RM7bil to bail out 1MDB


PUTRAJAYA: On top of paying RM6.98bil to bail out 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the Government is now facing the prospect of forking out an additional RM953mil to service the company’s debts by November.

“I have been informed that besides the RM142.75mil due at the end of this month, another RM810.21mil worth of interest is due between the months of September and November in 2018,” Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told reporters after being briefed by ministry officers.

Lim, who was shocked at the revelation, added that the ministry had been bailing out 1MDB by servicing its debts since April 2017, which included payments for International Petroleum Investment Corp’s (IPIC) settlement agreement amounting to RM5.05bil.

“This confirms the public suspicion that 1MDB had essentially deceived Malaysians by claiming that hit had paid via ‘successful rationalisation exercise’.

“It has been the ministry that has bailed out 1MDB,” he said.

He also said the previous government had conducted an exercise of deception with regard to 1MDB and even misrepresented the financial situation to Parliament.

Lim said 1MDB’s chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy, and directors Datuk Kamal Mohd Ali and Datuk Norazman Ayob will be grilled to determine the company’s state of affairs and its ability to service its debts.

He said officers from the ministry would conduct a detailed study on 1MDB’s debts and liabilities aimed at resolving the “crisis created by the scandal”.

“We will also submit our findings to the 1MDB task force formed by the Prime Minister,” Lim said.

Asked what was the full extent of 1MDB’s debts and liabilities, Lim said this would only be known with full access to files and accounts which had been previously barred or blocked to auditors.

He added 1MDB had contributed to the nation’s debts. – The Star

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New MACC chief breaks down in recounting what he went through (full story)


PUTRAJAYA: Newly appointed Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull broke down when he recounted his time running away from Malaysian authorities to the United States.

This came in 2015 after his former boss Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed at the MACC decided to indict former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak over the RM2.6bil that was found in his personal bank account.

Shukri said that the commission had well-founded basis to initiate an investigation into SRC International, a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which had been accused of transferring millions of ringgit into Najib’s private account.

According to Shukri, Abu Kassim asked him whether he was ready for the consequences of indicting a sitting prime minister, which could have led to their dismissal.
“I said ‘no problem’, because I was willing to do it for the country,” Shukri told a press conference at the MACC headquarters here on Tuesday.

However, on the day in July 2015 when Abu Kassim was going to do indict Najib, former Attorney-General Gani Patail was removed from his position.

The announcement came along with the reshuffling of the Cabinet that also saw the sacking of the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, who had also raised questions about 1MDB.

With all these sackings foremost in his mind, Shukri left for Washington on July 31, 2015, to bring up the 1MDB issue with US authorities.

Wary, he released misleading information that he was headed to Saudi Arabia, and he heard that people were waiting to arrest him in Jeddah.

Shukri said that before he left for Washington, he faced tremendous pressure.

“The witnesses I interviewed had been taken away.

“I was threatened to be fired, was told to retire early and was even threatened to be sent to the training division,” he said.

The trip to Washington had its own drama.

“I noticed someone was following me (in Washington). My team in the United States took pictures of the man who was following me.

“I sent the pictures to MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki, and asked him to send it to the then Inspector-General Police,” he said, adding that he made it clear that he knew that men were following him.

Shukri said he felt unsafe in Washington and decided to go to New York, where he met up with a friend who worked in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

“I got protection from the NYPD and they provided me with three bodyguards,” he said.

Shukri said he then returned to Washington.

It was in recounting this episode during his Tuesday press conference that Shukri broke down in tears, saying he felt guilty when he was told that his men who were working for him had been incarcerated.

“I felt helpless and was frustrated for failing to protect my men.

“I cried in front of the mat salleh (Caucasians). My men and I had been accused of conspiring to topple the (Barisan Nasional) government,” he said.

Shukri finally retired in August 2016 at the age of 56. During his farewell speech, he hit out at an “individual” who had alleged that he was involved in a conspiracy to topple Najib and his administration.

Abu Kassim, who was appointed MACC chief in 2010, was also replaced by Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad in 2016.

Shukri served at the anti-graft body for 32 years before he retired. He first joined the then Anti-Corruption Agency in 1984 as investigations officer after graduating from Universiti Kebangsaan Malay­sia.

