Thursday, February 22, 2007

Istanbul Apartment Collapse.

22nd. Feb 2007

Istanbul: A 5-storey apartment building collapsed yesterday (21st. Feb 2007), killing at least one and injured 26 others.

Officials blamed the collapse on shoddy construction but could not provide an immediate explanation.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Plaza Damas: Another accident & death

Worker falls to his death at Plaza Damas construction site

1st February 2007

KUALA LUMPUR: Another more incident/accident from Plaza Damas.

A worker fell to his death at the construction site of Plaza Damas in Sri Hartamas here, barely a year after corporate consultant Dr Liew Boon-Horng died when a cement mould smashed onto his car at the same place.

The 34-year-old Indonesian, identified only as Asmali, was found dead yesterday on the seventh floor of a condominium-cum-office block under construction. He was seen working on the 23rd floor before he fell to his death about noon, when most of the workers were on their lunch break. Police have ruled out foul play for now.

Federal Territory Department of Occupational Safety and Health director Omar Mat Piah said the department had imposed a stop-work order on the site. He said details of Asmali's fall were being investigated.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye has urged the implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Management System to prevent industrial accidents. He said contractors should also carry out Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Risk Control at work sites for the safety of the workers as well as the people. “Safety cannot be taken for granted. These places are bound to be risky but we must control it,'' he added. Lee said supervisors of construction sites should also ensure that workers wear protective gear.

No end to Plaza Damas woes! Is it Feng Shui or poor management?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Price of Timber and Plywood on Uptrend

Contractors should heed the warning!

There is acute shortages of plywood and timber.

Prices of plywood had soared to new highs, largely driven by acute shortages as well as the higher power and fuel costs. Prices of plywood had in fact reached record prices in ringgit terms. Currently, the price is about USD450 which is about RM1,650 per cu. m. The record price for plywood in 1990s was about RM1,500.

The price of glue, diesel and electricity had gone up.

Prices of timber had gone up by 20% and expected to be on the uptrend. It was reported that timber traders have marked up prices by up to 30% across the board for all timber species towards the end of May 2006.

It is believed that it will soar further!

For those contractors who are tendering for new projects, your pricing must take into consideration of the risk associated including the possible hike in price of steel and steel products, aluminium, and all types of roofing materials.

For those contractors who had just secured a new project, or in the early implementation phases, you will have to relook into the project budget and costing and prepare strategic actions to mitigate the risk of losses and failures.

That's business!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Computer Lab Fiasco

March 2003

More than 1,200 computer lab project were deemed unsafe!

The issue of unsafe school computer rooms was triggered in March 2003 when the roof of the building in Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Rentam, Kuantan collapsed.

The then Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad ordered investigation and later revealed that 1,200 computer laboratories nationwide were deemed unsafe due to shoddy workmanship.

15th May 2004, NSTP

Not much has changed since the disasterious state of school computer laboratories grabbed the headline one year ago.

“I have heard about this issues before being appointed as the Education Minister, but never had I imagined that it could be this serious,” said Hishamuddin Hussein Onn.

“I am sad and embarrassed that as the Minister who is responsible for this matter, schools in my own constituency are still facing this problem.”

“I can’t imagine what the situation is in other parts of the country.”

It was shocking to know the shoddy workmanship of the building were so extensive that in some cases repairs were still going on for more than 6 months.

The computer laboratory at the school was found to be useless after it was discovered that the contractor had failed to notice it was built on top of a main water pipe.

The PWD was ordered to take over the construction of the computer laboratories. The decision to get PWD to complete the remaining works was due to the various roof collapse.

Works Minister, Samy Vellu said that 574 computer laboratories for primary and secondary schools in Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan were unsafe and in dangerous conditions.

PWD district engineers nationwide had been directed to submit reports on the state of each school computer lab in their areas within a month. The reports were to include the safety aspects, who the contractors were, and the dates which delayed projects could be completed. The report must also include information on who was responsible for monitoring the project at each school.

The government terminated the service of the contractor and consultant as both were found to be completely at fault for delay and shoddy workmanship and poor materials.

To-date, nothing was reported and no actions taken against those responsible.

EPF Poor Project & Land Management

23rd July 2003, The Star

EPF had to discontinue its housing projects on 419 pieces on land it owns in 2001 due to financial difficulties, poor planning & ineffective supervision. This include projects on 415 pieces of land in Kuala Kuantan in Pahang and 4 pieces of land in Petaling district in Kuala Lumpur.

The Auditor report stated that EPF owned a total of 486 pieces of land worth RM854.48 million and to-date only 46 of them had been fully developed.

Overall, the Auditors found that EPF did not implement the development according to the plans approved by the investment panel.

The report said that the main cause of problem was due to poor planning and ineffective supervision. The report also found that land management by EPF was poor. Citing an example of a project in Petaling District, the report said EPF had spent RM59.63 million up to December 2002 and the project had to stop as EPF did not receive planning approval from the local government to change the land use from housing to commercial use.

EPF also bought a land in Shah Alam to built its new headquarters to replace the one in Jalan Gasing in Petaling Jaya.

Mysterious Overpayment for Police Housing Project

27th July 2003, NST

The Anti Corruption Agency is investigating the involvement of Home Ministry officials in the “mysterious” payout of government funds for a failed RM18 million police housing project in Batu Pahat.

The Ministry records showed that since the project was launched in 1996, RM16 million was paid to the contractor even though the project was stalled for almost 4 years.
The payments also did not tally with the 242 houses that were supposed to have been built, as the project was short of 70 units.

The ACA had not made any arrest to-date.

Stadium & Hall Roof Structure Collapse

8th October 2005, NST

The roof of the multi-purpose hall at Sekolah Menengah Sains Sultan Ahmad Shah in Kuantan collapsed. It is learnt that the supporting aluminium structure and the roof tiles came down at 10pm.

The construction of the hall was categorised as a “Sick Project” and was being closely monitored.

16th April 2005, The Star

An Indonesian worker was killed and 4 others seriously injured when the steel roof structure for the bowling stadium under construction collapsed.

The construction site of the stadium is in Paroi, Negri Sembilan.

60m Crane Collapse

A 60m mobile crane crashed at a construction site in Jalan Raja Hassan, Klang. No one was killed.

Jasa Mutiara Sdb Bhd project manager Freddie Tan said his company hired the crane for lifting heavy construction materials in the 15-storey Klang City Square project.

Tower Crane Collapse Killing 4

A tower crane collapse and 4 Indonesian workers were killed at Batu 15, Jalan Puchong, Kuala Lumpur.

Tower crane operator Hadi Suyilno died under the collapse steel beam.

In another incident at Koi Tropica Condominium project, a crane lifting up materials snapped and the crane swung back and collapse. The developer of Koi Tropika is Pagoda Canggih Sdn Bhd.

Both projects were issued stopwork orders. That's all! Thereafter, work continues.

Concrete Floor Collapse

3rd April 2005, NST Report

Three Indonesian workers were killed after a concrete floor of an office block under construction collapsed today.

The trio were building a dome at the six-storey Wisma Dermal Esthetica in Jalan Astaka U8/88 in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam when the floor collapsed at about 9.15am.

