Some have described the politicians’ responses in trying to deflect the blame for the landslide down the line as “tai chi”. But a friend who practises tai chi told me that this ancient Chinese exercise for health of mind, body and spirit is too wholesome an activity to be used as an analogy for the blame game that is going on. So perhaps the elephant and the blindfolded men above might be a more apt depiction of the recent blinkered statements by those in positions of power.
The following is a response by Rexy Prakash Chacko, joint coordinator of Penang Hills Watch, a Penang Forum initiative, to recent quotes in a press report.
“Allegations that complaints were not attended to are untrue. In fact, action was taken immediately in accordance to the existing guidelines and standard operating procedure (SOP),” Zairil told a press conference at his office.
I would like to thank Zairil for providing a detailed response to this particular case highlighted in the Penang Hills Watch 2018 report, 26 days after it was sent to his office.
We reiterate that we only got an acknowledgement (this was not highlighted in the news report) that the report was received by Zairil’s office. There was no response whatsoever to the contents of our Penang Hill Watch 2018 report or to our request to have a follow up meeting to discuss the cases highlighted in the report.
We really hope that this would not just be a thank-you-and-goodbye gesture but urge that Zairil, in the capacity of his portfolio, engage us in sincere dialogue by having a meeting to discuss the follow-up to the cases highlighted in the Penang Hills Watch report.
In living up to the Penang state government’s CAT motto, he should be transparent in revealing what his team has done to address concerns in our report (not just this Bukit Kukus case but also the others which were highlighted in the report).
If indeed the task force has found non-compliance on the side of the contractor after the spot check on 8 October, how is it that work continued on site? And if monitoring was done right, was there any follow up on a constant basis to ensure that the contractor adhered to the mitigation measures as issued by the task force?
Monitoring is not a one-off action where a site visit is done and a letter is sent. It involves constant follow up to ensure that mitigation measures are indeed carried out. And in this case, it had to be immediate.
A visit to the stretches along the Bukit Kukus site on 22 October, 14 days after the spot check, revealed that along the stretch facing Paya Terubong, the hillside is exposed with no measures to prevent soil erosion.
At several spots, rocks exposed by construction are insecurely perched on steep hill slopes, with no measures to prevent rock-falls from happening.
If indeed the measures that were highlighted in the Ops Lumpur exercise were carried out, where exactly were they executed and how is it that many other sites along the construction area still remain precariously exposed, contributing continously not just to soil erosion but also mudfloods, as the report has highlighted.
The previous Penang Hills Watch report, sent in September 2017, received no written response from the Penang Island City Council and only had a written response from the Seberang Perai Municipal Council. So we hope this will not repeat itself.
As this is a citizens’s oriented initiative where information is sourced from the general public, the public has a right to know the status of the cases Penang Hills Watch has highlighted and what is being done to address them. We therefore hope that the current Penang Hill Watch 2018 report report will get given written responses from both councils and other relevant government departments.
“The observation was not near the location where the landslide had occurred. The project contractor also did not mention about the stream during our spot check,” she said.
The state government has mapped information of the tributaries of various streams that flow through the area, so it is not acceptable that they have to rely on the project contractor to know about the location or the existence of the stream.