Local Penang officials call for boycott of development in 'sensitive' terrain

GEORGE TOWN: The loose coalition of civil societies in Penang wants house buyers to boycott projects located at hillsides, coastal areas and those built along other "sensitive" terrain.

Penang Forum associate member Manuel Nicholas said house buyers, whether local or foreigners, need to support the desire of civil society here to preserve the environment, especially at hillslopes.

Only by stripping demand will the message be sent loud and clear that development along "sensitive" terrain should stop, especially in Penang, said Nicholas.

"If our property buyers do not heed this, they are the ones who will be responsible for landslides and massive floods. We are triggering man-made disasters in Penang," Nicholas said.

Earlier in a press conference, Penang Forum leading advocate, Dr Lim Mah Hui, hinted that civil society will not back the present state government in the next general election if the latter continues to ignore the pleas to stop development along hillslopes.

In a related development, prominent architect Lawrence Loh said people must question why islands similar to Penang, like Hong Kong and Singapore, do not suffer from mammoth landslides.

"Something is not right and the enforcement system and the monitoring of it at the local government side has become compromised," said Loh, who urged the state government to review its policy on hillslope development to make it safe once and for all.

Bangladeshi honorary consul, Datuk Shaik Ismail Allaudin, urged the authorities to contact his office to expedite the clearance of documents and the handling of the bodies of six construction workers believed to have died at the site.

The brother of the only Pakistani construction worker meanwhile hopes rescuers will find his youngest brother soonest.

Farzand Ali, 23, told theSun that he had rushed from Kluang, Johor after receiving the news that his 21-year-old brother, Raza Ali, had been buried in the tragedy on Saturday.

Farzand, who was saddened by the news, is holding out for a miracle that Raza will be safe.

Meanwhile, Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong uttered his disappointment towards the Penang government for their lateness in taking a serious approach towards the hillside development projects happening on the island.

Mah said if they had listened to the opinion and objections from their fellow colleague, Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, then the tragic incident could have been prevented.

"Teh had on numerous occasions voiced his objections towards the many hillside development projects but they brushed those objections aside," Mah told reporters on the sideline of Gerakan's Deepavali celebration at Taman Batu, Kuala Lumpur, today.

Up to this moment, seven bodies have been found and the search and rescue (SAR) operation for the other four victims is still being carried out by the SAR team.

The six bodies which had been retrieved and sent to HPP, had been identified as Hussin and Yunus (Bangladesh); Hosrin and Erwin (Indonesia); and Elyas and Yusof (Myanmar), while the seventh was found at 9.56am today but has not yet been taken out.

The 130-strong search and rescue team comprises police, JBPM, Civil Defence Force, Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) from Putrajaya, JBPM Canine Detection Unit (K9), Penang Hospital, Penang Island City Council, People's Volunteer Corps (RELA) and non-governmental organisations.