9 July 2014
The Selangor state government is only holding meetings with residents after laying the groundwork for compulsory acquisition.
WHEN the North South Highway was proposed, there was some serious opposition to it. In fact, there was a famous case as a result: a case that had far-reaching consequences in law. But that is not the point of this article.
I remember at the time that I was not supportive of the voices against the highway. I was very young then of course and I am sure many of the arguments went over my head, but fundamentally, I was in favour of it.
This was because ultimately, the new road would cut travel time between Penang and Kuala Lumpur by half.
However, not all road projects are that obviously beneficial. Take this Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex) proposal. It is supposed to link Kinrara to Damansara. With apologies to residents of Kinrara, I always thought that part of town rather sounds like a Japanese cartoon: “Sergeant Kinrara and the Kinrara Platoon”, or something like that. Anyway, this new highway, sorry, skyway, we are told will ease traffic flow by 3% to 5%. Excuse me?
The residents of large chunks of Petaling Jaya will have to face heaven knows how many years of madness-inducing building works; the disappearance of their property values; the compulsory acquisition of their homes; environmental degradation; and the permanent scarring of their town with hideously ugly concrete tentacles; and all this for 3% to 5%?
That simply does not make any sense. But what makes even less sense to me is that this project has the complicity of the Selangor state government. A government that is under the control of the Pakatan Rakyat, which in case they have forgotten stands for People’s Alliance. And as befitting their name, the alliance has promised a more people-centric approach to governance.
This being so, then it looks like at least in this case, they seem to have forgotten that. Granted, the project is proposed by the Federal Government, but the state government has to approve it in principle first for the project to go ahead. Were the people consulted before this approval was given?
And we know it has been given. Furthermore, they have gone so far as to lay the groundwork for compulsory acquisition as the necessary gazetting has been done, something only the state government can do. It looks like they are all ready to go.
Which makes the meetings with residents now seem to be a stage show. First and foremost, it should have been done before any decision is made, not after. By having meetings now, at best, it means that they may change their minds. At worst it is window dressing to make themselves look good, without actually changing anything.
There are many problems with the way development is conducted in this country. For example, in my view, the Environmental Impact Assessment system we have has many serious flaws.
I understand that the Pakatan state government can’t do anything about that. But they had it in their power to introduce practices and policies, which do not need legislation, to bring people into the decision-making process for projects with such a huge impact such as this one. For example, have proper consultations with residents before making their decisions.
I finish with a reproduction of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration of which Malaysia is a signatory.
Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by the public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.
Nothing that they have done with regard to the Kidex skyway indicates an adherence to this principle. I expected better.