He rose up the ranks and served as ACA director in Perlis, Kelantan and Sabah.

Upon his return to the headquarters in July 2006, he was promoted to the post of assistant investigations director and two months later, was promoted yet again to be the director of investigations.

In 2010, he took on the position of MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations), which he held till his retirement.

Pakatan Harapan appointed Shukri to head the MACC when it took over Putrajaya after GE14.

He clocked in for work at 10.29am on Monday (May 21), having received his appointment letter just about an hour before reporting for duty.

This story was amended to correct some dates. By ashley tang The Star

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Putting in place a new Malaysian order


Robert Kuok attends CEP meeting

THE winds of change have been sweeping through the country in the past fortnight at breathtaking speed.

First, the incredible election results that very few predicted correctly. Then the post-election drama until Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed was sworn in for a historic second time as PM. Followed by many decisions and measures announced daily as Mahathir hit the ground running, or rather sprinting.

The liberation of Anwar Ibrahim “from prison to palace” and from palace to padang for the night rally last Wednesday completed the key milestones in the quick journey from the old discredited order to the new world being born.

Mahathir was not only the man of the hour, masterfully guiding the ship to the harbour, avoiding the last dangers, but also a man in a hurry, laying the foundations for recovering the economy, reforms to key institutions, and getting to the bottom of the 1MDB sacndal.

Quite a few have aptly quoted Shakespeare to describe what happened: “There is a tide in the affairs of men which when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.”

There is another saying, when a revolution has taken place but there is chaos afterwards and the future is uncertain: “The old world is dying but the new cannot be born.”

What is most remarkable about the first post-election days is not how quickly the old era is passing away but how rapidly the new order is being built.

The reconciliation of the two giants of Malaysian politics, Mahathir and Anwar, paved the way to this remarkable new chapter.

When they fell out two decades ago, their story was worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy. Destiny or will or both have provided them a second chance to get it right this time, and if they do, Malaysia itself will have the opportunity to have a bright future.

It will always be remembered that the sacrifices made by Anwar and his family through his three jail terms and the reformasi movement he generated brought the country to where it is.

Equally, history will record that Mahathir not only laid the foundation of the country’s recent economic development and progressive foreign policy in his long stint as PM but also that he returned to “save Malaysia” from the lowest depths the country had descended into.

If reformasi has been the war cry, implementing a true reform agenda is now the prerogative.

Mahathir has now embarked full scale on reform – Anwar says his role is to keep it on the right track.

Understandably, the PM’s first priority is the economy. The new government has been acting to ensure that as far as possible its new policies should not lead to confidence erosion by investors and fund managers.

Removing the GST, Pakatan Harapan’s main election promise, is the number one political prerogative. Concerns that this will lead to a RM40bil revenue shortfall are being countered by expectations of increased revenue from renewal of a sales tax, the hike in oil prices to the current US$80 (RM318) a barrel, and savings from a planned reduction of wastage in government expenditure. The GST removal on June 1 should also lead to price reductions, a boost to consumer spending and the economy as a whole, and thus generate extra state revenue.

The new government will have to deal with the explosive jump in government debt in recent years. In a mere six years between 2011 and 2017, government debt rose 51% from RM456bil to RM687bil, while government-guaranteed debt jumped 94% from RM117bil to RM227bil.

Added together, the federal and federal-guaranteed debt went from RM573bil to RM914bil. It might be more if the debts of other entities are included.

This massive jump in debt may partly explain how the previous government was able to splurge on many projects and on welfare schemes, in failed efforts to win over the public and in schemes that mainly benefited the powerful and their cronies.

The commercial viability and social value of many of the loan-fuelled expenses are questionable.

An audit should be done on sources and uses of the loans, and how to reduce the damage by cutting loss-making projects and improving the performance of those that can be saved.

Recent years also saw the opening up of financial sectors, leading to high foreign participation in government debt and in the stock market, as capital surged into emerging markets like Malaysia in search of higher yield.

There are benefits in good years, but the country also becomes more vulnerable when global trends turn negative, as is happening since higher interest rates in the United States are prompting capital to flow back.

Dealing with the boom-and-bust cycle in capital flows will be a challenge for the new government.

Beyond economics and institutional reforms, there are other pressing issues the new government should focus on.

