How will Guan Eng deal with landslide?

How he responds, may decide the outcome of the party and the state in the coming 14th general election as the people will want to know whether they are voting in a government with a backbone or one who likes to point fingers.

John Chin, Berita Daily

So 11 souls, including a Malaysian, have perished in what is arguably the worst ever landslide to befall Penang in the last three decades,

For years, the civil society, who are largely conservationists and social activists, have been championing about saving the hills and on mitigating hillslope construction.

And, in the past several months, there were ample warning signs; around 20 minor landslips and landslides all over Penang; including one which cut off the traditional link to Tanjung Bungah – the Vale of Tempe winding road.

To rehabilitate it, the state took two months.

And now, at the Lengkok Lembah Permai construction site off Tanjung Bungah, the unthinkable occurred – a major landslide buried alive the 11 construction workers – there was absolutely no chance of survival.

Although, 10 are foreigners who may be nameless and unknown to the local residents; the 10 had families, they were married, had girlfriends and children. The sole Pakistani who perished has an Indonesian wife, who is pregnant.

While, the late Malaysian had apparently studied to become an engineer, he was believed to be forced to take up a site supervisory role due to the lack of professional jobs in the construction industry.

He was just starting out on life. He was an idealistic 27–year-old typical Malaysian.

As usual within hours, civil society and the lone environmentalist among the 40 backbenchers in the Penang legislative state assembly were fast to draw their swords of criticism; lambasting the state for ignoring past warnings.

And to be fair to the state’s defence, there was a call to wait for a commission of inquiry to complete their task of probing what went wrong.

A statement from the Department of Environment (DOE) revealed that they had rejected an earlier application by the contractor to build affordable high rise units there because there was a quarry nearby.

In crises; it is where the mettle and character of men and women are tested!

And here now, the challenge is thrown to the DAP–led state government to show relevance that it was voted in by the people to make a positive difference to the lives of everyone, especially the needy.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is one of the most popular politicians around. Like or loath him, Lim is a revered figure on the political scene, and as much as others in DAP may not want to admit, he is now under siege.

How he responds, may decide the outcome of the party and the state in the coming 14th general election as the people will want to know whether they are voting in a government with a backbone or one who likes to point fingers.

It is like school bullies, who when caught, tells the teachers that it was others, who started the fight.

In his own words, Lim has made reference to the global warming phenomenon which has come to ensnare the world although US President Donald J Trump has dismissed it like a fairy tale.

“Now when it rains, it is heavier and when it is hot, it is more humid. We are facing the worst sides of the weather due to global warming,” said Lim.

So the question is what would the state do about it? Even if it is a construction site mishap, why did an avalanche occur here?

Is allowing all hill slope projects to continue because they were approved by BN some nine years ago, an answer?

Is finding alternatives rather than development on hill slopes an answer; forget about the degree or angle of cutting – just a plain ban on hillside development?

Should the state adhere to the desires of the civil society who want an outright ban on hill slope development to take place?

Should Penang pay the price now by compensating developers aggrieved by the decision to cancel hill slope projects or wait later when more lives may be lost?

Should development move away from the island to the mainland or perhaps in the hinterland of Kedah or Perak where there are no hills?

There are a tonne of questions, similar to the tonne of red earth which fell on 11 construction workers; the job of Lim and his charges are to find answers to it before another round of tragedy happens.

Perhaps there is a message from the spiritual side that no one should challenge the might of Gods or mother nature, or their world may come crashing down.