by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on the urgent,
definite, public importance motion on the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide
Wednesday, 10th December 2008:
Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster
killing five, displacing 5,000 and burying 14 bungalows testimony that
48 who died in the Highland Towers Collapse tragedy had died in vain 15
years ago as the lessons had not been learnt
The Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster on
Saturday, 6th December 2008, claiming five lives and dislocating 5,000
people after destroying 14 bungalows, is sheer criminal negligence after
the Highland Towers tragedy 15 years ago on Friday, 11th December 1993.
It is sad and shocking testimony that the 48 who died in the Highland
Towers tragedy 15 years ago had died in vain as the lessons had not been
learnt by the relevant government authorities and parties.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi blamed developers
and buyers when he lamented:
“Malaysians never want to learn from past experiences. They want good
views while developers only seek to profit; but no one takes safety and
soil stability into consideration”.
Conspicuously absent from Abdullah’s blame list are the various
government agencies and authorities who should be even more culpable in
giving approvals or closing an eye to dangerous hillside developments
and in totally ignoring the lessons of the Highland Towers tragedy 15
Subconsciously admitting that it was indefensible to exonerate the
government from responsibility for the criminal negligence resulting in
the Bukit Antarabangsa disaster, Information Minister Datuk Ahmad
Shabery Cheek complained that it was not fair to slam the Government for
failing to act every time a disaster happens.
“It is unfair to say the Government did not act. We cannot put the blame
on just one authority. After all, you need two to tango, but this time
there are three – the government, the developers and buyers.”
But the real unfairness is the government’s shirking of responsibility,
and this was why when the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council Inquiry Report
into the Highland Tower Tragedy was made public in June 1994, putting
the blame solely on the developer, the Highland Towers victims were
incensed at the exoneration of responsibility by the various government
authorities, in particular the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council.
I am shocked that the Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Seri
Ong Ka Chuan, who had been missing for the past four days of the
disaster, has surfaced today to rule out human negligence as the cause
of the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster and to declare natural
causes as the probable factor.
Ong should not be a second Samy Vellu with excuses of “acts of God”.
This attitude of government immunity and impunity for sheer criminal
negligence has continued unchanged in the past 15 years from the
Highland Towers Tragedy to the Bukit Antarabangsa disaster, and will
ensure not only the 48 who died 15 years but the five who perished last
Saturday would have died in vain as nothing would have been learnt from
these man-made disasters with future hillslope disasters waiting to
happen with more victims.
No wonder, Dr. Benjamin George, who survived the Highlands Tower
disaster, was not convinced that things would get better when he said:
“In three months, the tractors will start work again. I have survived
long enough to see all this nonsense repeated.”
Affected Bukit Antarabangsa residents are entitled to ask why several
tell-tale signs of impending landslides days and even weeks before
Saturday’s landslide disaster had not been acted upon by the authorities
to issue landslide warnings, especially as a geological firm had been
awarded a RM1.6 million contract to “solely monitor the geological
conditions” in Bukit Antarabangsa area, including earth movements.
Residents refer to a landslide which cut off a portion of the Jalan
Bukit Antarabangsa main road just six days earlier, while a landslide
victim, businessman Hassan Saad, 49, claimed that he had notified the
relevant authorities about fallen trees and earth movements close to his
home in Taman Bukit Mewah in October but his complaints were not taken
seriously by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ).
There can be no two ways about it – there should be a Royal Commission
of Inquiry into the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide disaster with a
three-prong terms of reference:
• firstly, to inquire into the circumstances
and causes of Saturday’s Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy;
• secondly, a larger mandate to inquire whether and why the Federal,
state and local government agencies have not learned the lessons of
the Highland Towers tragedy 15 years ago, specifically for Bukit
Antarabangsa but even further afield; and
• thirdly, why other countries like Hong Kong could end landslides
by ensuring hillslope safety despite development.
Finally, there should be full and independent
inquiry into the serious complaints by Bukit Antarabangsa victims about
some irresponsible members of the search and rescue (SAR) operations
team, in particular, the shocking complaint by the husband of accountant
Eng Yee Peng, who died in the landslide at Bukit Mewah in Bukit
Antarabangsa on Saturday, who alleged that when he sought help from the
rescue team to save his wife who was still alive, he was given a hoe and
asked to dig and find his wife on his own.
I believe the majority SAR members are responsible and honest but the
handful of black sheep who were callous and inhuman must be ferreted out
to face the full force of the law.
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor