Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hillside developer sues residents association

KUALA LUMPUR: The Medan Damansara Residents Association has set up a fund to raise money to support its four office bearers who are being sued by SDB Properties Sdn Bhd. [The Star, 14/12/08]

A hillside developer retaliated by filing a lawsuit against a residents association for public defamation. The lawsuit was filed three months ago but was only brought to public attention in the midst of nationwide interest on hillside and slope development projects following the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy on December 6.

Residents and victims of the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy have decided to sue the government and its relevant agencies for compensation. Datuk M. Muniandy, chairman of the taskforce set up to lead the lawsuit feels the government had failed to avert the tragedy because residents had reported several incidents from about two years ago that seemed to point to problems in the stability of the slope. Of course, no preventive actions were carried out by the authorities.

The government have since succumbed to public pressure and have suspended all hillslide development projects until proper geographical inspections on soil stability were carried out.

The posh Damansara 21 which involved the construction of five-storey luxury bungalows, priced from RM10mil to RM15mil each on 2.3ha of land was one of the mega projects in the country that had to be shelved; thus incurring huge financial losses on its developer.

The Damansara 21 developer, SDB Properties Sdn. Bhd. who filed a defamation suit against Medan Damansara Residents Association three months ago were now left to lick their wounds following the government's decision to put a stop on high-risked hillside projects.

The association president P. Subhakaran, Datuk Seri Dr Abdul Shukor Abdullah (who was then the association president), Peter Raiappan and Randhir Singh has been named as defendants in the case. It was understood the association have set up a special fund to help finance their court battle.

Randhir Singh, the association's secretary had earlier expressed his intention to demand the government to scrap the entire Damansara 21 project instead of freezing it. The association have since embarked on notifying possible financial institution about the matte, hoping to deter them from providing loans to SDB Properties.

“The authority may continue the project later. We want the government to put a stop on it. The banks talk about the corporate social responsibility and environmental campaign but yet they still finance to these kind of developers. We also appeal to professionals including consultants and lawyers to not be part of such developments,” he said. [The Star 14/12/08]
There is an ever pressing need now for the government to ensure all hillside projects are deemed 'safe' before any work is carried out. The tragic tale of Bukit Antarabangsa is tantamount to the corruption within land agencies of the government and developers who in the name of 'development', have placed themselves in a sticky situation.

The government have shown good faith in suspending all high-risked sites but such a move came too late for the people affected by the tragedy. Nonetheless, the concern lies not in hillside projects but in the level of attention given to the safety of such construction projects.

Granted, it all boils down to 'money'.