RM 330 million (25% of our state budget) of possible loss of profits. Imagine the pressure of a lobby group whose combined income and assets dwarfs the state government. 

Saturday’s tragedy proves the correctness of the decision of the state government. But vindication which comes after loss of 4 lives and more homes is unspeakably bitter. There are some 5,000 residents living within the vicinity of the landslide who face uncertainty and possibly have to vacate their houses.

We ask that developers to stop pursuing and pressuring us to review our policy, and instead they should be thoroughly go through every single technicality of their existing hillslope projects.

While Ikram and Public Works department will be charged to pinpoint the cause of the tragedy on Saturday, the state government will immediately review all approved hillslope projects by the previous administration, standing or partially constructed.

Those, which there is no construction yet but approved previously prior to March 8, 2008, should not be allowed to proceed, especially along the same range of Bukit Antarabangsa and Ulu Kelang – which should include Taman Hijau and Bukit Melawati. 

We had come too late. Many of the hillslope projects have already been standing for a number of years, some were half completed when we came into power. Without proper maintenance of slopes and drainage on these private lands, tragedy will strike after many years, always after the period of indemnity is over. 

Those areas which are shown to be prone to landslides such as in Ulu Kelang which as far back as 2005, the Public Works Department had already flashed its red card, more stringent conditions will be imposed on already existing housing projects. 

All developers and private land owners have to protect and reinforce their own hillslopes if they want to continue to prosper, own property and do business in Selangor. We have recently received complaints from Ampang, Kajang, Cheras and Pandan where private land owners and developers have neglected to protect their hilslopes and there are already signs of wear and tear. Some put plastic sheets and some said they were bankrupt, those they don’t have to funds to repair their slopes. Whatever. If they do not do the necessary, we will blacklist them in the state and beyond. 

We ask that ‘People’ be put ahead of ‘Profits’.

We heartened that finally, after 8 months of battling the housing industryalone, that the Federal Government has come on to our side to give Selangor, both the moral and policy support it needs, with both the PM and DPM calling for all hillslope development permits nationwide to be cancelled.

We can only hope Federal government doesn’t forget after 3, 4 months, December 6, 2008 will not be forgotten – like what had happened in 1993 (Highland Towers), 2002 (Tmn Hillview) and 2006 (Kg Pasir – which was less than a km away from Saturday’s landslide) and the lives lost, both yesterday and in the past will not be in vain.

Last stand August 17, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Democracy, Environment, Human Rights, Malaysia, Note2Self, Politics, Race Relations.
9 comments

One’s often told that the “People are the Bosses”.

Two years ago, TNB proposed to construct a high tension power transmission line which would cut across several residential areas in Rawang, including the Rawang New Village and Lim Kim Sai Village. Some of the villagers have lived here before Independence.

Initially, there was a small transmission cable (33kW) erected there. TNB of that time said it would only be temporary and would be removed. That was 50 years ago. In 2005, TNB said they would upgrade to 275kW.

Residents there formed an Action Committee against High Tension Transmission Cable and proposed an alternative route which would go through agricultural land and forests, not residential areas. TNB rejected their proposal, with no reasons provided.

The irony can’t be missed. Lim Kim Sai was a giant in MCA and one of the villages was named in his honour. MCA represents the state constituency whereas their Parliament rep is Chan Kong Choy, the Transport Minister, who is currently in a very deep hole, over the Bukit Gantang bus tragedy and the mega-scandal in a place called the Port Klang Free Zone.

(more…)

(Readings) Altantuya and ‘fair trial’? (1) June 9, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Current Affairs, Environment, Malaysia, Politics, Readings, Southeast Asia, Women.
3 comments

AG & Altantuya Trial ©MalaysiakiniWhat “miracles” could the new prosecution team produce to ensure a “fair trial”, which could not be accomplished by the previous prosecution team? After all, shouldn’t all criminal prosecutions and proceedings be conducted fairly regardless of the personalities in the prosecution team?….

This is the two-parter according to the author, Amer Hamzah Arshad, who is also a member of the Bar Human Rights Committee.

(more…)

Ijok State Assemblyman Dies April 4, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Environment, Malaysia, Note2Self, Politics.
2 comments

Unless I’m wrong, I believe there won’t be a by-election, as it’s past the 3 year cut-off point.