The trio were removing the screws from the concrete slabs installed several days ago when the mishap occurred at 9.15am, bringing down the adjoining pillars and metal scaffolding as well.

Pothole Patcher in Johor Bahru

Odd-job worker, he likes to be called, Panjang, has become a folk hero of sorts in this city for his determination to cover every pothole he sees,

Well-wishers gave him cement to help in his patchwork. The 64-year-old man also received food and two bicycles to help him move about.

Panjang, said he came from a wealthy family in Penang. He said he was a businessman once and had worked in Singapore for almost 25 years. “My uncle, who died some time ago, inspired me to do good for others,” he said. Panjang, wearing a tattered T-shirt and pants, also makes a living selling Chinese health magazines. He speaks fluent English.

Last month, The Star reported that Panjang, who declined to disclose his real name, had taken it upon himself to cover potholes wherever he found them as they were posing danger in the streets. Once while he was patching a hole along busy Jalan Maju, a motorist knocked into his bicycle that he had parked behind a car.

Panjang, who claimed to have started his crusade against potholes two years ago, had risked his life many times covering holes in the middle of the road without proper warning signs. He said he has done odd jobs that allowed him to know the right mixture of sand and cement to use in sealing potholes. He could not tell how many potholes he had sealed so far but said: “I have patched up many potholes around Jalan Maju, Jalan Serampang and Jalan Perang.”

With hands full of scars and a set of stained teeth, Panjang said while some people had warmed up to him, some continued to ridicule and throw insults at him. “This will not deter me from carrying out my task and I am more determined,” he said, adding that he never asked for anything in return for his service.

The Johor Bahru authorities stand aside and watch him do those works which are relatively dangerous and he is not assisted by any flagman or signages.

Aren't the authorities failing in their duties such that an old man would have to go round the town patching up potholes?

10m High Wall of Danger

You buy a house costing a million in upmarket Mount Kiara - hell of expensive, but you believe it's worth it as it's a good investment.

Suddenly, at the back of your house, the neighbour developer built a 10 meter high wall which blocks your rights to have good airflow and lights. Worse off, the wall develops crack and wet soil seeps out of the cracks.

Now, you are at risk that soon, you will be asked to move out of your house due to the high risk of collapse. Nobody wants to buy your house and you have hundreds of thousands in mortgage loan to settle with your bankers.

Read this story:

House owners in Villa Aseana, a new housing project in Mount Kiara are angry that a 10m high wall has been built behind their new houses.

The developer of the land next door, Merge Power S/B erected the wall so that it could fill up the land’s sloping terrain with earth for its building project.

The wall however has showed signs of cracks and soils from the other side are leaking through the cracks. The residents had written to city hall and City Hall had issued an order to the developer to tear down the wall. The approved plan only allowed a 1m high wall. City Hall said they had given the developer one month’s notice to take down the wall or sent in the amended drawings for approval. City Hall said they will continue to monitor the developer and ensure that they abide by the plan.

What will you do if you are the dominant owner? What is your rights against the servient owner?

Read more here

Demolition of Pekeliling Flats

Two More Blocks of Flats under Demolition

WORK to demolish two blocks of the 17-storey Pekeliling Flats on the Lebuhraya Mahameru-bound Jalan Tun Razak are expected to be completed by April.

Once the two high-rises, Blocks A101 and B91, have been knocked down, work will begin on the first phase of an urban renewal project called Tamansari.

The Tamansari project will be undertaken by Government-appointed developer ASIE Sdn Bhd.

Since the demolition exercise started on Dec 27 last year, Blocks H99 and J97, consisting of four-storey shophouses, had been torn down by crawler-mounted excavators.

Another seven blocks on the Jalan Pahang-bound side of the road will be demolished at a later stage. C. Sivakumar, the safety and health officer of Chang Cherng Trading which has been contracted by ASIE to undertake the demolition project, said his company was complying with safety regulations such as in the use of scaffolds, safety nets and other safety measures and methodologies constituted in the Factories and Machinery Act 1974 and Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994.

“We achieved zero-occupational accident, zero-poisoning and zero-disease outbreak at our site throughout January,” he said during a media briefing at the site office in Jalan Pekeliling Lama.

Media members were taken on a tour of the site where a crawler-mounted excavator was hoisted to the top of the 17-storey Block B91.

There, several excavators will break the pre-fabricated structures into small concrete pieces before disposing of them through the flat's air wells used as chutes to transfer debris from the top to the ground level. As excavators work on the top of the building, debris will be hauled away through the openings of the chutes. This method will be used to demolish Levels 6 to 17 while long-arm cranes with breaker jaws will break down the remaining structures from the sixth floor onwards. Sivakumar said 37 workers had been engaged for the job.

"Although we’ve been given April 15 as deadline to finish the demolition, we have requested for an extension as we want to carry out the project slowly to reduce the environmental impact on surrounding areas,” he said. Residents of Blocks A, B, D, H, J, and L have been relocated to other newer public flats, mainly Desa Rejang PPR in Setapak Jaya, leaving only Blocks C, E, F , G and K occupied.

One of Kuala Lumpur’s earliest public housing projects, the Pekeliling Flats – also known as Tunku Abdul Rahman public flats – were built in 1967. There were 11 residential blocks comprising 2,969 units.

Pedestrain Bridge Fall

Truck damages pedestrian bridge

KLANG: Students, teachers and office workers were stunned by a loud noise caused by a tipper truck hitting part of a pedestrian bridge over the inner lane parallel to Persiaran Raja Muda Musa here yesterday.

A portion of the bridge was dislodged from the brackets.

In the 7.45am incident, the carrier of a tipper truck malfunctioned, causing it to rise and hit the bridge.

“From initial investigations it was found that a tipper truck was heading to Klang town and all of a sudden the carrier came up. It hit the bridge which has a 4.7m clearance. On impact, a portion of the bridge was dislodged from its brackets. No one was hurt in the incident.

Built in the late 70s, the bridge is used by students from SM La Salle, SM Hin Hua and SM Tengku Ampuan Rahimah.

“For now the students are advised not to use the bridge until the Public Works Department has checked the structure,” C/Insp Razali said.

He added that traffic personnel would be stationed at the site to help students cross the road safely.

R.C. Piles Falls Down

A R.C. pile from the Dataran Development project fell across Jalan melaka in front of the Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca and crushed a 4x4 vehicle. No one was hurt.
Workers immediately lifted the pile off the road. The vehicle was taken into the site and covered with a white cloth.

Developer: Kumpulan Melaka Bhd

Contractor: Lianbang Ventures Sdn Bhd

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Highland Tower Tragedy

This landmark case arose out of the 1993 tragedy of the collapse of a tower block in the Highland Towers development in Ampang, just outside the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur leading to loss of life and the loss of use of the Blocks that remained standing.

The event gained widespread publicity at the time, in particular as it was captured by a dramatic sequence of photographs taken by an American visitor to the Towers, and the frantic rescue operations over the next ten days.

The case has several important implications for Building Professionals in Malaysia, which will be the focus of this discussion, and also led to interesting developments and clarifications in the law of tort in Malaysia.