One of them is the environment. There are crises developing, on water resources and supply, floods, damage to forests and watersheds, hillside collapse and erosion, deterioration of the coastal environment and of course climate change.

Environmental damage harms social life and the economy. Floods and water shortage affect production, and fish prices have shot up due to overfishing and sea pollution.

Priority must thus be put on revamping environment-related policies and on strengthening the Environment Ministry. They have been neglected for far too long.

–  By Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Back to the future for Malaysia


Earth-shattering news: The aftershocks of the
general election are not over by any means. Voter turnout declined by
8.84 percentage points from 84.8 in 2013 to 76 this time around.

MOST Malaysians, including myself, went to bed in the early hours of Thursday morning after hearing the news that the Pakatan Harapan coalition of four parties had won a simple majority of 113 seats out of the 222 parliamentary seats contested in the 14th General Election.

It was earth-shattering news that the Barisan Nasional that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years is now in opposition.

The 92-year-old Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has just been sworn in as the seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia, after having served 22 years as the fourth Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.

In 2016, Dr Mahathir quit Umno and came out with the former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to form Parti Pribumi.

The Pakatan coalition comprises Parti Primbumi, Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara. The last comprises a faction that split off from PAS.

Going forth, there will be a period of political crossovers in which each party tries to bolster its majority at the parliamentary and state levels.

The aftershocks of the general election are not over by any means. My preliminary analysis of the published and available data on the elections showed that voter turnout declined by 8.84 percentage points from 84.8% in 2013 to 76% this time around.

Despite this, the total votes cast in the Parliamentary election were 11.93 million, or roughly 671,000 more than 2013. Out of this, Pakatan got 5.24 million or an increase of 1.25 million votes (over the votes cast for PKR and DAP in 2013) to 43.9% of total votes cast.

In essence, Barisan had a swing against it of just under one million votes to 4.24 million or 35.53% of the total votes cast.

In addition to the rejection of the past government on issues that include the 1MDB scandal, three key trends can be discerned from this year’s general election, which was orderly and surprisingly quiet on polling day, since there were few of the usual rumbustious rallies that followed past elections.

The Malaysian electorate has become mature, learning to be cautious and yet bold in voting for change.

First, it was clear that the urban voters swung decisively to the Pakatan coalition. This trend was clear for quite some time, as the urban population increased with the rural-urban drift.

Umno has traditionally depended on the rural vote for its support, but relied on its urban partners, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan to bolster the urban vote.

This time around, the MCA, MIC and Gerakan were almost wiped out at the polls, with the MCA and MIC party leaders losing their seats and Gerakan winning no seats at all.

This meant that the decisive gains were achieved in the more densely populated states in the West coast of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly with stronger majorities in Penang and Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Johor.

The last was the birthplace and stronghold of Umno, but this time round, even the veteran MP for Johor Baru Tan Sri Shahrir Samad lost heavily.

What was pivotal was the voting in Sabah and Sarawak, which together carried 56 Parliamentary seats and were considered safe “deposits” on which Barisan could rely to carry a majority.

In the end, Pakatan and its ally, Warisan took 24 parliament seats.

Secondly, PAS, the Islamic party that focuses largely on religion, dropped a net of three Parliamentary seats, but took back Terengganu, so that it once again controls two states (Kelantan and Terengganu).

It was clear that the breakaway faction Amanah was not able to draw away sufficient hardcore votes to weaken PAS.

The PAS support amounted to 2.01 million or 16.88% of total votes cast, an increase compared with 1.63 million votes or 14.78% in 2013.

What the rise of Pakatan means is that the urban Malay voters had elected for a change of government and improvements in economic livelihood rather than voting along religious affiliations.

The non-Malay vote, on the other hand, were put off by PAS push for hudud laws and were uncomfortable with Umno’s flirting with PAS on areas touching on religion.

Third, what this general election has done is to bring more new faces and talent into the political arena.

One of the weaknesses of multi-party politics is that under conditions of uncertainty, the tendency was to rely on recycled politicians, rather than experiment with younger professionals.

The new government has the opportunity to engage in generational renewal by bringing in younger leaders from more diverse backgrounds into positions of authority on change at all levels.

Time is of the essence, as Dr Mahathir has promised to stay on as Prime Minister for two years, before passing the baton to Anwar who will be 73 by then.

