Penang to set up panel to monitor floods, mudflows, soil ersosion, siltation & pollution


Sabri (fourth left) presenting safety vests to Chow (middle) and Lim to symbolically launch the Ops Lumpur enforcement squad at Komtar.

Putting an end to mudflows

THE Penang government has set up a steering committee to launch ‘Ops Lumpur’ to monitor development activities that could contribute to floods and river pollution in the state.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow is the chairman, while his deputies are state exco members Phee Boon Poh and Lim Hock Seng.

The state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) is the secretariat, while committee members comprise those from the local governments, state Economic Planning Unit, state Public Works Department, Department of Environment and district engineers and officers.

Speaking at the launch of the Ops Lumpur enforcement squad yesterday, state DID deputy director S. Ratna Rajah said the committee would make monthly surprise checks at construction sites starting next month.

“Our aim is to ensure that all development comply with the erosion and sediment control plan (ESCP), which is reviewed and approved by the DID.

“The setup of the Ops Lumpur Steering Committee is meant to reduce the risk of flash floods, water pollution and siltation problem,” he said during a briefing at the state DID office in Komtar yesterday.

Ratna Rajah said one of the hotspots was in Paya Terubong, where mudflows and landslips were constantly reported during heavy rain.

He said action could be taken against unregulated project development operators under Section 34 (a) of the Environmental Quality Act, which carries a maximum RM100,000 fine, a jail term not more than five years, or both.

“The authorities can act against developers who have not been given the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (DEIA) approval, or are caught violating the conditions,” he said.

Ratna Rajah said action could also be taken against the perpetrators under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 (Act 133) by the local councils.

“Under Section 71 of the Act, those who failed to ensure the maintenance on the land, could be slapped with a maximum RM500,000 fine, or five years jail, or both,” he said.

Chow said the steering committee would act as adviser to two Implementation Committees spearheaded by Penang Island City Council mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail and Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

“We want to tackle problems like soil erosion and siltation at construction sites, which cause floods and river pollution.

“Our focus is to monitor those project developments with approved plans.

“The landowners, developers, engineers, consultants and contractors should play a role in ensuring they comply with ESCP.

“We need their cooperation so that there won’t be mudflows or river siltation whenever there are heavy rains.

“Sometimes, everything looks good on paper. We need to be at the sites to look for ourselves whether there is any violation of rules and regulations.

“We will visit any ongoing development projects,” he said.

Also present was state DID director Sabri Abdul Mulok.

Source: By Tan Sin Chow The Star/ANN

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Protecting house buyers’ interest


I REFER to the reports “Court: No power to grant extension” and “A fair and right judgment, says housing developer” ( The Star, Feb 28 – Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says).

The High Court decision declaring as ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) the Housing and Local Government Minister’s granting of a one-year extension of time (EOT) to developers to complete a delayed housing project and thus denying house buyers liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD) provided for under the sale and purchase agreement is timely, sound and indeed meritorious. It is hoped that the decision would be maintained should the minister decide to appeal it.

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 was enacted for the protection of home buyers.

The long title of the Act (paragraph stating Parliament’s intent for the Act) says: “An Act to provide for the control and licensing of the business of housing development in Peninsular Malaysia, the protection of the interest of purchasers…” This makes clear that the housing development business is regulated to ensure that the protection of home buyers’ interest is paramount.

Two eminent judges, the late Tun Mohamed Suffian, former Lord President of Malaysia, and the late Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe, the longest serving Chief Justice of Borneo, stated this in two landmark cases respectively.

Suffian LP (Sea Housing Corporation v Lee Poh Chee): “To protect home buyers, most of whom are people of modest means, from rich and powerful developers, Parliament found it necessary to regulate the sale of houses and protect buyers by enacting the Act.”

Lee Hun Hoe CJ (Borneo) (Beca (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Tan Choong Kuang & Anor): “The duty of observing the law is firmly placed on the housing developers for the protection of house buyers. Hence, any infringement of the law would render the housing developer liable to penalty on conviction.”

Respectfully, it is submitted that the decision to grant the developer of a housing project extension of time and thus deny the home buyers’ statutory rights to LAD ought to be exercised with diffidence. The decision, if any, ought to be made with the Act’s long title in mind, namely, “for the protection of interest of purchasers”.

In doing so, some aspects to consider are:

> In granting EOT, how will home buyers’ interest be protected?

> LAD is agreed monetary payment for home buyers’ losses for delay in completion of a housing project. Is denying home buyers’ the LAD by the EOT tantamount to protecting their interest?

