GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Government has drawn the ire of the Malaysian National Human Rights Society (Hakam) on hill development issues.
Hakam president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and deputy president Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar issued a press statement yesterday on behalf of their executive committee to refute Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s statement that Penang Forum had “fallen into the misinformation trap set up by Barisan Nasional and some media who are anti-government”.
In defending Penang Forum, a loose coalition of civil society groups on matters of public interest, Hakam noted that the state government had approved 55 blocks of high-rise developments on sensitive hill land between 2008 and 2015.
Sensitive hill land is legally defined as land higher than 76m above sea level or hill slopes with a steepness greater than 25 degrees. Development is prohibited except for “special projects”.
Ambiga and Gurdial Singh said Penang Forum had been vindicated because the information was supplied by Penang state executive councillors in a state assembly sitting.
“A recent decision of the Penang Appeals Board also confirms that planning permission for one such development was given during the tenure of the present government.
“In this case, the application was made by a developer on March 2011 and approved in February 2012 for a condominium on sensitive hill land in Sungai Ara,” the statement added.
They warned that the Penang Government “should not malign civil society groups — however so obliquely — for the legitimate and well-founded articulation of matters of great concern to the public”.
“This undermines the fundamental values of a functioning democracy and human rights.”
Hakam urged the state government to implement, and if necessary defend, the Appeals Board’s decision.
The Penang Government recently came under fire over the clearing of hills and approving of the high-rise buildings.
Though some of the applications were made during the previous government, the current government had renewed the planning permissions or plan approvals in recent years.
Penang Forum organised a public forum called “Save Our Hills” on Dec 12.
At the forum, the speakers voiced their concerns on massive hill clearing works from 2008 to 2015 in Pantai Acheh and Teluk Bahang which threatened the lush hills bordering Penang National Park where Teluk Bahang Dam is situated as well.
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