Penang group calls for those who illegally cleared hills to be jailed

Illegally conducted earthworks can be seen here in Bukit Relau September 14, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Illegally conducted earthworks can be seen here in Bukit Relau September 14, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Sept 15 — A non-governmental organisation has called for heavier punishment, including jail terms, against those found to have illegally cleared hill lands.

The Penang Citizen Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) said issuing fines and summons against these offenders is not sufficient.

“The directors of companies involved in illegal earthworks and hill clearing works should be jailed instead of merely fined,” the group legal advisor Yan Lee said in a press conference here.

He said fines for illegal land clearing of up to RM50,000 were a mere slap on the wrist, especially when the companies involved are developers building million-ringgit projects.

“There have been previous cases where the offenders are developers hiding behind their subsidiary companies so the directors of the parent companies were not affected by such cases,” he said.

He said the subsidiary companies can easily pay for these fines imposed by the court but the company directors of the parent companies will have got off scot-free.

Lee was commenting on the illegal clearing of about 40 acres of hill lands in Bukit Relau to make way for a durian orchard.

The Penang Island City Council revealed yesterday that the landowner had illegally cleared four plots of hill lands early this year.

The city council had issued three stop work orders, but the landowner ignored the notices and continued to clear the land, even building a cemented road up the hill.

The landowner finally stopped all works last month after the city council conducted daily checks at the site.

They submitted an application for planning permission on September 1 to the city council but the application has yet to be considered.

The city council is now in the midst of taking legal action against the landowner.

Lee pointed out the Botak Hill, along the same Bukit Relau hill range, which was illegally cleared in 2013, and its landowner fined, is yet to be rehabilitated.

He claimed the site was abandoned and bald patches on the hill were still apparent.

Lee also claimed that a quarry in Teluk Bahang had illegally encroached into a nearby forest reserve.

“These landowners are ignoring the law and clearing lands as they wish,” he said.

He said the authorities should ban these landowners along with their consultants, engineers and contractors.

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