Penang landslide: Take action against those who breached law, stop work order

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The Penang division of the Malaysian Trades Union Congress, having noted Penang Forum’s statement that it had warned the state government of the dangers of hill clearings in Bukit Kukus and other areas, feels that the state government, the contractors and all other related agencies ought to be held responsible for its total disregard of such advice from experts in that field.

If such warnings had been heeded and remedial course of actions instituted including suspension of work in progress, the tragedy of the unjust loss of lives of workers could have been avoided.

The MTUC Penang Division also finds it completely unforgivable that slope mitigating measures were almost not put in place by those involved in such hill-side projects as reported. The question arises: who are those responsible and whether proper cause of action ought to be brought against them? We believe the answer is obvious.

The MTUC Penang Division also refers to the Penang chief minister’s statement that heavy rain could have been the underlying cause of the Bukit Kukus landslide. Our response to him is this: you do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand the reality of landslides on hill sites – what more when the slopes are, as reported, 60-90 degrees – during the year end rainy season.

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If only the state government and the relevant authorities had taken proactive measures, knowing that the rains would have an impact on the fragile hills of Penang, this tragedy could have been averted.

The Tanjong Bungah landslide, that robbed the lives of 11 workers last year, ought to have been a lesson. But the powers that be have regrettably a short-term memory of the matter.

The MTUC Penang Division is also disappointed with the Penang chief minister’s statement that hill slope work-in-progress will not be stopped. Given the fact that there has not been any soil erosion mitigating measures taken at any of the hill-slope development projects in the state, as reported, we are appalled at his stand on the matter. He apparently seems to be divorced from the possibility of yet another unwarranted tragedy.

Given such circumstances, the MTUC Penang Division calls upon the Department of Occupational Health And Safety (Dosh) to institute action against those responsible for all or any breach of the law including the breach of the stop work order issued on the work-site in question.

Dosh should not and cannot compromise on the matter. We also implore upon Dosh to issue stop-work orders on all hill-site developments in Penang until such time they comply with accepted soil erosion mitigation measures.

We, further, call upon all other relevant authorities to commence their own investigations into the matter to ensure a holistic probe of this unwarranted tragedy.

We also wish to extend our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones.

K Veeriah is secretary of the Penang division of the Malalaysian Trades Union Congress.

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