Penang Gerakan has challenged the state government to be courageous in “blacklisting” errant companies involved in illegal clearing of “forest land” for development purposes.

Its secretary, Oh Tong Keong, said taking the errant companies to court under existing laws seemed inadequate as a deterrent to prevent unscrupulous people from “raping our beautiful hills”.

“Besides the errant company, the directors should also be banned from participating in any future development in Penang. This move can effectively curb raping of our hill,” Oh said in a statement today.

“This is like a drop of water in the ocean for developers,” Oh remarked, referring to section 70A (1) of Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974, which carries a maximum fine of RM50,000.

He added that the Penang’s “so-called” CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) government should be courageous to take action against irresponsible developers.

He said the rape of Bukit Relau in Relau and Bukit Kukus in Paya Terubong by developers not only made the state government’s slogan of “Cleaner Greener Penang” an irony, but also showed that the current legislation was no longer sufficient to curb illegal clearing of Penang’s forests.

Oh said the Penang Municipal Council should refer Section 19 of Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to prosecute irresponsible developers and apply Section 26 (1) from the same Act which had a provision for a maximum fine of RM500,000, two years’ imprisonment, or both.

Oh also referred to Section 52A that stated that the company’s director, manager, secretary or other similar staff, should be held accountable.

For immediate action, Oh said the state government should issue a stop-work order and demand that the developer restore the land to its previous position.

“I understand from NGOs that Penang is now left with about 15% of forests. Only 9% are classified as reserved forests. The government is responsible to protect the ecological needs, especially the endangered species,” he said.

Oh said the state government should call for a public hearing and an independent environmental impact assessment (EIA) on future developments involving environmentally- sensitive land in Penang.

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