Nothing would signal more the restoration of the rule of law than the immediate release of Anwar from jail.

To safeguard his legacy, Dr Mahathir has now an unique and historic opportunity to address many of the issues that festered when he was Prime Minister for the first time. If the rule of law has weakened, it was partly because of the controversial steps he took to intervene in the legal institutions in the 1980s.

He needs to strengthen the very institutions that protect the rule of law which he now upholds.

On the economic front, he has inherited an economy that has grown by 5.9% last year, but as the saying goes, the GDP numbers look good, but the people feel bad.

With oil prices back up to over US$70 per barrel, and Malaysia as a net energy exporter, the economic winds are favourable for making the necessary tough reforms.

Cutting GST may be popular, but one has to look closely at the fiscal situation more prudently for the long haul.

How to create good jobs in an age of robotics, even as more youth enter the labour force, is a pressing challenge not just for Malaysia, but throughout the developing world.

On the foreign affairs front, Malaysia will have to navigate between the growing tensions between the United States and China.

Given his feisty style, Dr Mahathir has not been known to mince his words about what he thinks about the South China Sea or for that matter, where Malaysia stands as a leading voice in the South.

In her unique way, Malaysia has voted for a generational change, but with the oldest leader managing that transition. Most new governments find very short political honeymoons, as expectations are now high on delivery. It is always easier to oppose than to propose and implement.

How smoothly that transition occurs will have huge impact not only on Malaysians, but the region as a whole.

By Andrew Sheng who writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.
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The world’s oldest PM, Dr. Mahathir must now walk the talk


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WHEN I attended an election rally of Pakatan Harapan in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur, two weeks ago, I was delighted to see the Malays, Indians and Chinese clapping hands in unison when PKR’s vice-president Tian Chua promised that the coalition would look after the interests of all, regardless of race, once it came into power.

I was touched by the reactions on the ground. It was a good feeling to be among people who share similar aspirations for racial harmony and welfare for all in this multiracial country.

My son also had the same experience at a Pakatan ceramah in Hulu Kelang, Selangor, last week.

It was drizzling and he was soaked. Then a Malay man gave him a shirt to change. He came home telling me he hoped that Pakatan would win to bring back the long-lost spirit of muhibbah and unity.

The spirit of muhibbah had for a long time turned into a rare commodity because the authorities allowed political opportunists to disrupt peace with their disparaging remarks against other communities and religious groups.

Now that Pakatan has toppled the Barisan Nasional government led by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the May 9 general election, it is natural for Malaysians like me and my son to expect a better tomorrow where divisive racist politics is curbed, if not eliminated.

I look forward to the return of the good old days when the spirit of muhibbah among races prevailed.

This expectation is not unrealistic, given the emphasis to multiracialism and unity in the speeches of leaders under Pakatan led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former premier, once disliked by some Chinese for his past racist rule but who appears to have repented, is now the Prime Minister.

But as Dr Mahathir, who has galvanised almost all Opposition forces against Najib for the latter’s association with the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) controversy, is likely to play a key part in governing and “saving” the country, his policy speeches made during campaign are in focus now.

While Dr Mahathir has promised to get rid of corruption in government and Felda, he has also pledged to remove the 6% Goods and Services Tax (GST) and reintroduce fuel subsidies – two issues that have impacted the lower-income group negatively.

But if GST is removed and fuel subsidies are reinstated, Dr Mahathir’s government will have to implement measures to ensure that Malaysia’s fiscal position will not be undermined by populist moves.

With the prices of oil and gas returning to a four-year high, the impact on government finance may be cushioned slightly this year. But for the longer term, sustainability is in doubt.

Indeed, international rating agency Moody’s cautioned yesterday that these campaign promises, if implemented without any other adjustments, would be “credit negative for Malaysia’s sovereign”.

A downgrade in sovereign rating will have a negative impact on the ringgit, interest rates and ranking of our bonds.

It may also affect foreign portfolio investments.

But as Dr Mahathir is a deft hand at crisis management, having led the country out of the 1986 recession and 1998 Asian financial and local political crisis, he should have the wits to forestall any fiscal shortfall.

With many businessmen and economists silently supporting Pakatan, there should be no shortage of talent to help him manage the economy.