(Updated) It appears I may be wrong. It’s 3 years from the Majlis Angkat Sumpah of the 1st session. So it looks like it’s green light!

April 04, 2007 14:46 PM

Ijok State Assemblyman Dies

KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 (Bernama) — Selangor State Executive Councillor and Ijok State Assemblyman Datuk S. Sivalingam died of a heart attack in Chennai, India today, a state government official said.

— BERNAMA

More on ExxonMobil March 29, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Environment, Human Rights, International, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Women.
5 comments

Ignorance isn’t an excuse.

In 2005, ExxonMobil scored 14 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.

“ExxonMobil may be second to BP in size, but with sales of over $320 billion, the company broke earnings records in 2005. And that’s not all. Between its public denial of global warming and steadfast efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling…. (More)”

Global Warming

ExxonMobil Contributed Five Percent of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Last 120 Years, by William Baue, SocialFunds.com, Jan 30, 2004.

“Friends of the Earth calculates that ExxonMobil contributed five percent of the world’s manmade carbon dioxide emissions over its 120-year history… FoE commissioned independent researchers in Spring 2003 to conduct the studies.”

The first study, written by Richard Heede of Colorado-based Climate Mitigation Services, estimates ExxonMobil’s emissions of carbon dioxide and methane (another GHG) from the founding of ExxonMobil precursor Standard Oil Trust in 1882 to 2002. During this period, the combustion of ExxonMobil-produced fossil fuels resulted in the emission of approximately 20.3 billion tons of carbon, the equivalent of between 4.7 percent and 5.3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The second study, written by Jim Salinger and Greg Bodeker of New Zealand-based National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA), runs the results of the first study through the well-respected and widely-used “Bern CC” climate model. This process extrapolates the environmental implications of GHG emissions. This study finds that ExxonMobil’s emissions have contributed between 3.4 percent and 3.7 percent of total attributable temperature change since 1882, and 2 percent of the sea level rise.

ExxonMobil blood money March 29, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Environment, Human Rights, International, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Women.
13 comments

My eyebrows raised late at night when I read an email from my former colleague, K. Shan, who now works as the Coordinator of Amnesty International Malaysia. By the time I finished it, I was almost close to tears.

ExxonMobil, one of the oil and gas companies in Southeast Asia with an appalling human rights record in Aceh, which we have been campaigning against for many years, has decided to pull a PR stunner on our shores when they awarded RM 1.3 million to 2 women’s rights organisations – WCC and WAO.

I visited the areas surrounding the ExxonMobil oil and gas plant in Leuksomawe, Aceh, together with villagers who had suffered from torture, sexual assaults, massacres and disappearances. The collusion between this giant oil company and the Indonesian Army is well-documented.

(more…)

Anwar on the Police February 6, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in Environment, Human Rights, Malaysia, Note2Self, Readings.
1 comment so far

Pada 3 Februari 2007 saya dijadualkan berucap di sebuah ceramah anjuran Parti Keadilan Rakyat Bahagian Petaling Jaya Selatan bersama pimpinan-pimpinan Keadilan lain di Taman Medan. Penganjur telah memohon permit polis untuk acara tersebut. Walau bagaimanapun permohonan ini ditolak.

Pada hari ceramah, polis dan Polis Simpanan Persekutuan telah mendirikan sekatan jalan di laluan-laluan menghala ke tempat ceramah. Ratusan anggota polis dan pegawai MBPJ mengepung kawasan tersebut.

Namun demikian lebih 3,000 orang awam tidak mengendahkan tekanan polis dan menghadiri ceramah tersebut. Apabila saya tiba di tapak ceramah, pihak polis tidak mahu membiarkan sesiapapun berucap. Selepas mendesak polis, mereka akhirnya akur dan saya bercakap selama 20 minit kepada orang ramai.

(more…)

Video: Save Bukit Gasing Protest November 21, 2006

Posted by elizabethwong in Art & Visuals, Environment, Malaysia.
2 comments

“Stop Greed, Save Bukit Gasing, Save Lives”

Featuring Derek Fernandez, Victor Oorjitham, YB Dr. Lim Thuan Seng and residents living in the vicinity of Bukit Gasing.

For a better quality video, please go here to download.

Producers: Sam Hui and Elizabeth Wong
Format: MP4 Video (best viewed with QuickTime)
Length: 8’09” Size: 17.9Mb