Penang landslide, whose faults?


GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Island City Council has lodged a police report against the consultant of the affordable housing project that was hit by a landslide in Tanjung Bungah on Saturday, claiming the lives of 11 workers.

This is because the state government wants the matter investigated and the responsible parties to be charged, state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said.

He stressed that the incident was a construction site accident.

“We hope the council and other related agencies will give their fullest cooperation to the police,” he told a press conference at Komtar yesterday.

At the same conference, Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif acknowledged that the project was rejected by the Department of Environment (DOE) but said it was approved by the state because it complied with Penang’s Safety Guidelines for Hill Site Development 2012.

Besides, she said, the DOE had approved a residential project and a private education institution that were even closer to the quarry.

“It is located more than 500m from the quarry’s blasting point while federal guidelines only require a minimum distance of 350m.

“The project’s site is zoned as ‘general residential’ and the slope gradient is less than 20°.

What a mess: Some groups believe that if the
DOE’s advice had been heeded, the landslide tragedy could have been
avoided. — Bernama

“The land is also less than 76m above sea level with the site located on a contour between 18m and 40m,” she said.

Maimunah said that based on all the requirements, the council’s One-Stop Centre (OSC) – which comprises members from more than 20 technical agencies at state and federal level – agreed to approve the project.

The OSC is in charge of approving property development plans on the island.

“The earthworks planning permission was presented to the OSC on May 14, 2015, and it was approved with conditions on June 6, 2015, while the commencement of work approval was given on Jan 18 last year,” she said.

However, the Tanjung Bungah Residents Association was not happy with the reasons given by the council for allowing the project.

“How could the council ignore the advice when the DOE is the authority responsible for protecting the environment?” association chairman Meenakshi Raman asked.

Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif telling a press conference that the project met state guidelines.

“If they had heeded the DOE’s advice, this tragedy could have been avoided and lives would not have been lost.”

“We feel betrayed … the state government failed to listen to us,” she said yesterday, commenting on Maimunah’s statements at the press conference.

Penang Federal Action Council chairman Datuk Seri Zainal Abidin Osman urged the state government to immediately set up an independent body to audit all approvals of hillslope development projects made by the various state authorities.

“The Penang government has to take responsibility and be accountable for the tragedy involving the loss of 11 lives.

“We ask it to stop blaming others for any accident which occurred since it became the state government.

“We are surprised that a project which was not supported by a technical department was still given approval by the state authority,” he said in a statement.

An undertaker (in white) and a priest performing prayers at the scene of
the landslide for site supervisor Yuan Kuok Wern, 27, who was killed in
the tragedy.

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM) also came forward to offer technical assistance and opinions in the investigation.

Its president Dr Tan Yean Chin said in a statement that IEM is recognised locally and internationally as a professional body representing a wide cross-section of the engineering practice.

“As a learned society with over 40,000 members and affiliated to several international engineering organisations, IEM is able to offer expert opinions on this tragic event,” he said.

Source: The Starby lo tern chern, logeiswary thevadass, cavina lim, crystal chiam shiying, r. sekaran, rahmah ghazali, danial albakri

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Penang landslide tragedy, why it happened?


Speaking out: Penang Forum members protesting outside the CAP office in George Town.

Don’t just make it about worker safety issues

 

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang Forum member is worried that the state’s proposed inquiry into the Tanjung Bungah landslide will only focus on worker safety issues.

Meenakshi Raman, who is also Tanjung Bungah Residents Associa­tion chairman, said the inquiry should instead look at the laws that have not been followed and whether or not the Penang Structure Plan (PSP) was neglected.

“It should also look at whether the Penang Island City Council (MBPP), which has the authority to act, failed to properly do its job.

“We hope the commission will broaden its scope of inquiry,” she told press conference at the Consu­mers Association of Penang (CAP) office yesterday.

Penang Forum is a loose coalition of several civil society groups in the state.