Although Section 11(3) of the Act states that the developer under “special circumstances” may apply to the Controller of Housing for EOT, it is submitted that Parliament and the long title of the Act surely did not intend LAD to be wiped out by “a stroke of a pen”.

To avoid doubt, “special circumstances” would mean act of God or natural disaster, for example earth quake or tsunami, and not business or economic related challenges or hardship.

The above view would make legal sense of Section 11(3).

Again, the High Court decision is lauded.

Home buyers’ interest is of paramount importance under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966. The Controller of Housing’s or Minister’s decision, although seemingly made “by a stroke of a pen”, must materialise or recognise this intent. Failing to do so would be ultra vires the Act.

May the redeeming light of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) 1966 continue to shine effervescently and protect effectively home buyer’s interest for many years to come.

This letter is dedicated to the National Housebuyers Association, its great team of lawyers, professionals and volunteers for their sterling and pro-bono efforts to speak up for and preserve home buyers’ interest.

Source: ROBERT TAN,  Home buyer and author of Buying Property From Developer: What You Need To Know And Do, Petaling Jaya

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Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says


 

 
Take them to task: According to the liquidated damages clause, condo buyers can claim 10 per annum of the purchase price for the delay

KUALA LUMPUR: The Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to developers who delay the completion of housing projects, the High Court has ruled in a landmark judgment.

This means a housing developer has to pay compensation to the affected buyers for delays in the delivery of vacant possession.

High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah also held that the regulation which empowers the Controller to modify terms of the contract of sale was ultra vires the Housing Development, Control and Licensing Act.

The judge said this in allowing an application for judicial review by 71 buyers of the Sri Istana condominiums in Old Klang Road against the Housing Controller and Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister.

Their lead counsel Datuk Wong Kok Leong told The Star the judge held that the minister’s decision to grant the developer an extension of time to complete the project via a letter dated Nov 17, 2015 was invalid.

In the letter, the minister had granted the developer a 12-month extension to complete the project.

“This means that the Housing Controller has no power to grant an extension of time to housing developers for any delay in completing their projects,” Wong said.

“Now, the developer has to pay the liquidated damages (a pre-determined sum) for late delivery of vacant possession of those condominium units.”

Wong called the decision a landmark judgment as many project developers seek extensions to complete their projects in Malaysia.

“This is a victory for all house buyers. With this ruling, the housing developer can’t just go to the Housing Controller for an extension of time to complete the project in order to avoid paying the liquidated damages to house buyers.

“This is because if an extension of time is allowed, house buyers lose their rights to claim damages for late delivery of vacant possession,” he added.

Wong explained that according to the liquidated damages clause, the condo buyers can claim 10% per annum of the purchase price for the delay.

In their application for judicial review, the condo buyers stated that they wanted to quash the decision allowing BHL Construction Sdn Bhd an extension of time for the delivery of vacant possession from 36 months to 48 months.

They also asked the court for a declaration that Regulation 11(3) was ultra vires of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) Act.

Wong said the judge has ordered the parties to address the issue of costs on the next date for case management.

When contacted, SFC Mohamad Rizal said the judge also allowed a similar application involving another group of condominium buyers involving the same developer and project.

Source: By  m. mageswari, royce tan, thean lee cheng, eugene mahalingam, The Star

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Retrenchments ahead, says Malaysian Employers Federation


The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) believes that more people will get the axe this year due to the current economic challenges.

Apart from the weak economy, contributing factors include the introduction of “disruptive technology” in some industries, it said.

According to its executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan (pic), economic challenges would see bosses reviewing their workers’ requirements.

“I think slightly more workers will be retrenched this year,” he told a press conference after the Taxation and Employer seminar jointly hosted by the Inland Revenue Board and MEF yesterday.

Shamsuddin said in 2015, about 44,000 workers lost their jobs while up to September last year, about 40,000 workers were retrenched.

He said the complete data for 2016 has not been released by authorities yet, but the numbers could be higher than the previous year.

In 2015, said Shamsuddin, about 18,000 of those who lost their jobs were from the banking sector due to the introduction of what he termed as “disruptive technology”, where banks were increasingly adopting online transactions, for example.

Other industries that could be affected, said Shamsuddin, include insurance, manufacturing and construction.

He said for the insurance industry, many prefer dealing with the companies directly for their services, which makes the job of middlemen or agents, redundant.

“However, these agents are not really part of the retrenchment rate because they are considered to be self-employed,” he said.

Asked to comment on the E-kad (enforcement card) programme by the Immigration Department, Shamsuddin said the Government should consider widening the criteria.

He said the programme should be open to illegal workers who do not have permanent employers.

