Residents living near Highland Towers worry about their safety

It has been 19 years since Block One of Highland Towers in Hulu Kelang, Selangor, collapsed and the two other blocks which were declared unsafe are now overgrown with trees and creepers and has become a haunt for drug addicts and mat rempit.

Residents living in Taman Hillview near the Highland Towers are now concerned about their safety due to the presence of these undesirable elements.

A resident, Shahida Malik, 55, said her family had been robbed five times since 2006.

“The worst was when three robbers, who looked like drug addicts, forced us and our two grandsons into a room and tied us up and took away my valuables and jewellery.” she said.

Shahida said the surrounding area, especially her backyard, which faces the abandoned buildings had been neglected for a long time and were covered with shrubs and trees.

“We have come across snakes in the backyard and this is dangerous since I have my grandsons living with me,” said Shahida, urging the local authority to clean up the area.

Student You Mei, 17, said the abandoned buildings got her attention when a group of friends invited her to check out the place.

“We were curious since we heard that it is an eerie place. I didn’t go in but I could see from a distance that the place was filled with graffiti and there were empty nasi lemak packets scattered everywhere.

“I was also told that there were a group of teenagers who went there to smoke shisha. The place is also a hangout for the mat rempit at night,” said You Mei, adding that it was obvious there was some activity at the abandoned buildings.

Businesswoman K. Kothainayagi said one could not leave their property unguarded if they were to go on a holiday as it would be vandalised and their valuables stolen.

“My air-conditioning units were taken away. Pumps and copper piping were ripped off, drain covers stolen and the walls vandalised.

“Other residents have also experienced similar incidents and have lodged complaints with the police and local authority,” she said, adding that she was forced to employ a security guard when she went on holidays, while other neighbours had resorted to having dogs.

“It has been 19 years now since the buildings have been abandoned. What is the purpose of having dilapidated buildings in a residential area when it does not serve any purpose?” asked Kothainayagi.

For Raja Datuk Amina Raja Musa, 64, the abandoned Highland Towers is a sad reminder of a tragedy that took the lives of 48 people, leaving more than 1,000 people homeless.

“We are concerned about our safety, now that the abandoned buildings have become a haunt for drug addicts and mat rempit.

“What is the property owner doing about it? Not only it is an eyesore, the surrounding area is now a jungle. Isn’t it the role of the local authority to look into this?” asked Raja Datuk Amina, a resident for the past 20 years.

Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) public relations officer Norhayati Ahmad said the abandoned buildings was not under its jurisdiction but it would take measures to clean up the area soon.

It was reported in The Star on Dec 11, 2008 that in August 2004, AmFinance Bhd (formerly Arab-Malaysian Finance Berhad) agreed to pay RM52mil to 139 residents and owners of Highland Towers in an out-of-court settlement.

It was also reported that on Feb 17, 2006, the Federal Court ruled that the MPAJ was not liable for either the pre or post-collapse events.

A spokesman from AmBank (M) Bhd group corporate affairs said: “We are the land owner by default because the previous owner had defaulted its loan payment.”

“We have no plans to develop the land, but we are looking for a buyer,” he added.

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