The coalition, which includes Sahabat Alam Malaysia, CAP, Malay­sian Nature Society, Women’s Centre for Change, Penang Heritage Trust, Friends of Botanical Gardens, and 25 residents’ associations and management committees, urged the state to halt all hillslope projects immediately.

It also wants the state to amend the 2009 guidelines on “special projects” to explicitly prohibit development on hill lands except for essential public services.

Forum member Dr Lim Mah Hui said the Penang Hills Watch citizens’ initiative provided the state government with information on hill cutting it collected from the public.

“In January, this site was the first case we highlighted to the state government.

“Photos of construction and hill cutting there were presented to the state government. It responded that the ‘earthwork is being monitored’,” he said.

Dr Lim said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng wrote in the Safety Guidelines for Hillside Development in 2012 that local governments were to strengthen their geotechnical units, which process and approve applications for hillside developments, and follow up with strict enforcement.

“It says a monitoring team will be established to ensure compliance in construction and performance (of projects).

“The question is what happened then? Did the state and local governments follow their own guidelines? Or was there gross negligence?

“Such a tragedy could have been avoided,” Dr Lim claimed.

He also said parties like the State Planning Committee, MBPP’s One-Stop-Centre Committee (which approved the project), the engineers, the developer and contractors should be investigated.

CAP vice-president Mohideen Abdul Kader said Penangites’ concerns over hill development dated back some three decades.

“Remember the proposed Penang Hill development which we managed to cancel in the end? What the state must do now is look after the natural resources and listen to the NGOs.

“Public pressure can make a difference,” he said.

Another forum member, Dr Kam Suan Pheng, said the Penang Structure Plan forbade development on hill land 76m (250ft) above sea level or with a gradient of 25° and above.

“But many developers cut hillslopes, making them steeper and less stable.

“The weather is always blamed but there was no rain for the past week. So how did the landslide happen?” she asked.

Dr Kam said the Safety Guidelines for Hillside Development clearly state that “if you have a slope … depending on the height of the slope, you need to have a buffer zone that is greater than the height of the slope.”

“From the media reports, the height of the affected slope is 10m, so there should be a buffer zone of 10m from the foothill,” she said, adding that the inquiry should explore this aspect.

Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group adviser Yan Lee urged the developer to conduct studies on improving on-site safety measures and engage foreign consultants to make sure the project can go on safely.

“They should also make sure the deceased workers’ families are taken care of.”

 

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Datuk Shafie Apdal nabbed in MACC investigation


KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal has been arrested, a day before his 60th birthday and after nearly four hours of questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Shafie, who was arrested at 9pm yesterday, is expected to be taken to the Kota Kinabalu High Court to be remanded today. MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrest.

The Parti Warisan Sabah president arrived at the MACC office at about 5.15pm yesterday, after flying in from Kuala Lumpur, to be questioned over projects implemented during his watch as Rural and Regional Development Minister between 2009 and 2015.

In a white shirt, Shafie Apdal was accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Shuryani Shuaib; Warisan vice-president Datuk Peter Anthony who was detained earlier and released on bail; and their lawyers Martin Tommy and Loretto Padua.

Before he left for the MACC office, Shafie told reporters at his Taman Gold View home: “We are willing to facilitate and when they called me, I flew back from Kuala Lumpur.

“It’s a process of law and we need to give our cooperation. We are not going to obstruct and I know that MACC is just doing its job.”

He also said that he was saddened by the detention of his two siblings – Hamid and Yusof – in the investigation but reiterated that MACC was just doing its job.

Urging his supporters to remain calm and to continue the party’s work, Shafie and a relative led a short prayer before heading to the MACC office.

Earlier, a crowd of supporters gathered at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to greet him.

Later, Shafie was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for overnight observation for having high blood pressure, said his lawyer and Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking.