These skilled people may emerge in the open soon.

What worries businessmen and economists most is the doctor’s pledge that China investments in Malaysia would be reviewed, and terminated if there were unfair terms in current contracts.

But as Selangor and Penang have attracted substantial direct investments from China, PKR’s Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and DAP’s Lim Guan Eng could present an objective and clearer picture of Chinese investments to Dr Mahathir.

While it is difficult to revoke the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) due to the vast economic benefits it can bring to the country and the favourable terms in loan repayment, it is easier for Malaysia to delay the implementation of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project or stop China from getting the contract.

But before doing anything drastic to cut down national debt, government lawyers have a duty to advise the chief commander on paying vast compensation for breach of contract. As China views Malaysia as a strategic location in its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has been following the political developments closely.

But to be sure, Dr Mahathir was a business-friendly leader when he was the Prime Minister, the first time around.

He was responsible for allowing direct trade between Malaysia and China in the late 1980s, which led to China becoming our largest trading partner. Hence, he is not expected to make policies detrimental to the economy.

One question many people are asking now is: will Malaysia become more democratic under Pakatan rule?

From the campaign speeches made by the coalition’s strategists and Dr Mahathir, this appears to be so – at least for the foreseeable future.

Two PKR vice-presidents, Rafizi Ramli and Tian Chua, have told voters that if one day Pakatan becomes corrupt, the people should vote the coalition out – just like how they brought Najib down.

What Pakatan wants to see is a two- or three-party political system where people have a choice to pick the best among the contenders.

Since Malaysians have boldly voted out Barisan that ruled for over six decades, there is no reason why Pakatan cannot be toppled if it is corrupted by power and greed.

In the campaign speeches, Dr Mahathir promised that he would pass the baton to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who will be released from jail next month.

Will he keep this promise after assuming the powerful post?

The logical answer is he will. At 93, his health may not permit him to carry on with this high-pressured job.

It will also be politically unwise for him to stay beyond his welcome, as Anwar had ori­ginally been the choice of the coalition before Dr Mahathir came into the picture.

Many have high expectations of Anwar, who has the experience of an acting premier, deputy premier and finance minister before he was sacked from the Cabinet in 1998 by Dr Mahathir.

Having survived bitter political battles and endured imprisonments under Dr Mahathir and Najib from 1998 until now, Anwar should understand the people’s needs better and rule with a multiracial outlook.- by Ho Wah Foon The Star

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Youth unemployment hit record high in 2017: MIDF Research


Young and jobless | Invest Cyberjaya

Graduate unemployment was 45.5 of overall jobless amid skills mismatch and demand for low-skilled jobs, says MIDF Research

PETALING JAYA: Youth unemployment was at its highest ever at 10.8% in 2017, of which graduate unemployment constituted about 40.5% or 204,000 of total unemployment due to skills mismatch amid a backdrop where demand for low-skill jobs continues to reign – which in turn may leave the government falling short of its 35% skilled workforce target by 2020, according to MIDF Research.

For every 100 jobs available, there are 76 jobs for elementary occupations and 10 jobs for plant and machinery operators and assemblers, which leaves 14 jobs for the high-skill and other low-skill occupations.

About 86.3% of job vacancies in 2017 were for low-skill jobs which was deemed less suitable for a fresh graduate while high-skill jobs such as professional, technicians and associate professionals, comprised 4.1% of the total job vacancies.

It noted that the high single- and double-digit unemployment rate among youth, defined as those between 15 and 24 years old, as being normal not only in Malaysia, but in Europe, the US and South Korea.

The high youth unemployment rate was mainly contributed by soaring graduate unemployment, despite the steady increase in tertiary-educated workers joining the workforce, which was also the fastest growing segment at 4.1%, followed by secondary at 3.2% and no formal education by 0.3%.

Employment share of professionals and technicians and associate professionals improved to 12.2% and 10.5% in 2017 expanding at 0.8% and 4.6% respectively.

“In terms of share, the rising stake of skilled-worker or tertiary-educated is in line with the Eleventh Malaysia Plan. Under the plan, the government estimated skilled-worker to total workforce ratio to touch 35% by 2020. Nevertheless, we view the ratio is not expected to reach the target at the current pace,” MIDF Research said.

