By Emmanuel Samarathisa
TO say the collapse of portions of a high-rise development under construction in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur, on Feb 14 came as a shocker is an understatement.
From the get-go, residents have raised concerns over the project, known as The Address. Developed by Maxim Holdings Sdn Bhd, this low-density complex will consist of three towers of 30 storeys each, built on a narrow 132ft tract of former Tenaga Nasional Bhd reserve land.
Ever since construction began in 2017, residents have kicked up a storm, complaining about noise pollution and said that Maxim Holdings ignored construction conditions, especially safety precautions, set by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL).
On Jan 23, 2018, a crane from the construction site fell into neighbouring Tiara Faber Condominium’s grounds.
And their grouses have been vindicated, not once but twice, when the sixth floor of one of the towers collapsed last Friday (Feb 14). Fire and Rescue staff had a tough time pulling out two men from the debris. Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad could only attribute the partial collapse to structural weaknesses.
“There was no landslide or soil movement. The building also collapsed before the rain. There is a huge possibility that the structure failed as it was not strong enough. The foundations, beams or columns may not have followed specifications as the slab gave way and collapsed from the sixth to the first floor,” Khalid told reporters on Feb 15.
But if it failed to follow specifications, is that not a serious offence? Shouldn’t the minister do something?
His Cabinet colleague, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, issued a stop-work order to Maxim Holdings.
She said the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) was tasked to investigate the incident and it would take the agency “a month to determine the cause of the collapse.”
Zuraida, however, denied there were issues with the land and also rushed to the defence of the developer, saying that Maxim Holdings had expressed regret over the incident and apologised.
To whom the developer apologised to is anyone’s guess. Clearly not to the residents who make up the Protect Taman Desa Coalition. They want heads to roll and also the investigation to be made public and transparent.
“We told you so. We are telling the government, we are telling our MP, we are telling our leaders, we are telling DBKL, we told you so that this is a project that will be a disaster… It is a disaster in the making. It is proven now,” Protect Taman Desa Coalition working committee member Philip Phang told the press on Feb 16.
The Address falls under the Seputeh electoral constituency of which Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok is its member of parliament.
“Protect Taman Desa Coalition asks that the findings of the investigation be made public. There must be total transparency without compromise. No stone must be left unturned,” says Phang.
Previously the group tried to file a lawsuit against the Kuala Lumpur mayor to stop the construction of the Address. They cited that the project was to be built on land marked for utilities and not development.
They failed to stop its construction. The Address is now in its second phase.
Not much is known about how Maxim Holdings won the contract to build The Address. The land was initially reserved for Tenaga Nasional, but it was later returned to the government, which alienated the land to Kaisar Bina Sdn Bhd.
The amount Kaiser Bina paid the government to acquire that tract is not publicly disclosed. But Kaisar Bina would soon be acquired by Kaisar Maxim Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Maxim Holdings.
According to company filings as of Feb 17, among Maxim Holdings’ directors is businessman Datuk Seri Gan Yu Chai who, among others, is also a director of Platinum Victory Sdn Bhd, another property development company.
If that name rings any bells it is because this is the same Gan who paid RM500,000 for a photograph featuring Pakatan Harapan leaders that was auctioned off at the coalition’s fundraising event on Dec 11, 2018.
But perhaps what raises even more questions about this project is that the Protect Taman Desa cohort had compiled a list of grievances and suspicions over the project and submitted them to every known authority, including the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
So, why are the enforcement agencies dragging their feet? – Feb 17, 2020