Please evaluate facts and not assumptions.

I am responding to the letter published in the The Sun Daily on the 23rd October 2017 by Mr. Ravinder Singh:http://www.thesundaily.my/news/2017/10/23/state%E2%80%99s-policy-development-questionable

The author had said that even though the Chief Minister had said that: “While we do not wish to speculate, strong suspicions remain of professional negligence, defects in monitoring and non-compliance with work safety procedures.” He claimed that the CM has ignored the root cause that led to the disaster which is the state government’s policy on hill slope development.

Now normally, I would like to wait for the results of investigations to be completed before commenting on issues. The fact that my colleagues and I were on the site throughout the search helping out as much as we could to help the situation however, has motivated me to write this response.

First and foremost, to immediately make a conclusion that the root cause is the state government’s policy on hill slope without first waiting for the independent Governor’s Commission of Inquiry will be established under S(2)(3)(d) and 3(1) of the Commissions of Enquiry Act 1950 to submit their findings is not a fair nor acceptable thing to say. Myself, as a Penangite, will want to know the truth of what happened on that fateful morning as well. I believe we owe it to all Malaysians to get the truth.

As for your inquiries into the safety guidelines and hill slope gradient, here are some facts for your information, the land height is within the 76m (250 ft) limit, which is according to the guidelines. The development is also not a hill slope development as some parties have alleged as it is within 18m to 40m above sea level, which is classified as “Tanah Rendah”, “Tanah Bukit” is land above 150m. The disagreement of the Department of Environment (DoE) was evaluated along with the technical report from the Department of Minerals and Geoscience (DMG) which had no objections to the project, both departments are under the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment. and the disagreement by the DoE was not related to the hill slope nor hill land but the nearby quarry. However, there is a buffer zone of 714.53m between the quarry and the construction site which ensures that the site can be categorised as a “safe zone” as the DoE’s own guidelines has the minimum buffer zone requirement of 500m.

The DMG however, according to their portfolio, supplies “geoscience information and services for the sustainable development of the country,” and provides expertise “in the fields of geoscience and mining at national and international levels” and therefore, should be the department that has the expertise on the matter of stability on the site and surrounding landscape and had no objections to the project. How two departments under the same ministry could have such a differing view on the same project, I will never know.

Bottom line, in terms of soil stability, wouldn’t the DMG’s feedback be the more relevant one? I would also like to point out that the Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College is closer to the quarry (589.44m) and was approved by the previous BN Penang State Government. A precedence had clearly been set and a government department should not have double standards as well especially when the project was to provide affordable housing to Penangites.

Anyway, I have given my views on the project, but we will still need to wait for the full inquiry report to be ready for there to be a fair assessment of the project. My point to the author is simple, please do not pass judgement until all the evidences are presented. To do that is to make assumptions and assumptions cannot be taken into account when it comes to both policy and law making and can easily be challenged in the court of law.

But for now, let us go back to concentrating on helping those who were affected by this tragedy as the Penang State Government leaders, my colleagues and I had done as soon as the incident had happened, by helping both the loved ones and the rescue workers of the victims. It was just unfortunate that while everyone was shedding sweat and tears at the site of the tragedy, some were only waiting to exploit the issue politically without lifting a finger to provide actual help.

Chris Lee Chun Kit is a City Councillor with the City Council of Penang Island representing the DAP