MACC has so far arrested 10 people, including Shafie’s brothers, his nephew Warisan Youth chief Azis Jamman, Peter, Tenom Umno Youth chief Jamawi Jaafar and his Tawau counterpart Ariffin Kassim, Warisan media representative Armarjit Singh, Hamid’s son-in-law Manzur Hussein Awal Khan, a 52-year-old local contractor and a 40-year-old senior civil servant in Putrajaya, over the case.

Hamid, who was warded at Damai Specialist Hospital for health problems since Sunday has been released on MACC bail.

Magistrate Stephanie Sherron Abbie, granted Hamid bail at RM50,000 in two sureties.

MACC prosecuting officer Mohd Faliq Basirudin said Hamid’s remand was supposed to only end today but he was released earlier because the investigation on him was complete.

Stephanie went to Gleneagles Hospital later, for the release of Manzur, 37, who is also warded over health issues.

He was granted bail at RM30,000 in two sureties and ordered to report once a month to the MACC office.

Yusof is still in MACC custody.

 Source: by stephanie leeruben sario The Star





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Call for action on flooding solution


Some representatives of the 24 residents associations and management corporations showing messages urging the state to resolve the flood issues in Penang. — Photos: ASRI ABDUL GHANI /The Star
Meenakshi (right) speaking on the group’s concerns at the press conference.

Irked residents to hold meeting with state representatives on Oct 29

FRUSTRATED by the never-ending flood problems in Penang, a group has got together to arrange a meeting with state representatives on Oct 29.

The group of 24 residents associations and management corporations believes that the blame game between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan politicians should be stopped as the floods have caused a lot of hardship to the people.

Spokesperson Meenakshi Raman said the group would have experts share data collected on floods in their respective areas at the briefing.

“We want to make a collective call to the state government to take the flood and hill erosion issues very seriously,” she said at a press conference at the Consumers Association of Penang in Jalan Masjid Negeri yesterday.

Meenakshi said the state representatives could use the data gathered at the briefing titled ‘Penang Flood: Call for Action’ and discuss the matter during the upcoming state assembly in November.

The briefing is open to the public and the venue and time will be announced later.

“Flood mitigation alone is inadequate. We want comprehensive action and a stop to unsafe overdevelopment at hill slopes,” said Meenakshi.

Representatives of residents groups from Bandar Baru Ayer Itam attended the press conference to voice their dissatisfaction over the repeated flooding in the township, especially in Lebuhraya Thean Tek, Jalan Thean Tek and Lintang Thean Tek.

The groups are from Tanjung Court Condominium, Desa Delima (Tower Blocks), Sri Impian, Fortune Court, Treasure Ville and Desa Baiduri.

Tanjung Court Condominium residents ad-hoc group representative K. Suthakar said Lebuhraya Thean Tek in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam would be badly hit by floods every time there was heavy rain.

“The state government keeps saying that the Federal Government doesn’t give them enough money.

“Will the flooding problems go on for five or 10 more years? How long is this going to continue? We are suffering,” he said.

He urged MPs to attend the briefing as well so that they could bring up the flood issue in Parliament.

Later, the group showed photos of landslides that happened during the Sept 15 flooding at Fettes Park, Solok Tembaga and Sungai Ara.

They urged Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to focus on resolving the flood issues.

Penang Opposition leader Datuk Jahara Hamid said it was a good initiative to hold the briefing as there was a need to better understand the concerns of the people.

“I can only confirm attendance after the venue and time have been fixed,” she said.

Meanwhile, PKR Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin said she would attend the briefing.

Source: by Intan Amalina Mohd Ali The Star

 

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China top paper warns officials against ‘spiritual anaesthesia’, the root of corruptions


The founder of modern China chairman Mao Zedong.

 

BEIJING: China’s top newspaper warned Communist Party officials not to “pray to God and worship Buddha”, because communism is about atheism and superstition is at the root of many corrupt officials who fall from grace.

China officially guarantees freedom of religion for major belief systems like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, but party members are meant to be atheists and are especially banned from participating in what China calls superstitious practices like visiting soothsayers.

