Penang should heed federal advice on Tanjung Bungah developments, minister says

BY KAMLES KUMAR
Eleven workers, including a Malaysian, were killed when tonnes of soil slid down a hill slope and buried them at the bottom of a 49-storey apartment construction site in the northern Penang island last Saturday. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — The Penang government had failed to follow federal guidelines in developing hilly areas in Tanjung Bungah, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said today after a landslide on the island claimed 11 lives over the weekend.

He said that while the state government had come out with its own Safety Guideline for Hillsite Development 2012 and is not required to follow the Planning Guidelines for Development in Hillsite and Highlands, Penang should have given more attention to the federal government’s recommendations.

“Penang did not follow our recommendations. They claimed their report was more comprehensive and detailed. They have their own safety guidelines,” Noh said in a press conference in Parliament here.

The Tanjung Karang MP also said the Penang chief Mminister is expected to explain the incident next week to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during a meeting with the nation’s planning board.

“The ministry has sent an offical letter to state government for them to present their report during the country’s physical planning committee next week. We have given them a chance to table a report,” Noh added.

Eleven workers, including a Malaysian, were killed when tonnes of soil slid down a hill slope and buried them at the bottom of a 49-storey apartment construction site in the northern Penang island last Saturday. Three migrant workers escaped being buried alive and are currently warded at the state government hospital.

The state government admitted in a news conference in George Town earlier today that the Department of Environment had not given approval for the 49-storey housing project.

But Penang state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow insisted the state had to consider the views of other agencies, including the Mineral and Geoscience Department which deals with hill slope stability had given its approval for the project. He maintained that the fatal landslide was a “work site accident”.

Several non-governmental organisations, including a residents’ association, have demanded the state government be held accountable for the landslide deaths.

The Penang government has announced the setting up of a state commission of inquiry to look into the tragedy.