The Puchong mind landslide

(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on March 26, 1981 when adjourning the Dewan Rakyat on ‘a matter of urgent, definite, public importance’ ie to debate the Kampong Kandan Mining landslide disaster where 20 people were buried alive and about 75 houses destroyed)

I stand up to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of definite, urgent, public importance, namely the mining landslide disaster at Kampong Kandan at 8½ mile, Jalan Puchong, Kuala Lumpur, where at least 20 people, including children, have been buried alive together with the collapse of about 10 houses, involving the destruction of a further 65 houses in the adjoining areas, making it one of the worst mining disaster in the country.

The Kampong Kandan mining disaster is not a natural disaster, but a man-made disaster. It is apparent that there has been negligence in many quarters involving the mining company, Capitol Mining Sdn. Bhd., the Mining Department and even the State Government of Selangor.

Mining landslips normally involve the death of mining workers, caught in the landfall, and even in these cases, proper safeguard procedures should have made them avoidable. But in the Kampong Kandan case, some 10 houses were swept down by over 200 feet, and as a result, another 65 houses have to be demolished to make the place safe. Clearly, warning signs of impending landslide had been evident for some time, but the authorities and the mining company concerned did not pay heed.

I have been informed that there had been cracks near the mining edge for some time, and responsible mining company would have taken immediate action and measures to protect lives and property in the endangered area, either to get the persons in the danger area to move out with adequate compensation, or to stop mining operations immediately.

In the press today, some editorials and leaders asked the question: “Why do people continue to stay there when cracks have already appeared.”Nobody seemed to have asked the question, which is more appropriate, “Why does the Mining Company continue its mining activities when cracks have appeared, knowing lives and property can be endangered?”

The continuance of mining operations despite the appearance of cracks in the adjoining land and houses just to maximise profits is the height of irresponsibility which could not be condoned.

Similarly, it is the height of irresponsibility and negligence on the part of the mining department to allow the mining company to continue mining activities in such circumstances, especially as the people in the area, including one who was buried alive, had written to State Executive Councillor, Datuk Lee Kim Sai, drawing his attention to the dangers involved.

There had been a minor landslip a few months ago in the same area, and although no lives were lost, livestocks and livestock-pens were lost. This should have opened up the eyes of the mining company and the mining department.

Although there had been a resettlement of a few houses before the mining tragedy on 24th March, I understand that only one of the houses which was swept down the mine had been paid compensation, some $14,000 I am told, and was in the process of shifting, when the tragedy took place.

But for the other houses which went down over 200 feet, no notice or offer of compensation were offered by the mining company to get them out of the danger zone, nor did mining activities cease.

Furthermore, about over two years ago, some 50 houses were resettled from Kampong Kuchai to Kampong Kandan by the State Government and many of these houses have now to be destroyed because they are were in the danger zone. This clearly imply negligence on the State Government’s part to resettle people onto areas which are subject to landslides in the event of mining activities. These people are not squatters, as I have seen the annual assessments they pay to the relevant authorities.

Clearly, the three parties, the mining company, the mining department and the State Government had been grossly negligent in their separate ways to create the man-made disaster and tragedy of Kampong Kandan.

An independent and thorough inquiry must be held into the Kampong Kandan man-made disaster. It is no use the mining department, which is probably a contributing party to the disaster, to conduct the inquiry. It will end up as a white-washing operation, to cover up the negligences of the mining department. It must be completely independent and open inquiry to uncover all the wrongs of omissions and commissions by all parties, so that in all other mining areas in the country, such disasters could be averted.

I must express my grave dissastisfaction with the responses and attitudes of the various authorities after the disaster. I went to the disaster site at about 11 p.m., about six hours after it happened as I was away in rescue operation to save the lives of Klang, and there was completely no those who had been buried and might still be alive. The reason given was it was night and it was dark and dangerous. I was told that next morning, at 8 a.m., an emergency meeting would be held of all relevant departments and organisations concerned to work out a rescue operation at the mining company office.

