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 NEWS

Philip PhangKUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — Faced with yet another high-rise development in the area, a group of Taman Desa residents urged their neighbours yesterday to file for judicial review instead of merely relying on petitions that have no legal standing here.

Protect Taman Desa, a coalition protesting overdevelopment comprising 20 management bodies and residents’ associations, said a five-block condominium project with 2,000 units, located on Jalan Desa Utama facing a koi pond, received a development order about three weeks ago. An application for judicial review must be filed within 90 days.

“We have our civil rights granted to us under the Constitution. These civil rights start with a judicial review,” Protect Taman Desa member Philip Phang told a town hall meeting of over 50 people at the Taman Desa community hall yesterday.

“We can go back to the courts and ask for justice. This is what we’re talking about. For the last 60 years, from our independence, we have — I sound like a politician now — I’m pissed because I’m guilty of it. For the last 40 years of my life, I’ve outsourced my civil rights to politicians, to all these people who were supposed to protect my interests, but at the end of the day, I get screwed. And it’s time that we made a stand,” he added.

He said the Taman Desa Residents Association (TDRA), which has purview over the location of the high-rise project near the koi pond that is purportedly on a narrow tract of land only 40m wide, was in favour of a signature campaign instead of legal action.

“They feel we’re too aggressive because they feel we can’t fight the authorities. We take an alternative approach. It’s proactive. We actually take action and not just sit back and wait for durian to fall from the tree,” said Phang.

TDRA’s petition against overdevelopment in the suburbs of Taman Desa, a joint effort with Seputeh MP Teresa Kok from the DAP, has 1,024 signatures at the time of writing.

Phang claimed that an assistant of the Opposition lawmaker lives in Taman Desa and said: “How can this happen without notifying the residents?”

The chairman of a management corporation in Taman Desa, who did not want to be named for fear of losing his visa, told the town hall meeting that petitions in Malaysia had no legal standing, unlike those in some countries.

“You can get every single signature in Malaysia on an issue, you can get 30 million signatures, the government can still say ‘So what?’” he said.

In the United Kingdom, a petition with 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the government, while one with 100,000 will be considered for a debate in Parliament. In the United States, the White House will review a petition and issue an official response if it gathers 100,000 signatures in 30 days.

A group of 11 Taman Desa residents previously filed a lawsuit to cancel Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) planning permission for another condominium project known as The Address.

According to Phang, another judicial review will also be filed against City Hall for alienating a plot of land designated for a public park and library — which is adjacent to Armada Villa, a landed residential area in Taman Desa — to a developer for another high-rise project.

He said Protect Taman Desa knew of 13 high-density projects in Taman Desa and its surroundings that already have planning approval, which he claimed would double the current number of 8,000 households and 30,000 residents over the next five years.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate this,” he said.

Legal fees for filing a judicial review against the high-rise development near the koi pond, according to Phang, are RM75,000. He said Taman Desa residents had raised over RM90,000 for a lawsuit against a condominium project called Project A that has since been put on hold. RM120,000 was raised to fight The Address project.

“I’m not saying we’ll win,” Phang said.

“If we put up a fight, maybe we’ll have 20 per cent, 30 per cent chance of winning. But if we push hard enough, work together, get the message across, that 30 per cent may become 80 per cent and a 100 per cent.

“If you do nothing, you know you’ll lose. If you do something, there’s still a chance. And if things work out, it’ll snowball.”

Phang told Malay Mail that about 60 to 70 people who attended the town hall meeting put their names down in support of filing for judicial review against the high-rise project near the koi pond.