Brief facts

Highland Towers consisted of three blocks 12 storey high apartments named simply as Block 1, 2 and 3 respectively. It was constructed sometime between 1975 and 1978. Directly behind the 3 blocks was a steep hill with a stream flowing west (“the East Stream”), which would have passed harmlessly to the south of the Highland Towers site if it was allowed to follow its natural course.

Some time in the course of the Highland Towers development (as found by the Court) the East Stream was diverted by means of a pipe culvert to flow northwards across the hillslope directly behind Highland Towers. The approved drainage system on the hillslope behind Highland Towers was never completed.

On Saturday, the 11th December 1993, at about 1.30p.m., after 10 days of continuous rainfall, Block 1 collapsed.

The 2nd Defendant, an architectural draughtsman, was the purported architect of Highland Towers.

The Cause Of Collapse Of Block 1

In order to determine the liabilities of defendants on the allegations as charged by the plaintiffs, it is necessary at the onset to establish the cause of the collapse of Block 1 which lead to the forced evacuation Block 2 & 3. To decide on this, it is essential to disclose some brief facts.

Highland Towers & Its Surrounding Features

The retaining walls

The 3 apartment blocks of Highland Towers were built on elevated land with a relatively flat base. Directly behind it was a steep hill. Though some witnesses have describe the gradient of this hill to be 10 to 20 degrees but, by my estimate from various photographs tendered as exhibits, I perceive it to be far steeper. This hill was terraced, supported by retaining rubble walls made of boulders and cobbles of rock of varying seize placed together by mortar at a random fashion. Some of these walls had collapsed and were buried in the soil at the time of the Highland Towers tragedy. Those left are still standing, either in part or as a whole, but in a dire state of repair. From a physical survey was commissioned by MPAJ soon after the collapse of Block 1 on the affected area, covering the Highland Towers Site and the Arab Malaysian Land, it is apparent that these retaining walls were constructed in a haphazardous manner. Some were located on the Highland Towers Site with the rest in the Arab Malaysian Land.

Ownership of the slope behind Highland Towers

Both the Highland Towers Site and the Arab Malaysian Land once belonged to a common owner - the 1st defendant, who intended to develop the entire area into a housing scheme with 3 apartment blocks on Highland Towers Site and bungalows on the Arab Malaysian Land. When the lands were subdivided and issued with individual documents of title, the 1st defendant mortgaged the bungalow lots, consisting of 50 in number, to the 5th defendant in consideration of some financial arrangements. When the loans were not repaid, the 50 bungalow lots were transferred to the 5th defendant in November 1991 to offset the amount due.

The East Stream & pipe culvert

At the furthest eastern corner of the Arab Malaysian Land water from a stream, popularly known as the "East Stream" (which name is totally inappropriate since it actually flows westward), enters the 5th defendant land. The source of this stream originates from the Metrolux Land. It flows down hill in a westerly direction until it reaches a plateau where it forms a mud pond. From here the water is channeled into a set of concrete culverts which directs it to a pipe culvert (pipe culvert). This pipe culvert runs horizontally right across the hill slope of the Arab Malaysian Land. After passing through 10 bungalow lots, the water from this pipe is discharged into Lot 445 which is situated in the north. Lot 445 is a government land. This entire section of the land, as described, seems unaffected by the effects of the landslide that brought down Block 1.

The initial section of this pipe culvert was built as an integrated part of a retaining wall. It has manholes located at various intervals. Just by the side of this pipe culvert, running for some distance, is an open concrete drain. This was intended to drain surface runoff water while the pipe culvert catered for the water emanating from the East Stream.

All drainage and geo-technical experts who testified in this case agree that the flow regime of the East Stream into the pipe culvert running across the hill is highly undesirable and dangerous. Instead of water flowing along its natural course - downhill (following its natural terrain), it is now diverted into a man made structure that requires constant maintenance and supervision. Failure to attend to this will affect slope stability, causing a danger to humans living down slope. It must have been this concern that, subsequent to the collapse of Block 1, the rescue operators, upon discovering this unwarranted drainage system of the East Stream, redirected the flow pattern of this stream to its natural course, downhill in a westerly direction. They did it by placing sandbags in an area to prevent the flow of water into the pipe culvert. This is not completely successful since, by my observation during this Court's visit to the area, water is still detected in the pipe culvert.

Further down slope on the Arab Malaysian Land is network of drains. Those at the upper sector are earth drains while at the lower portion are made of concrete. These drains, I believed cater for surface water runoff while the pipe culvert was take care of the discharge emanating from the East Stream. Though in certain areas these drains are disconnected abruptly, presumably caused by the landslide that brought down Block 1, those at the upper level are still intact. But they are in an odd fashion. Starting from the top, a drain runs parallel for some distance along the pipe culvert. It then suddenly makes a U-turn to flow back in the same direction from where it came from. Then after proceeding for some distance, it is connected to a culvert across a road reserve. At this culvert and joining it is a drain coming from the opposite direction. By deduction, this drain from the opposite caters for water runoff on the southern side of the slope. From the junction the drain proceeds down hill and terminates abruptly at far right at a level parallel to the rear of Highland Towers. From an overall view of the post-collapse survey plan, this drain must have continued along the rear of Highland Towers until the end of Block 3 when it turned left down hill and drained into the lower section of the government land - Lot 445.

This drainage pattern too, in the view of all experts in the field of hydrology, is far from satisfactory. Firstly, large section of drains is earth drains that can be easily eroded. Secondly, water can infiltrate into the soil of these earth drains at a greater rate than those made of concrete. Thirdly, the flow pattern of these drains is undesirable. It does not flow naturally down hill. Instead it makes a number of U-turns, one of which even flows backwards to the direction where it came from. Fourthly, the drains are insufficient to accommodate the amount of runoff from the slope. Fifthly, the drains are in a vegetated area and maintenance is regularly and constantly required.

Before the Arab Malaysian Land was sold to the 5th defendant, Mr. Lim (DW1) was in charged of the drains on the slope. He ensured water in the drains flowed without interruptions, particularly from vegetation around it, and when the drains were damaged he would repaired it. Failure or neglect to ensure these has serious consequences as can witnessed by the flooding of the car parks at the Highland Towers accompanied by rocks and mud and a landslide on the slope some months before the collapse of Block 1. This was when Tropic moved into the Arab Malaysian Land to excavate and cleared the vegetation as well as leaving branches of trees and debris in the drains.

Bruce Mitchell's photographs

The 3 blocks of Highland Towers were built in such a manner that Block 1 and 3 were almost parallel to each other, with Block 2 in between set slightly back. From the window of the of the 4th floor of Block 3, a resident, Mr. Bruce Mitchell, had the presence of mind to snap a series of photographs just before the collapsed of Block 1. These highly commendable pictures, 6 in number, recorded the tragedy and rendered us a grime reminder of the last moments before the disaster that took so many lives and caused enormous loss of property. These pictures also provided invaluable information to specialist in the field of geo-technology to determine the cause of the collapse. They are marked as exhibit P7A - 7H but are commonly, throughout this trial, referred to as the "Mitchell Pictures".

As principal expert witnesses have relied extensively on these pictures to form their opinion, it is essential that I do give a brief description of each of these.

