By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
Why a project, so big and so conspicuous, was allowed to continue, unhindered, right under MBI’s nose? Is there something sinister, a hint of vested interest or worse, complicity?
By now many may have forgotten the tragedy that befell three young friends who were out on an evening ride one fateful October night more than a year ago. The youthful trio had stopped their car at the Jalan Kamaruddin Isa traffic junction in Fair Park. While waiting for the traffic lights to change, the decrepit and partially demolished wall of a row of pre-war buildings came crashing down on their white Perodua Viva. The freak incident took the lives of Mohd Zairi bin Mohd Sabri, 25, and Mohd Firdaus bin Mohd Norzila, 23. Abdil Qudus bin Ismail, 21, who was in the driver’s seat, escaped with minor injuries.
The deceased sustained injuries to their heads and limbs. Both of Firdaus’s legs were crushed. They died on arrival at the nearby General Hospital. The unfortunate incident, which took place at 9.30 p.m. on Friday, October 29, 2009, continues to haunt their grieving parents to this day.
Firdaus’s father, Mohd Norzila bin Abdul Rahman, 47, is grief stricken while his wife, Fawziah bt Salleh, 49, has yet to come to terms with the loss of her eldest son. Norzila, a lorry driver, seeks justice but all his attempts have been in vain. He feels frustrated by the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities, including political leaders to whom he had remonstrated.
“Justice delayed is justice denied” a legal maxim attributed to British premier, William Gladstone, best describes the situation. The proverb, “Out of sight, out of mind” amplifies this paradox even further. Justice, in this case, is purposely delayed in the hope that those involved would forgive and forget.
The single row of pre-war shop houses was a visible landmark in the 60s right to the 80s when developments in the Fair Park area were scarce. The building was home to a news vendor, a barber and a Chinese restaurant belonging to the kopitiam genre. The huge angsana tree adjacent to the building still stands tall by the side of the traffic junction. In its lifetime this imposing raintree has witnessed several accidents and incidents, and the collapsing wall was one in its long list of sightings.
The row of decrepit shop houses was sold off in 2008. The new owners, sensing the economic potential of the area, pooled their resources to build a modern complex to cash in on the boom. A contractor was duly hired to demolish the building, post haste, to make way for the new structure. This was the prelude to the tragic incident which smothered the lives of two innocent youths and maimed another.
The Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 is explicit about laws relating to the construction of buildings and their impact on streets and drains. The local council is the authority that issues work orders to those keen on developing their properties – big or small. Section 70 details the requirements that owners must abide by when erecting buildings. It seems strange that MBI, in the aftermath of the incident, chose to absolve itself of blame when confronted with the question of accountability. Here is the Council’s response to our query:
MBI did not receive any application either from the owner(s) or the contractor to demolish the building.
The demolition works were done without the prior knowledge and approval of MBI.
The state authorities have directed that an inquiry be convened to ascertain cause(s). The composition of the board of inquiry should include representatives from Public Work Department, Department of Security and Health, Construction and Industry Development Board and a serving member of city council.
The board of inquiry has made its findings and has identified the wrong-doers. Legal actions will be instituted against them in due course.
The answers above do not seem to inspire confidence neither do they address the problem, holistically. The question that is on everyone’s lips is why a project, so big and so conspicuous, was allowed to continue, unhindered, right under MBI’s nose? Is there something sinister, a hint of vested interest, or worse, complicity? We can only speculate. Norzila’s quest for justice may have hit a brick wall.