Currently, only illegal foreign workers with valid employers can register and legalise their work under the E-kad programme.

Shamsuddin said by including illegal foreign workers without employers, the source pool for workers can be widened.

By Hemananthani Vivanandam The Star/ANN

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Penang has confirmed the illegal hill clearing cases reported by Penang Forum


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.

Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.

This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.

“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.

“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.

Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.

He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.

“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”

Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.

The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.

PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. –  The Star

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Weeding out the worrying graft and corruption among Malaysian youths and politicians!


MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil

MACC reveals ‘worrying statistics’

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 50% of those arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the past three years were aged below 40.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil expressed concern over the finding and said it as an “alarming situation”.

Of the 2,329 people arrested since 2014, 1,267 were below 40.

“People in this age group are supposed to be nation’s backbone, who will shape the future of our country,” he said in his keynote speech at a public forum organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) yesterday.

Shamshun said about 982 investigation papers were opened, 932 people were detained and 258 charged by the anti-graft body last year.

“MACC plans to engage with youths this year. The Gen-Y group always finds an easy way. We have to guide them from young and create awareness of what is happening around them,” he said.

On MACC seeking more allocation, Shamshun said the extra funds were for them to implement what they planned for the year.

“We need more whistle-blowers who can voluntarily come forward to report or provide information on corruption activities.”

He said such individuals will be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, that shields informants from action. – by Ashwin Kumar thesun

Weeding out graft among youths

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) will push on with efforts to eradicate corruption in the civil service in the face of budget cuts, says its deputy chief commissioner (prevention).

Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) told reporters that the commissions’ plan for 2017 would be to focus on Government agencies, as well as arresting the growing trend of corruption among youths.

Responding to questions on cuts to the MACC’s budget, he said it was an issue faced by all agencies, though the commission had appealed for more funding to carry out its plans.

“We can’t do everything at once because of (MACC’s) strength and budget. But my concern is also about how many of those arrested are under 40 years old,” said Shamshun Baharin, adding that 54% of those arrested (1,267 of 2,329 cases) were under 40.

He attributed the trend to the generation’s environment and wanting to take shortcuts, which MACC aimed to combat with the establishment of a corruption prevention secretariat in higher learning institutions.

During his keynote address at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) forum titled ‘Supporting the MACC in the fight against corruption’, Shamshun Baharin said 2016 had been a successful year for the commission.

He revealed that arrest numbers had gone up from 841 (2015) to 932 (2016), of which 258 suspects had been brought to court, as of Dec 15 last year.

At the event, IDEAS CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan launched a signature drive under its #NyahKorupsi campaign, to support the MACC.

“Our goal is to have more Malaysians come out in support of the MACC because it has made more investigations and arrests of corrupt top officials. There may be a time when they will need our help,” he said.

He said IDEAS would collect as many signatures as possible before delivering it to MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad.

To sign the petition, visit http://www.change.org/p/sokong-sprm-perangi-rasuah.

The other forum panellist included Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akbar Satar, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism executive director Cynthia Gabriel, Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang and Sinar Project co-founder Khairil Yusof. – By Qishin Tariq The Star/ANN

Just you wait, MACC boss warns corrupt politicians

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad,

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has warned corrupt politicians to “be careful”.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, in a live television interview yesterday, said he had previously stated that he would take action on anyone involved in corrupt practices, including “politicians of any rank”.

“On my 100th day as MACC chief, I said that I will not be stopped from taking action against politicians.

“Tonight, I would like to say to corrupt politicians, just you wait (tunggulah),” he said.

Dzulkifli added that the MACC was not worried about “protected individuals” who committed systemic corruption.

“There is no issue about them being protected, I can guarantee that all those who commit corruption will not be left alone. I will take action against them without fear or favour,” he added.

But Dzulkifli admitted that the MACC had its limitations in terms of logistics.

“There are only 2,900 members and officers in the whole of the MACC, of which only 900 carry out legal enforcement as others are in the prevention and education departments, among others.

“Now if you look at the civil service alone, there are 1.6 million of them, so that is one.

“Besides that, is budget, that has been cut, and it is at its lowest since 2013,” he said.

Dzulkifli, however, added that he would not allow the limitations to stop the anti-graft body from carrying out its duties.

The Astro Awani interview is Dzulkifl’s first ever live interview since his appointment in July last year.

Dzulkifli, a veteran in the civil service, was the head of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team of the Attorney-General’s Chambers before being appointed chief commissioner.

He took over from Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, and his tenure is until July 31, 2021.

– By D. Kanyakumari The Star/ANN

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Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Thinking Liberally

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely
the writer’s own.

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