Photograph P7A, shows a view of the rear section of Highland Towers framed on both sides by the balconies from apartments in Block 1 & 2. At the furthest end of the picture is the hill slope. Erosion scars are seen in two areas where they are engulfed by vegetation, mainly trees which lean downhill as if being pushed by some force from above. Beneath is a rubble retaining wall. In front of this wall is a heap of earth with fragments of tar spawn over. Lower down from this spot is a continuous row of corrugated asbestos roofs in a state of collapse, with motor vehicles trapped under. Right next to this and slightly further front, is a cement slap which looks like an open-air badminton court. Supporting it is a rubble retaining wall topped by flower plants.

The left side of picture P7B shows a partial profile of Block 1 with some balconies of apartments facing Kuala Lumpur City protruding out. Beneath these is a tar-paved road with 3 motor cars parked in a row. At the far end of this road is a rubble retaining wall supporting a growth of lush green vegetation. The lower portion of this retaining wall has explored with soil spawn over a lower tier road. A lamppost standing close to the area where the soil is seen emitting has leaned.

Photograph P7C is the second frame of the same spot as P7B. The soil seen emitting in the earlier picture it is more profound. Substantial part of the retaining wall has collapsed. Greater volume of earth is seen gushing out of the disintegrated retaining wall. The lamppost has leaned more extreme.

P7D captures almost the entire Block 1 tilted at an angle with clouds of dust emitting from the base.

P7E records Block 1 almost tumbling to the ground. The rear apartments' balconies, now facing the sky are clearly visible.

P7F is a second frame of the same spot as P7E. In this subsequent shot, taken a few seconds later, there is a sea of dust with intermittent sight of a fallen building.

P7G reveals a wider view of the rear of Block 1 without the building (Block 1) obstructing. The dust from the fallen Block 1 is still present as evidenced by the white cloudily shades on the right side of the picture. In the center, starting from the top is the hill slope marked by scars extending to the right in a continuous line. Below, divided by a row of vegetation, is a rubble retaining wall which is still standing but split in the middle and slanting. In front of this is a large mess of expose earth, and floating on top are some cars with parts of the corrugated roof, which once provided a shade for the car park. At the extreme left of this photograph stands Block 2, with its landscaped terraced garden fully intact.

P7H is a pathetic view of the collapsed Block 1 lying on the ground in one piece with stunned spectators staring at the aftermath in total disbelief.

The Highland Towers Judgment -
Civil Suit No. S5-21-174-1996

The 3rd Defendant, was the engineer for Highland Towers.

The 4th Defendant was the local authority at the material time who had jurisdiction over the Highland Towers Site, the hillslope directly at the rear of Highland Towers (‘Arab Malaysian Land’) and the surrounding areas.

The 5th Defendant was, at the material time, the registered owner of the Arab Malaysian Land.

The 7th Defendant was the registered owner of a large piece of land (Metrolux Land) which is situated on top of a ridge, commonly known as Bukit Antarabangsa. This land is located just above the Arab Malaysian Land and at the material time was under development.

The 8th Defendant was the provider of management services to the 7th Defendant to develop the Metrolux Land into a housing estate.


The landslide that brought down Block 1 of Highland Towers was found by the Court to have been a rotational retrogressive slide emanating from a high retaining wall behind the 2nd of a 3-tier car park serving the 3 blocks of the Highland Towers.

Water was found to be one of the factors that caused this high wall to fail. This water emanated from poor and nonmaintained drainage, as well as a leaking pipe culvert carrying the waters of the diverted East Stream.


The following were the findings on liability by the Court:

The First Defendant was liable in negligence for not engaging a qualified architect, constructing insufficient and inadequate terraces, retaining walls and drains on the hillslope which could reasonably have been foreseen to have caused the collapse diverting the East Stream from its natural course and failing to ensure the pipe culvert diversion was adequate, and in nuisance for not maintaining drains and retaining walls.

The Second Defendant (Architect) was liable in negligence for not having ensured adequate drainage and retaining walls were built on the hillslope adjacent to the Highland Towers site, which he foresaw or ought to have foreseen would pose a danger to the buildings he was in charge of, in not complying with the requirements of the authorities in respect of drainage, in colluding with the First Defendant and Third Defendant (the Engineer) to obtain a Certificate of Fitness without fulfilling the conditions imposed by the Fourth Defendant (the Local Authority), in so doing not complying with his duties as Architect, and in not investigating the terracing of the hillslopes and construction of retaining walls even though he was aware they would affect the buildings he was in charge of, and also in nuisance as he was an unreasonable user of land.

The Third Defendant (Engineer) was liable in negligence for not having taken into account the hill or slope behind the Towers, not having designed and constructed a foundation to accommodate the lateral loads of a landslide or alternatively to have ensured that the adjacent hillslope was stable, for not having implemented that approved drainage scheme, for colluding with the First and Second Defendants to obtain a Certificate of Fitness without fulfilling the conditions imposed by the Fourth Defendant and also in nuisance as he was an unreasonable user of land.

The Fourth Defendant (Local Authority) although negligent in respect of its duties associated with building. i.e. in respect of approval of building plans, to ensure implementation of the approved drainage system during construction, and in the issue of the Certificate of Fitness, was nonetheless conferred immunity by reason of s95(2) of the Street, Drainage and Building Act.

The Fourth Defendant was however not immune in respect of its negligence in carrying out its post building functions of maintaining the East Stream. This also attracted liability in nuisance.

The Fifth Defendant (Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd) was liable in negligence in failing to maintain the drains on its land, and in taking measures to restore stability on its land after the collapse.

The Seventh Defendant (Metrolux Properties) and its Project Manager, the Eighth Defendant, who were liable in negligence and nuisance for preventing water from flowing downhill (into their site) and instead directing water into the East Stream, when they knew or ought to have known that this would increase the volume of water and inject silt, especially where there was extensive clearing on their land, into the East Stream where it would be deposited, which would in turn (as proved) cause or contribute to the failure of the drainage system and collapse of Block 1.

The Ninth and Tenth Defendants (essentially the State Government) were not found liable due to a technical issue in respect of the particular party sued.

The Sixth Defendant (an abortive purchaser of the Arab-Malaysian Land who carried out site clearing works) was not found liable on the evidence.

Impact On Duties Of Building Professionals

A. The Architect

(i) No Defence That Engagement Was A Limited One, At The Very Least Must Ensure The Other Aspects Of The Works By Others Was Done Competently

The Architect’s defence that he was only retained to design and supervise the 3 apartment blocks, and denied that his scope extended to the drainage, earthworks and retaining walls.

This was rejected by the Court.

The Court held that the Architect must take into account the condition of the vicinity of the land upon which the building is built, as well as the land itself, must be evaluated when assessing the safety of the building.

[Also, as a matter of fact the Court found that the Architect was concerned with the vicinity as well as the building itself when he submitted the layout plan to the authorities as it included terracing and drainage of the hillslope behind Highland Towers. He must therefore ensure that this work, although carried out by others, is carried out in a competent and workmanlike manner]

(ii) No Difference In Standard Of Care For Unqualified Practitioner

Even though the Architect was in reality only an Architectural draughtsman, the Court measured his conduct against the standard of a reasonably competent Architect, holding that if a man is unqualified but holds himself out to be possessing a skill, he would be judged by the standard of a reasonably competent qualified person.

