PETALING JAYA, March 15 — A Bukit Gasing property developer insists that it is entirely within their rights to claim damages from a group of residents who sought a judicial review over a residential development.
Gasing Meridian Sdn Bhd (GMSB) said that it was the judiciary’s decision to award them damages and that as respondents in the lawsuit, they were merely following the letter of the law.
“The courts found that we were entitled to damages. The judicial system is in place for order and justice. It is for the residents to take this matter before the court if they claim that the courts’ decision serves otherwise,” GMSB marketing director Leo Tan told Malay Mail Online in an interview earlier this month.
“Our representative stood up in court, in open court, and said, ‘We reserve the right to damages.’ And they didn’t object to that. So okay, if you don’t object, then we proceed along those lines,” he said, referring to the 103 Bukit Gasing residents who initiated the lawsuit.
Residents in the area have condemned the decision to award the developer damages, saying that this will stifle their freedom of speech and discourage others from having their opinions heard through public forums.
Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan and Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran echoed the same sentiment that the residents should not be financially penalised.
The Bukit Gasing residents’ challenge against the developer dates back to 2008, when the group filed for a judicial review to compel the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to hold a public hearing over its decision to grant a development order to Gasing Meridian for a hillside project in 2007.
They claimed DBKL did not provide adequate notice of the development or hold the required public hearings before it granted the order.
The application was rejected by the High Court and was appealed all the way to the Federal Court in 2013, where it was also ultimately dismissed.
The apex court added a twist to the case when the judges deemed it fit to award RM10,000 in costs to both DBKL and Gasing Meridian as well as undetermined damages to the latter, which it sent back for the High Court to decide.
Following another round of appeals against the order for damages, the matter is now back before the Federal Court once more.
Tan said he was unsure about the amount GMSB will claim from the group of residents as that was a decision for the judges.
“I don’t know, it’s for the courts to decide. We have submitted figures to do with our costs, various other items,” he said.
Tan also defended GSMB’s joining the case as a second respondent citing their right to defend themselves, as they were commercially invested in the case.
“What I understand of the case is when the residents took up the case against DBKL, they asked DBKL to stop proceedings on only one project – our project.
“So essentially, it’s almost akin to having an injunction on us as an individual entity. So we had to intervene. As our legal advisor said, ‘It’s about you and if you don’t intervene then you lose all right to say anything,’” Tan said.
GMSB is the developer behind Sanctuary Ridge, a property development in Bukit Gasing with 70 luxury bungalow lots for sale with prices starting in the millions.
Despite an environmental assessment of the land not being necessary, Tan said that GMSB conducted an Environmental Impact Assessment anyway before beginning work on the hill slope.
“Actually for land this size it is not even required but we did do one and it came back as what we pretty much expected. So there’s no primary forest here, no streams, no indigenous flora and fauna, apart from the Pulai trees which we kept, so it was pretty much all clear,” he said.
The marketing director also pointed out that the opinion of the 103 Bukit Gasing residents did not represent the majority as there were many others in the area who did not share their view.
“I have to stress that from what I know of the case there were some people in the area who were not happy, but there are a lot more people living here than the number of people complaining,” he said.
He added, however, that despite the opposition, the courts have sided with the developer repeatedly and that should be justification enough about the merits of the luxury home development.
“From a marketing perspective, what I want to do is just let KL know that, ‘Look this is available, this is something that’s fantastic, it’s a rare opportunity and I’m happy that people appreciate the fact that something that is rare and unique here,’” he said.