Human rights group calls out Guan Eng over statement on Botak Hill

Source: The Star Online

A bald patch up the Botak Hill.
A bald patch up the Botak Hill.

PETALING JAYA: National Human Rights Society Malaysia (Hakam) has defended non-governmental group Penang Forum for questioning the development on Bukit Relau and has called on the Penang state government not to “readily malign civil society”.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Hakam called out Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng for his remarks at a press conference on Dec 13 in which he had stated that the development on Bukit Relau, also known as Botak Hill, had been approved by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

Hakam also quoted Lim as accusing Penang Forum of having “fallen into the misinformation trap set up by the BN (Barisan Nasional) and some media who are anti-government”.

The development of the land, located above the permitted 76m and 25-degree gradient, is prohibited except for “limited development for special projects”.

“The Penang Forum’s information relating to development on sensitive hill land between 2008 and 2015 was provided by the state government exco to the ADUNs at the State Assembly,” said Hakam.

The organisation also added that the recent decision by the Penang Appeals Board on the matter confirmed that planning permission for development was given during the tenure of the present Penang government.

“In this case, the application was made by a developer on March 2011 and approved in February 2012 for condominium development on sensitive hill land in Sungai Ara.

“That explains the Penang Forum addressing these concerns to the present state government,” said Hakam.

The group also said that the Board had set aside the approval as it was flawed adding that the Penang Forum has been vindicated.

“It was neither a ‘special project’ nor a ‘limited development’.

“We note that the state government approved some 55 blocks of high rise development on delicate hill lands between 2008 and 2015,” it said.

The group also expressed its hope that the Penang government to not readily malign civil society “howsoever obliquely – for the legitimate and well-founded articulation of matters of great concern to civil society”.

“The government is now presented with an excellent opportunity and basis to implement, and if necessary defend, the Appeals Board’s decision in the public interest. We urge them to do so,” read the statement.

The Botak Hill controversy erupted in 2013 when General Accomplishment Sdn. Bhd. stripped the top of the hill bare without written approval from the council.

The state had re-zoned the hill for housing in 2012 but didn’t approve any building plans.

In July 2013, the Sessions Court found the company, which owns the parcel of land, guilty of clearing the 22.89ha site without obtaining approval from the then Penang Municipal Council.

The court fined the company RM30,000 for failing to submit the earthworks plan.

 

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