(iii) No Excuse To Say That Employer Forced Non- Compliance With Laws

Finally, the Court appears to have emphatically rejected the excuse of the Architect that he could not stop his boss from doing anything (in the context of colluding with the employer and engineer in obtaining Certificates of Fitness for the three apartment blocks without fulfilling the conditions imposed by the Local Authority and not ensuring the terracing and retaining wall were properly designed, provided for and sufficient to withstand slope failure even though he was aware it would affect the buildings he was in charge of) – the Court has clearly stated that when the law is broken, the Architect must report to the authorities – the architect must ensure that the law is followed even at the risk of being discharged.

B. The Engineer

The Engineer’s defence that he was only retained to design and supervise the structural aspects of the 3 apartment blocks, two retaining walls within the Highland Towers compound and submit plans for the drainage and two and denied that his scope extended to the drainage, earthworks.

This was rejected by the Court

The Court held that the Engineer must take into account the condition of the vicinity of the land upon which the building is built, as well as the land itself, must be evaluated when assessing the safety of the building. He should have ensured the stability of the hillslope behind Highland Towers.

His duty was not discharged by a mere belief that the terracing of the hillslopes and the retaining walls built on them were carried out by an engineer or other consultant. He ought to have inquired as to

whether this professional was qualified, and
whether what he was doing affected the safety of the Tower Blocks.
[Other Aspects of the Engineer’s negligence – gross violation of his duty of care to the purchasers in the issue of a notification to the Authorities that the approved drainage was built when only 10% was built]


Building Professionals require to consider the vicinity of the site as well as the site itself in assessing safety-particularly in regard to adjacent hillslopes.

Building Professionals cannot hide behind limited scopes of engagement-these are a matter between themselves and their employer, but the scope of their duty owed to persons likely to be affected by their services is not so limited.

Building Professionals require to ensure that others engaged to do work likely to affect the structures they have been engaged to design/supervise are competent and will carry out their work in a workmanlike manner.

If Building Professionals hold themselves out to have expertise in a particular area when they are unqualified, their conduct will be measured against the ordinarily competent qualified practitioner of such expertise.

Building Professionals must ensure the law is followed, reporting to the authorities if necessary if their clients break the law, even at the risk of being discharged by their client.
Impact On Tort Law


The Highland Towers decision becomes another Malaysian High Court decision which diverges from the approach of the English Courts and adopts the approach taken by other Commonwealth jurisdictions in allowing the recovery of “pure economic loss”, especially where sufficient proximity can be demonstrated between the negligent act and the loss. Pure economic loss is the loss related to the product itself which is defective by reason of negligence, as opposed to the loss or damage caused to the property of the Plaintiff by this defective product.


In this cause of action, a Defendant is liable if the Plaintiff can show the Defendant is responsible for a condition or activity which interferes with use or enjoyment of his land, and that condition or activity is not a reasonable user by the Defendant. The Highland Towers decision extends the law on nuisance in Malaysia by requiring an additional requirement to be established by the Plaintiff, i.e. whether the damage was of type that the Defendant could reasonably foresee, adopting a principle from an English case, Cambridge Water Co. Ltd v Eastern Countries Leather plc [1994] 1All ER 53 @ 70.

Rule In Rylands v Fletcher

In this cause of action, if a person brings unto his land and collects and keeps anything to do with mischief and it escapes, he is answerable prima facie for all the damage which is the natural consequence of the damage, regardless of whether the Defendant was negligent or not. The Highland Towers decision, following the Australian High Court in Burnie Port Authority v General Jones Pty Ltd 120 ALR 42 abandoned this as an independent cause of action and merged it into the general law of negligence.


In conclusion, the Highland Towers decision clarifies the extent and nature of the professional duties and responsibilities of Building Professionals demanded by the law, and contains important developments in tort law in Malaysia.

It remains to be seen if the Appellate Courts in Malaysia will endorse these principles.

The Judgments

Dr Benjamin George & Ors v Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya and other applications
[1995] 3 MLJ 665

3 OCTOBER 1995


The applicants in this case were the developer and several residents and purchasers of blocks two and three of the Highland Towers Condominium (‘the Highland Towers’). The respondent was Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (‘the MPAJ’). The MPAJ had issued notices pursuant to s 83 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 (‘the Act’) to the applicants, which had the effect of ordering them to either repair or demolish blocks two and three of the Highland Towers and the walls on the nearby hillslopes, within three months from the date of the notices. The directions in the notices were contrary to the recommendations proposed by the Highland Towers committee, which was set up by the respondent to study the safety of blocks two and three, immediately after the collapse of block one of the Highland Towers. The applicants had actively tried to sought a solution to the Highland Towers problem, but the respondents refused to discuss the legality of the s 83 notices. This clearly ruled out any possibility that the respondent would withdraw the s 83 notices. Therefore, the applicants applied to the High Court for certiorari via O 53 of the Rules of the High Court 1980, to quash the notices on the grounds, inter alia, that the notices were unreasonable, unconstitutional, and illegal. However, the respondent argued that it had acted within its jurisdiction, and that the s 83 notices were not amenable to certiorari, as alternative appeal procedure had been provided by ss 83(3), (6), 91 and 92 of the Act.

Held, allowing the application:

(1) Section 83(1) of the Act confers a broad discretion on a local authority by allowing it to issue a s 83 notice after conducting such inquiry as it thinks fit to satisfy itself that a building is in a dangerous condition. A notice may require the owner of the building to either repair the defects or demolish the building within such period of time as it may specify. However, this discretion must be exercised in good faith, for a proper purpose, and after consideration of all the relevant factors. Further, a s 83 notice can only be directed to an ‘owner’ of a building as defined in s 3 of the Act.

(2) Both s 83(3) and (6) of the Act are not appeal provisions, as neither provides recipients of the s 83 notices with an opportunity to appeal to a higher authority against the validity of the notices. Thus, there is nothing in s 83 which provides them with an alternative statutory appeal procedure in preference to certiorari. Similarly, ss 91 and 92 also do not provide a genuine appeal procedure, as a right of appeal under the provisions only arises against a mandatory order made by the magistrates’ court. This would mean that the recipients of the s 83 notices could only appeal if the respondent had seeked for the mandatory order.

(3) An administrative decision which has failed to give adequate weight to a relevant factor of great importance or has given excessive weight to a factor of no great importance could be set aside on the ground of unreasonableness In this case, it was impossible to comply with the s 83 notices, because it was irrational to expect the applicants to do repairs on the hillslopes which they did not own, and which would have amounted to committing a trespass. Besides, three months was a wholly inadequate time period to carry out the repair or demolition works.

(4) Moreover, the directions in the notices departed from the recommendations of the Highland Towers committee, without giving any reason or explanation. This amounted to a breach of legitimate expectation rendering the s 83 notices ultra vires.