The meeting did not start the next morning until 9.30 a.m., there was no sense of urgency or about the human tragedy involved. To be fair to the various departmental heads, all of them were at the site early, some as early as 7 a.m. But the meeting could not begin because the leaders’ or ‘head-men’ had not turned up. Although the mining officials, the geological people, the police and the army were there by 8 a.m., it was only at 9.30 a.m. that the District Officer, Encik Tajul Rahim, and the Selangor Executive Councillor, Datuk V. Kandan, sauntered in, after making every-body wait for 90 minutes.

This is most deplorable, and show how lacking a sense of urgency and tragedy, that it is human lives involved, which should have governed the entire government operation in Kampong Kandan.

Why couldn’t the various government departmental heads be convened for an emergency meeting Tuesday night itself, even if they have to be rounded up from various quarters, and even if they lose sleep. Surely, action is urgently needed the next morning to see whether any human lives buried under the mine could have been saved.

In the event, nothing was done yesterday in terms of trying to rescue any lives still there, and until this afternoon, the rescue operation had not started either.

Clearly, when the authorities talk about rescue operation, they do not mean saving lives, but removing corpses.

I am surprised to read in today’s press that the authorities have decided that 65 houses around the disaster area had to be demolished to search for the 19 people buried in the mine. This is because at the meeting yesterday morning, the meeting was briefed that only about 10 to 15 houses had to be demolished, to enable the mine face to be reduced to 30 feet, to build a bund and start the slime-pumping out operation.

The people in the 65 houses affected are understandably agitated, because up till now there is no firm and irrevocable commitment that they would be compensated for the loss they would suffer following the demolition of their houses.

All the mining company, the Capitol Mining Sdn. Bhd., has committed itself is a vague undertaking to compensate in principle. This is surely not good enough, for it opens up loop-holes for evasions subsequently. The mining company, the Capital Mining Sdn. Bhd., must compensate for each of the 65 houses, to remove any possibility of disputs come out with a clear-cut commitment as to the quantum it would and arguments later on.

As the mining department and the State Government of Selangor are also partly responsible in creating the man-made disaster, the Selangor State Government (probably with a grant from the Federal Government), should actively intervene to provide the 65 houses with proper resettlement, including compensation terms.

At present, it is proposed to resettle the 65 houses to another ex-mining land site. After their tragic experience on March 24, it is understandable that the 65 households are opposed to such a resettlement, for having gone through one ‘hell’, they are entitled to ask that they have to go through a second ‘hell’ in the event of another landslide.

I call on the Selangor State ‘Government together with Federal Government aid if necessary, to re-locate the 65 houses to a proper land site Governments to start a new life – not another ex-mining site subject to future landslides. The houses should be built at the expense of the mining company with the contributions, if necessary, of the Federal and State Governments.

In this connection, I want to mention that in Kampong Kandan, there are some 28 cottage industries, some 10 of which are affected by the 65-house demolition plan. Nothing is being done to help re-site and re-start their industry, like furniture making, and I call on the State Government authorities to look after their needs.

I am not happy with the uncertain state of the Kampong Kandan operation with regard to where the aggrieved people in Kampong Kandan can seek redress or ask for compensation in future. As far as I know, there is no proclamation of disaster area. I hope the Minister concerned could explain why no proclamation of disaster area was made, and whether this would be to the detriment of the interests of the people affected.

The Kampong Kandan disaster throws into sharp relief the similar dangers throughout the country with regard to houses near mining operations. I call on the Primary Industries Minister to issue a directive to all states to immediately order an inspection of the safety of the homes, lives and property near mines, and to order and direct the halt of mining operations if necessary. It is no use ordering the halt of mining activities, as in Capital Mining Sdn. Bhd., after lives and property had been destroyed.

Invariably, disasters attract a lot of publicity, ministerial appearance, promises of inquiry, but after the news sensation had subsided, everybody forgets about it. Thus, up till now, the outcome of the investigations into a similar accident at Sungei Kuyoh mine, also in Puchong, in December 1976 where nine people died, had not been finalised yet.

Government expression of concern after each disaster and promise to investigate become a farce after repeated failure to get to the root causes of the disasters.

I call on the Minister to agree to an independent and open inquiry, because we must not have another mining disaster even worse than Kampong Kandan while still waiting for Kampong Kandan and Sungei Kuyoh mining disaster reports.