The party’s official People’s Daily yesterday said in a commentary it had not been uncommon over the past few years to see officials taken down for corruption to have also participated in “feudalistic superstitious activities”.

“In fact, some officials often go to monasteries, pray to God and worship Buddha,” it said.

“Some officials are obsessed with rubbing shoulders with masters, fraternising with them as brothers and becoming their lackeys and their money-trees.”

Chinese people, especially the country’s leaders, have a long tradition of putting their faith in soothsaying and geomancy, looking for answers in times of doubt, need and chaos.

The practice has grown more risky amid a sweeping crackdown on deep-seated corruption launched by President Xi Jinping upon assuming power in late 2012, in which dozens of senior officials have been imprisoned.

The People’s Daily pointed to the example of Li Chuncheng, a former deputy party chief in Sichuan who was jailed for 13 years in 2015 for bribery and abuse of power, who it said was an enthusiastic user of the traditional Chinese geomancy practice of feng shui.

“As an official, if you spend all your time fixating on crooked ways, sooner or later you’ll come to grief,” it said.

The People’s Daily said officials must remember Marx’s guiding words that “Communism begins from the outset with atheism”.

“Superstition is thought pollution and spiritual anaesthesia that cannot be underestimated and must be thoroughly purged,” it said. — Reuters

 

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Another government department, seriously? Beef up the existing enforcement agencies !


YET another government department is going to be set up. Isn’t it common knowledge that the Government has serious budget constraints and is not recruiting to add to an already bloated civil service? And now, another tale of bureaucracy is being spun.

No wonder Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad is upset over the planned formation of the National Integrity and Good Governance Department (JITN)

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low has said the proposed department is expected to improve good governance in the civil service.

How would the JITN as a new and probably tiny department be able to do the job? It would probably involve plenty of miracles since there is a reported 1.6 million civil servants to deal with, although Cuepacs says the figure is only at 500,000. It will be a Herculean task to move this mountain of manpower for what’s needed.

Low must surely have good intentions in wanting to set up the JITN, but its objectives and plans remain, at best, vague, at this point.

Its name and role seem almost identical to that of the Integrity Institute of Malaysia (IIM) and Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission.

The IIM, the brainchild of then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, was set up in 2004 and continues to function.

Its website reads: “IIM’s role is to facilitate the aims and objectives of the National Integrity Plan (NIP). The main objective of IIM is to act as a machinery in the implementation of the NIP towards developing a nation that is of high integrity, resilient and that embraces universal good values.”

The key roles of the institute are: to conduct research related to the integrity of institutions and that of the community; to organise conferences, seminars and forums; to elicit opinions from various sectors on the progress made or on the obstacles faced in implementing integrity; to publish and circulate printed materials as well as formulating and implementing training and educational programmes; to recommend new policies for the enhancement of integrity and ethics; and to advise the Government on strategies and programmes in enhancing integrity.

The voice of cynicism is growing loud and people are questioning the functions of this department, more so if it has no bite. MACC has strongly objected to it, with Dzulkifli labelling it a waste of public funds.

Who can blame the graft buster for being disgruntled? His investigators are overworked and the department understaffed, under budget and now, suddenly, the MACC learns that a new department is to be set up.

If it has no powers and does not concern the MACC, then it is on its way to being another government department which publishes more reports that nobody reads and which will most likely end up gathering dust.

Dzulkifli, who is hard-pressed to secure a heftier budget for his department, has publicly objected to the setting up of JITN, saying the funds could be better used to enhance current enforcement agencies and the wellbeing of its staff.

“What needs to be done is improve and strengthen the laws, human resources and welfare of existing agencies.

“The Government should oversee the welfare of law enforcers. Go and see the conditions of police barracks. They are poorly maintained,” he said.

Dzulkifli urged the Government to re-examine the salaries and housing schemes of law enforcers.

“If we want to decrease corruption and abuse of power in enforcement agencies, the problem will not be solved if law enforcers do not have their welfare taken care of.