(5) Pursuant to the Act, the s 83 notices can only be served on the owner of the relevant building. In this case, as the strata titles of the Highland Towers had not been issued, the registered proprietor of the land, ie the developer, would be the owner. However, the respondent had issued the s 83 notices to the residents of the Highland Towers who were not owners for the purposes of the Act. Even if they were the owners, the s 83 notices were still ultra vires as they were not issued to all ‘owners’ of these buildings, contrary to art 8 of the Federal Constitution which states that all persons are equal before the law.

(6) Highland Properties Sdn Bhd, who was the owner for the purposes of the Act, had a duty to implement the views of the purchasers of blocks two and three of the Highland Towers. In turn, by virtue of the express and implied obligations imposed in the sale and purchase agreements between the developer and the purchasers, the purchasers might have to make contributions in order to comply with the s 83 notices. The s 83 notices must also be served on the financial institutions who had granted loans to the purchasers, as the purchasers had already assigned their rights under the sale and purchase agreements to them.

(7) It was clear that there was a failure on the part of the respondent to comply with the express and implied limitations on their statutory discretion in this case. The s 83 notices, which were illegal, had the potential to deprive the residents of blocks two and three of the Highland Towers of their apartments should the blocks be demolished. This was also contrary to art 13 of the Federal Constitution which provides that no person shall be deprived of property save in accordance with law.

Steven Phoa Cheng Loon & Ors v Highland Properties Sdn Bhd & Ors

11 AUGUST 2000


Highland Towers, constructed sometime between 1975 and 1978, consisted of three blocks 12-storey high apartments named as Block 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Directly behind the three blocks was a rather steep hill with a stream (‘the east stream’). On 11 December 1993, Block 1 collapsed. Immediately after the collapse of Block 1, the residents of Block 2 and 3 were prevented from entering their apartments by the local authority for fear of the instability of these two buildings. The purchasers/owners of Block 2 and 3 issued a writ against ten defendants: the first defendant was the developer of the three apartment blocks; the second defendant was the purported architect of Highland Towers; the third defendant was the engineer of Highland Towers; the fourth defendant was the local authority who had the jurisdiction over the Highland Towers site and the surrounding areas; the fifth defendant was the registered owner of 50 lots of bungalow land (‘the Arab Malaysian land’) directly at the rear of Highland Towers; the sixth defendant (Tropic) was a company that carried out clearing works on the Arab Malaysian land; the seventh defendant was the registered owner of a piece of land (‘the Metrolux land’) situated on top of a ridge just above the Arab Malaysian land and at the material time was under development; the eight defendant was the provider of management services to the seventh defendant to develop the Metrolux land; the ninth defendant was the state government of Selangor; and the tenth defendant was the Director of Land and Mines of the State of Selangor.

The plaintiffs’ claim was for damages caused jointly and/or severally by the acts and/or omissions of the defendants, their servants and/or agents in causing and/or contributing to the collapse of Block 1 and thereby forcing the plaintiffs to evacuate and abandon Block 2 and 3. The cause of action relied on by the plaintiffs against the defendants were negligence, nuisance and the liability under Rylands v Fletcher.

There were two conflicting theories advanced on the cause of the failure of Block 1. Supporting the plaintiffs’ contention was Dr Weeks and on the side of the fifth defendant was Prof Simons. The significance of these two theories was the belief that it would affect the liabilities of the parties, particularly of the first and fifth defendant. If Dr Weeks’ version was accepted, then it was contended that the cause of failure emanated from the fifth defendant’s land. Professor Simons, on the other hand, insisted that it originated form the first defendant’s property.

The defendants raised the following preliminary issues: (i) plaintiffs 44 to 73 had no right to bring the action against the defendants by virtue of s 4(3) of the Civil Law Act 1956 since their rights had been assumed by the financial institutions in favour of which a loan agreement cum assignment had been executed; and (ii) the claim of the plaintiffs could not be maintained because it was a claim for pure economic loss, the two apartments being the defective products.
The ninth and tenth defendants raised the following preliminary points: (i) citation of the wrong party — the ninth defendant should be the State Director; and (ii) particular officer or officers not named — by the provision of ss 5, 6(1), 6(4) and 18 of the Government Proceedings Act, the particular officer or officers in the government who committed the tortuous wrong must be identified, otherwise the claim against the tenth defendant must fail.


(1) With recognition by such high authority of such loan agreement cum assignment to be an equitable charge, the court saw no reason why the word ‘charge’ in s 4(3) of the Civil Law Act should not include equitable charge of this nature. For after all, this equitable charge was specie of a charge. Thus when this instrument of assignment purported to be by way of a charge, the effect of s 4(3) of the Civil Law Act was no longer applicable. Further, after perusing the loan agreements cum assignments, the court could not interpret them to be absolute assignments by the plaintiffs to the financial institutions. Though the word ‘absolute’ appeared in the documentation of the loan agreements cum assignments, there were also other clauses to show that the rights and interests in the sale and purchase agreements so assigned have not been transferred to the assignors. Besides, by the principle of equity of redemption, the plaintiffs were also able to maintain their right to sue (see pp 220G–221A, F).

(2) After due consideration, the court was more inclined to adopt Prof Simons’ interpretation that the landslide that brought down Block 1 of Highland Towers was a rotational retrogressive slide emanating from the High Wall behind the second tier car park. The court found that water must have been a major factor in causing the collapse of the high wall and the landslide that followed (see pp 234G, 235D).

(3) When the second defendant had represented himself as a qualified architect to all and sundry, as displayed by his actions, then he must be judged according to the character he had assumed. At the time when this defendant exercised his duty as an architect for the Highland Towers project, he must have foreseen that the apartments he built would be sold, and purchasers, their servants and/or agents would be occupying them. Thus these purchasers would be closely and directly affected by his acts and/or omissions and for this, he must have or ought to have them in contemplation when he was directing his mind to his acts and/or omissions. By this, the court found a duty of care existed between the second defendant and the plaintiffs and from the facts of the case, it was obvious that the second defendant had breached his duty of care to the plaintiffs (see pp 241A, C–E, 243C).

(4) When you had a hill so close and acute then the third defendant should have reasonably foreseen, judging by professional standard as an engineer responsible for the structure of Block 1, the danger of a landslide producing a lateral load against the foundation of the building. For this, he should have exercised care to either design and construct a foundation to accommodate lateral load or ensure that the slope was reasonably stable. Failure to do so was a breach of his duty of care he owed to the plaintiffs since his duty was to ensure the safety of the buildings he designed and built (see p 246G–H).

(5) As a general rule, an employer of independent contractor is not liable for the default or negligence of such a contractor. But here the plaintiffs were focusing on the appointment of such personalities, not after they were appointed. This means that before their appointment, there was a duty placed upon the first defendant to vet through them to ensure that they were competent and possessed such skill for the task they were employed to undertake. This involved inquiries and investigations into their credentials and qualifications. Obviously, these were not done. Despite being notified by the second defendant that he was not a qualified architect, the first defendant proceeded to engage him and even allowed him to appoint the third defendant as the consultant engineer for the project. This was surely negligent on the part of the first defendant (see pp 248H–249B).

