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Incident prompts lawyer to contest
Published on: Monday, April 08, 2013
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Kota Kinabalu: Lawyer Marcel Jude Joseph on Sunday announced that he will be contesting in the 13th General Election with an aim to champion environmental and other issues that affected the public.For the last three years, according to him, he fought some of the issues in court such as the Atkinson Clock Tower case.

"There has been some success in making the public, the government and the courts to be more aware of environmental and public matters.

"However, this is not enough. I realise I have to take it to the next level.

We not only have to fight these matters in court but need to change the law to better protect the environment and its citizens. This can only be done in Parliament and in the State Legislative Assembly," he said, in a statement.

He said with the exception of State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, who has been consistent with his stand in protecting the environment, not many elected representatives or MPs and political parties have been championing these issues.

"For too long already, the people of Sabah have suffered under elected representatives and MPs who are 'blind' because they could not see injustices.

"They are also deaf because they cannot hear the cries of injustices committed on their people. It doesn't matter which party they belong to but what is the point if we neither could see, hear or talk to them," he said.

Marcel said the next government should comprise elected representatives who will stand up and be counted and speak out on public issues as well as protect the environment.

He said he was shocked to read the front page report yesterday about the disaster at Kukusan Hill in Tawau where a huge boulder loosened from blasting by Hap Seng's quarrying sent it crashing and flattening nine homes while injuring several villagers.

According to him, he was the lawyer who acted for the Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa) to apply for leave for Judicial Review in the Tawau High Court "against the unlawful activities undertaken on Kukusan Hill".

"Judicial Commissioner Datuk Douglas Primus heard the application and dismissed it in January this year. The application was also objected to by the Federal Attorney General," he said.

The application, he said, was against the Director of Forestry, The Director of Lands and Survey, the Director of the Department of the Environment of the Federation of Malaysia and Hap Seng Building Material Sdn Bhd.

It is truly inexcusable that the relevant departments are only now ensuring safety at the area before allowing anymore quarry operations.

"This is a big joke when the protest and court action showed that such a tragedy was inevitable," he said.

The Department of Environment (DoE), Joseph said, rejected the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on March 23 in 2007 and the second EIA report on Apr 15, 2009.

But the same department gave approval to the EIA report dated on June 20, in 2011.

"A full investigation should be carried out on the matter," he said.

As to the Department of Forestry, he queried how quarrying operations on a Forest Reserve could be carried out.

"It doesn't make sense. The Forestry laws allow us to extract forestry produce but not blow up hills and forests with dynamite. The Lands and Surveys Department also has to explain matters to the public because the Kukusan Hill is a trig reserve (trigonometry) to be used as a point of survey in maps and charts.

"It is a point gazetted by the Government. So, how could it be blown up by a private company?" he asked.

Marcel said he sympathised with the residents especially those who lost their homes or have suffered physical injuries from the impact of the fallen boulder.

Joseph said that he has decided to help the people of Tawau who missed the hill they loved so much, especially the Kukusan Hill residents.

"I am willing to undertake a claim in court for damages especially for the residents who have been injured or suffered losses of home or property.

"This will be done pro bono (free of charge). Please email photographs and details of your losses to [email protected]," he said.

Because he is willing to do a pro bono on the case, he said, the residents who suffered injuries need not worry about the court costs.



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