“We forecast the skilled-worker ratio to register at 32% by 2020. Continuous improvement in production efficiency, resource allocations and better technology adoptions under the Industry 4.0 will facilitate and accelerate the productivity level in Malaysia in the long run,” it added.

The overall unemployment rate in the country remained low at 3.4% last year.

Malacca remains as the state with the lowest youth unemployment rate for the seventh consecutive year at 2.9% while Sabah recorded the highest at 13.5% in 2017.

Meanwhile, Selangor the largest employer, 23.2% of total national employment saw overall unemployment rate of 2.8% and youth unemployment rate of 9.4% last year.

The overall youth unemployment rate across all states registered poor performances compared with the previous year, 2016.

In 2018, the youth unemployment rate is expected to fall slightly to 9.9% and the overall unemployment rate to stand at 3.3%.

The job market outlook for commodity-based sectors is expected to improve in tandem with recovering commodity prices. This in line with anticipation of improvement in global trade, and higher demand for export products is expected to benefit industries such as electrical & electronics and mining.- sunbiz@thesundaily.com
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Don’t allow another landslide tragedy to happen !


Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide
Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide
Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

 

STATE exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo should stop talking only of the 76m altitude restriction and also talk of 25-degree slope gradient restriction on hillside development.

According to The Star on Labour Day, state exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo wrote in his Facebook page: “I want everyone to get their facts right during this election campaign…”, and he went on to state that the Penang government did not approve projects on land more than 76m (250 ft) above sea level.

The Penang Structure Plan clearly states that sensitive hill land is defined not only as land over 76m above sea level but also slopes of more than 25 degrees; the development of such land is restricted to “special projects” only.

Any construction on slopes of more than 25 degree contravenes the second condition. Hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude.

For slope stability, the higher the slope face and the steeper the angle, the higher the risk of slope failure.

While the previous Barisan Nasional government here approved many such hillside developments, the record of the present state government shows that more development on sensitive hillsides have been approved.

State exco member Chow Kon Yeow, in his reply to an enquiry in the State Assembly on November 2015, revealed that 56 high-rise towers have been approved on sensitive hill land between 2008 and end-2015.

In the case of the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, DAP leaders claimed that the project was on flat land when it was evident that it was built on land that was once a slope and had been cut flat.

During the earthworks stage of that project, a 20m high, 60-degree angle slope was then formed at the boundary.

It was this slope that failed and buried 11 workers alive.

Under the Hillside Development Guidelines 2012, such a slope is classified as Class Three. Submission requirements include a geo-technical report by a geo-technical engineer and a geo-technical review report by an independent checker.

At present, another proposed project above the Miami Green Resort Condominium is on Class Four land (with slopes greater than 35 degrees) which is classified as “Environmentally Sensitive Areas with Disaster Risk”.

Under the draft Penang Structure Plan 2020, no form of development is allowed on such land.

A technical review of the site by Zeezy Global, a consulting firm, found that the proposed development is on a hill, on Lot 62, with height ranges from 40m to 140m above sea level.

Almost 50% of the slopes have a gradient of more than 25 degrees, and in some areas as steep as 40 to 50 degrees. Some parts of the area designated for construction are higher than 76m.

The project consists of two 34-storey towers of serviced apartments, each with 336 units, and a 20-storey “affordable housing” tower with 197 units.

Two retention ponds larger than an Olympic-sized pool with total capacity of 5.2 millon litres on the hill are planned to cater to expected high surface run-offs during and after construction.

The existence of such a huge mass of water poses potential risks to residents if the slopes de-stabilise during or after construction, particularly if monitoring, maintenance and enforcement are weak.

Existing gunite slopes in Miami Green are not designed for additional loading.

With the new project, exertion of loads at the upper slopes could endanger the residents.

The disturbance from the construction could affect the integrity of the existing slope. No assurance has been made regarding risks of landslides or slope failures during and after construction.

In light of the Tanjung Bungah tragedy, lessons must be learned. If the local and state authorities do not have the technical capacity to implement, monitor and enforce the present hillside guidelines, a moratorium on hillside development should be imposed until such time that this problem is resolved.

The public should not be put at risk anymore. Eleven lives were lost and hopefully not in vain.

By Dr Lim Mah Hui Former Penang Island City councillor
Dr Lim says hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude

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