(6) When implementing works of terracing of the slope and construction of retaining walls and drains on both the Arab Malaysian land and the Highland Towers site, the first defendant must have reasonably foreseen that such works, if insufficient and ineffective, would cause the collapse of Block 1 and result in damages to the plaintiffs, who were its neighbours under the principle of negligence. The retaining walls and the drainage system had been proved to be insufficient and inadequate. The court must conclude that the first defendant had breached his duty of care to the plaintiffs (see p 249B–E).

(7) Like the second and third defendants, the first defendant was liable for nuisance as one of the creators of the nuisance by its acts and/or omissions. Further, as an owner of the Highland Towers site, it had not been a reasonable user of its land for it failed to maintain the drainage system and the retaining walls resulting in the damages suffered by the plaintiffs who were its neighbours (see p 251B–C).

(8) Judging from the facts as disclosed in the chronology of events, the fourth defendant was negligent of the wrongs as alleged by the plaintiffs. However, since the acts of the fourth defendant were within those specified activities under s 95(2) of the Street, Drainage and Building Act, immunity applied to the fourth defendant (see pp 252H, 255E–F).

(9) However, the immunity did not apply to the fourth defendant for acts/omissions committed post-collapse. Despite the pressing need and the obvious knowledge of the urgent requirement for a master drainage plan to secure the stability of the slope so as to ensure the safety of the two apartment blocks, the fourth defendant did nothing. This was certainly inexcusable and definitely a breach of duty of care owed by the fourth defendant to the plaintiffs (see pp 256H–I, 259A–B).

(10) By the acts and/or omissions of the fourth defendant, the court also found that the fourth defendant was an unreasonable user of its land in failing to maintain the stream post-collapse which was under its care. Its acts and/or omissions were foreseeable to cause a damage to the plaintiffs — its neighbours. For this, the court found the fourth defendant was also liable to the plaintiffs for nuisance (see p 259E–F).

(11) Since it was already decided that it was due to a landslide caused primarily by water which emanated from the damage pipe culvert and the inadequate and unattended drains on the fifth defendant’s land, then the plaintiffs had sufficiently proved that the causa causan of the collapse of Block 1 leading to the forced evacuation of the plaintiffs from Block 2 and 3 was due to the acts and/or omissions of this defendant in not maintaining these water-courses. From the factual circumstances as disclosed, the court found that the fifth defendant could reasonably foresee that by its acts and/or omissions in failing to take care of its land, it would cause a land slide that would destroy Block 1 and forced the abandonment of Block 2 and 3 (see pp 261H–I, 262C–D).

(12) Given the circumstances of this case and applying the common law principle to nuisance, the court was convinced that the fifth defendant caused an actionable nuisance to the plaintiffs (see p 267B–C).

(13) Judging by the facts, the court did not find that the sixth defendant was negligent or committed nuisance. There was no evidence advanced to link the acts of this defendant in excavating and clearing Arab Malaysian land to the cause of the landslide that tumbled Block 1 (see p 268C–D).

(14) The assertion of the seventh and eight defendants during submission that they should not be made responsible for the acts of their independent contractors was an after thought for it was never pleaded in the statement of defence. Further, even if this issue was allowed to be raised, the defendants were not exempted from the liabilities for the acts of their independent contractors. The factual situation in the present case showed that it fell within the exception to the general rule, ie non-delegable duty covering cases involving extra hazardous acts or omissions (see pp 276G, 277D–E).

(15) As property developer and/or manager of development projects on a hill, the seventh and eight defendants must have known or ought to have known that by diverting watercourses on their land to the east stream, they would increase the volume of discharge to this outlet. With an extensive area of their land denuded of trees, they must have foreseen that water flowing over this area would carry with it eroded soil and silt which would be deposited down stream. And as proved, these caused or contributed to the collapse of Block 1 and forced evacuation of Block 2 and 3 (see p 280F–G).

(16) In the factual matrix of this case, the water at the Metrolux site was naturally on the land but the defendants had artificially erected barriers on their land to redirect its natural flow path into the east stream which consequently caused the damage suffered by the plaintiffs. Such acts of the defendants were closely and directly connected to the damage and for this, the seventh and eight defendants must be liable to the plaintiffs (see p 281H).

(17) For the purpose of this case, in respect of claims arising out of rivers, streams or watercourses, very little difference was made since the State Director, who was the tenth defendant, was already a party to this action. However concerning matters arising out of the ownership and/or occupier of the surrendered lands, the situation was different. The plaintiffs had not in their pleadings alleged that the tenth defendant was the person being sued this particular aspect of the claim. The plaintiffs’ statement of claim repeatedly and distinctively asserted that the tenth defendant was brought in as a party to this suit ‘by virtue of the fact that the property in stream and watercourses on Arab Malaysian land and its surrounding was vested in the state authority of Selangor’; never as a State Director to the surrendered lands. Thus, the claim of the plaintiffs against the ninth defendant must failed in respect of drainage matters but maintainable against the tenth defendant. But for the surrendered lands, the plaintiffs’ claim must fail against both defendants (see pp 284G–285A).

(18) The statutory provision implies a need to identify and distinguish the officer or officers concerned before the plaintiffs can proceed with attributing liability to the government. In the situation at hand, only the drainage and irrigation department was named in respect of matters related to drainage. Such defects were too serious and fundamental for such proceedings against the government to succeed; it must fail for non-compliance of the legislative provisions laid down for such action against a state government. By this, the plaintiffs’ claim against the ninth and tenth defendants must fail (see p 287A–D).

(19) On the issue of ‘pure economic loss’, following Dr Abdul Hamid Abdul Rashid & Anor v Jurusan Malaysian Consultants [1997] 3 MLJ 546, the court held that claim for pure economic loss can be maintained against the defendants (see p 244H).

(20) From the evidence tendered, the court was without doubt that all defendants, except number sixth, ninth and tenth, were joint tortfeasors in causing the same damage to the plaintiffs. For this, contribution could be recovered from each other (see p 288A).


Malaysian Law Journal

UPDATED REPORT: 18th February 2006

From the principles laid down in the Court of Appeal judgment, the Highland Towers decision clarifies the extent and nature of the professional duties and responsibilities of Building Professionals demanded by the law, and contains important developments in tort law in Malaysia.

Howeve this decision of the Court of Appeal remains subjected to the Highest Court, i.e. the Federal Court, whether they would endorse these principles.

Final Judicial Decision

Today, 18th February 2006 frontpage headline the Federal Court's DecisionFederal Court: MPAJ has full immunity from claims

Local councils cannot be held liable for losses suffered by anyone should a building collapse, the Federal Court has ruled. The court said this when it held that the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) was not liable for losses suffered by 73 residents of two blocks of the Highland Towers condominium who had to evacuate after the collapse of Block One 13 years ago, killing 48 people.

The three-member panel presided by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Justice Steve Shim Lip Kiong and Federal Court judges Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamed and Datuk Arifin Zakaria ruled that the MPAJ was not liable in the pre-collapse period as well as post-collapse period of Block One. They said local authorities such as the MPAJ were given full immunity under Section 95 (2) of the Street, Drainage & Building Act 1974 (Act 133) from claims for the pre-collapse period.