“I will defend them (law enforcers) when needed, and take action against them (if they do wrong).

“But we also need to see the state of their welfare,” he told reporters at a corruption-free pledge signing ceremony in Sungai Petani recently.

“Forming a new department will be costly and require hiring new staff. Their scope of duties will be similar to (that of) other law enforcers,” he added.

And even in less-than-ideal circumstances, the MACC has continued with its crime-busting duty, its stats backing up its hard work. Up to last month this year alone, the commission has arrested 728 individuals, including 349 civil servants, 215 members of the public and 151 from the private sector.

So far, 316 people have been accused of corrupt practices this year. Nearly half of them – 155 individuals – are from the civil service. Last year, only 113 civil servants had the long arm of the law catch up with them.

MACC statistics reveal that 1,629 cases (up to last month this year) involved civil servants, compared to 2,008 the whole of last year, with 654 cases concerning members of the public and 174 involving those from the private sector.

Until September this year, 432 investigation papers were opened against civil servants, compared to 526 last year. Half of that figure – 215 – implicated members of the public, 102 members of the private sector, and seven from other categories, including politics.

Up until last month, 756 investigation papers were opened.

Low said the Cabinet has given the green light for the setting-up of JITN to serve as a coordinating body to lead transformational changes in the public and private sectors.

He said the department would focus on good governance, integrity and human rights. How it will co-exist with Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) is something which needs explaining.

JITN received the Cabinet’s nod on July 28, and is currently under review by the Public Service Department pending final approval. The department was previously a division under Low in the Prime Minister’s Department.

There isn’t much the MACC can do now since the Cabinet has already approved the move.

But what the Government should consider doing is to beef up the MACC where manpower and resources are concerned, given the flurry of cases flying its way.

By Wong Chun Wai The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.
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JPMorgan CEO warns he will fire any employee trading Bitcoin for being “stupid.”


 
Tough stand: Dimon has warned that he will fire JPMorgan traders who traded in bitcoin ‘in a second. For two reasons: It’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.’ — AFP

NEW YORK: JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive officer Jamie Dimon said he will fire any employee trading bitcoin for being “stupid.”

The cryptocurrency “won’t end well,” he told an investor conference in New York on Tuesday, predicting it will eventually blow up. “It’s a fraud” and “worse than tulip bulbs.”

If a JPMorgan trader began trading in bitcoin, he said: “I’d fire them in a second. For two reasons: It’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both are dangerous.”

Bitcoin has soared in recent months, spurred by greater acceptance of the blockchain technology that underpins the exchange method and optimism that faster transaction times will encourage broader use of the cryptocurrency.

Prices have climbed more than four-fold this year – a run that has drawn debate over whether that’s a bubble.

Bitcoin initially slipped after Dimon’s remarks. It was down as much as 2.7% before recovering.

Last week, it slumped after reports that China plans to ban trading of virtual currencies on domestic exchanges, dealing another blow to the US$150bil cryptocurrency market.

Tulips are a reference to the mania that swept Holland in the 17th century, with speculators driving up prices of virtually worthless tulip bulbs to exorbitant levels.

That didn’t end well.

In bitcoin’s case, Dimon said he’s sceptical authorities will allow a currency to exist without state oversight, especially if something goes wrong.

“Someone’s going to get killed and then the government’s going to come down,” he said.

“You just saw in China, governments like to control their money supply.”

Dimon differentiated between the bitcoin currency and the underlying blockchain technology, which he said can be useful.

Still, he said banks’ application of blockchain “won’t be overnight.”

The bank chief said he wouldn’t short bitcoin because there’s no telling how high it will go before it collapses.

The best argument he’s heard, he said, is that it can be useful to people in places with no other options – so long as the supply of coins doesn’t surge.

“If you were in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a bunch of parts like that, or if you were a drug dealer, a murderer, stuff like that, you are better off doing it in bitcoin than US dollars,” he said.

“So there may be a market for that, but it’d be a limited market.”— Bloomberg

 

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