October 31st, 2012 by Teresa Kok's Office
The Malaysian Insider
By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR | Oct 30, 2012
Selangor has ordered a temporary halt to the construction of the 29-storey condominium near Batu Caves pending the findings of an independent state-level task force to be set up tomorrow, Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said today.
He, however, offered the state’s assurance that the matter would be resolved as soon as possible, admitting that the stop-work order would cost the developers financial losses.
“We must act very fast… because we don’t want to create an unfair business decision. Delays lose money but we must also make sure that it must comply with all the regulations … that is what we are trying to do,” Khalid told a press conference in Parliament.
The Bandar Tun Razak MP said members of the proposed independent task force will be selected during the Selangor state executive council meeting tomorrow.
He said the task force would comprise members without any interest in the issue and will include professionals from the relevant industries such as town planners, lawyers and former judges.
“Let us assess what sort of approvals and plans there have been at Batu Caves over the past 10 or 15 years.
“Our idea is to show Selangor folk that we are transparent in our decision-making and accountable,” he said.
The MIC and Gerakan have been leading protests against the condominium development, that they say was approved by the current Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government, a stone’s throw from the limestone caves that house the popular Sri Subramaniar Temple and the venue of Malaysia’s largest gathering to celebrate Thaipusam, a Hindu festival.
In response, Selangor executive councillor Ronnie Liu had revealed over the weekend that the project was given a “planning approval” in 2007 when the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition governed Selangor, the country’s wealthiest state.
“The explanation by Kohilan saying the ‘Planning Approval’ is not approval to implement is utterly ridiculous,” said Liu, referring to political foe Senator A. Kohilan’s remarks on the project earlier.
The Dolomite Park Avenue condominium project, by developer Dolomite Properties Sdn Bhd, is a sensitive issue as Batu Caves is the religious focal point of Hindu Indians, who form the majority of the 1.7 million Indians and are a key voting group in many urban seats in Selangor.
Kohilan had claimed on Friday that the current PR government, which gained control of Selangor after it defeated BN in the 2008 general election, was behind the approval of Dolomite’s plans to develop the land.
On Friday, about 300 Hindu and non-governmental activists joined a “Save Batu Caves” rally in the Batu Caves temple complex to protest against the condominium construction, saying it was an environmental risk that would jeopardise the temple grounds but did not furnish proof to substantiate their allegations.
Khalid appeared good-natured, however, when addressing the protests, telling reporters that the rallies could continue if its organisers felt a need to hold more gatherings.
“I don’t mind. They can do it… because we in Pakatan are also very good at that,” he said, laughing. “But the process by the state will be very systematic… until we get a conclusion, only then I will make an appropriate announcement.”