The court was unanimous in allowing the MPAJ’s appeal to set aside the Court of Appeal’s decision holding the MPAJ 15% responsible for the pre-collapse period. As for the post-collapse liability, it dismissed with a 2-1 majority the cross-appeal by the 73 residents of Block Two and Three against the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the MPAJ was not liable for losses suffered during the post-collapse period.

Justice Shim gave a dissenting judgment.

Justice Abdul Hamid Mohamad said that if the local councils were made liable, it would open the floodgates to further claims for economic loss, and this would deplete the council’s resources meant for the provision of basic services and infrastructure. “Projects will stall. The local council may go bust. Even if it does not, is it fair, just and reasonable that taxpayers’ money be utilised to pay the ‘debts’ of such people? In my view, the answer is no,” he said.

In overturning the trial judge’s decision to allow the post-collapse claims, Justice Abdul Hamid said vandalism followed every disaster, natural or otherwise, in undeveloped, developing or developed countries. “Recent events showed that even the most-powerful military and the best-equipped police force in the richest and most-developed country in the world were unable to prevent it,” he said.

“In my view, the provision of basic necessities for the general public has priority over compensation for pure economic loss of some individuals, who are clearly better off than the majority of the residents in the local council area,” he said.

He said a local council has an endless list of duties to perform for its residents and relied mainly on assessment rates and fees for licences.

Justice Arifin concurred with Justice Abdul Hamid’s findings.

In his dissenting judgment on the post-collapse liability, Justice Shim said:

"The MPAJ could not seek shelter in Section 95(2) of the Street, Drainage and Building Act because this was a case of negligence in failing to formulate and implement the master drainage plan so as to ensure the stability and safety of the adjacent Blocks Two and Three."

He said there was an assumption of responsibility by the MPAJ to do what it had promised.

“I do not think it would be in the public interest that a local authority such as the MPAJ should be allowed to disclaim liability for negligence committed beyond the expansive shelter of Section 95(2) or other relevant provisions of the Act nor would it be fair, just and reasonable to deprive the respondents of their rightful claims under the law,” he said.

In 2000, High Court Judge James Foong ruled for the 73, and apportioned liability as follows: Arab-Malaysian 30%, Metrolux and MBf Property Services together 20%, Highland Properties 15%, MPAJ 15%, draughtsman Wong Ting San 10% and engineer Wong Yuen Kean 10%.


The case is put to rest. The local authorities received the legal mandate that they are fully immune to liabilities. Even in committing reckless negligence, they will be shielded by the law under Section 95(2). Presumably, they could be care-free in all their ways of doing things and approving anything they deem fit in their full discretion, without the need to consider any threats to life, or to others.

It is the sad day for the Rule of Law in Malaysia.

Only if, and only if, we still can take the case to the UK Privy Council, can be hope to seek natural justice and the fundamental Rule of Law.

I Cry for You, Malaysia!!!

Middle Ring Road 2 - Repair to begin?

In the Beginning ... 18th August Year 2004,

Works Minister, Samy Vellu said the repair will take 3 months ....

By calculation, the repair works should have completed by November 2004.

On 4th February 2006, one and a half year later,

Works Minister Samy said the repair will begin soon and it will take 3 to 4 months to repair.

What? Not yet start work on the repair?

Well, lets imagine:

In 2008, ... will come the possible announcement ...

But, the now Works Minister, Samy won't be there to make the announcement ...

He would have retired!

His successor, the New Works minister announced that ...

The repair will start soon...

But flyover bridge had been demolished then...

to make way for a new tunnel ...

awarded to BumiHiway joint-venture with MMC ...

Historic Events of MRR2 that we should not forget.

In the Beginning ... that's where the project started:

Kuala Lumpur Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) route 28 was built by Malaysian Public Works Department (JKR) to connect neighborhoods near the boundary of Kuala Lumpur.

The entire highway system consists of Federal Route 28, Damansara-Puchong Expressway E11 (from Sri Damansara to Sunway Interchange) and Shah Alam Expressway E5 (from Sunway Interchange to Sri Petaling Interchange). M

RR2 is generally referred to Route 28 since Route 28 occupies about two-thirds of the system.

Construction on this ring road would divided on 3 phase, This sections include Kepong-Gombak, Gombak-Ampang and Ampang-Sri Petaling.

The project was awarded to a consortium consisting of Sukmin Sdn Bhd, Bumihiway (M) Sdn Bhd and Konsortium Kontraktor Melayu (Wilayah) and the contract is to design and built the entire package 11 of MRR2 which covers a 4km stretch and cost RM238.8 million (the exacy contract sum is RM238,828,257.16).

The contract period is 36 months and was completed in 34 months (May 1999 to March 2002)

Controversial issues

The Kepong Flyover was reported to be faulty because 31 of 33 pillars supporting the flyover were reported to have obvious cracks.

Public concern about the safety issues at Kepong Flyover was due to the risks faced by at least 4,300 motorists using the flyover at a time.

Investigations were held by the government and as a result, Kepong Flyover was closed to traffic and then reopened with only 4 out of 6 lanes.

Works Minister Datuk S. Samy Vellu then imposed a gag order on his officers saying that he alone will handle any queries on the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) Kepong flyover repairs. But even he was reluctant to answer questions on the flyover which had been closed for repairs to cracks on 30 pillars which had attracted the Anti-Corruption Agency's attention.

"In this country today, only the Minister of Works knows what has to be done there (MRR2) and what is happening in this ministry. When I say it takes three months ... that’s the decision. We wait for the investigations by the ACA to be completed and after that, we will finish the job.”

“No more press statement from anyone except by me ... please tell all the engineers not to make anymore statements,” he said to an officer from the ministry.

Initial findings by PWD suggested that the temporary hoisting crane mounted on the permanent RC structural piers to launch the precast beams to the bridge decks could have exerted pressure on the concrete crossbeams and caused the cracks.

In its report to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, the department said its preliminary checks found that the structure at the 11th package of the MRR II was found to be unstable because of the strain and caused the beams to split at three sections.

Samy Vellu said the PWD’s findings showed that the crane hoisted on top of the crossbeam could have added pressure and as result there was an overload on the beam.

The PWD, which carried out its own probe, revealed that the MRR II’s Kepong bridge, was “not stable due to internal redistribution of forces and alternative load paths due to yielding of reinforcement.”

Samy Vellu said due to excessive hot temperature there was no homogenous drying, externally and internally, because of differential (uneven) drying of concrete. According to him, this could be the other reason for the cracks.

Mounsell, Sharma and Zakaria was the turnkey design consultant engaged by BumiHiway and Minconsult was the checking design consultant representing JKR. Flint & Neill Partnership was first commissioned by the contractor to undertake an independent third-party investigations. At the same time, JKR had engaged a German consultant, Kohler & Seitz, to study the same problem. As both the investigation consultants had came out with different conclusions, the government engaged Halcrow to give the last word.

Earlier, before Halcrow was employed to investigate, Samy Velly had dismissed PWD's consultant, Kohler & Seitz findings that faulty design had caused the columns of the elevated highway stretch of the Middle Ring Road Two (MRR2) between Kepong and Selayang to crack.

Samy Vellu: "This is no design failure. The engineer can sue them (those making such allegations). Noboby can simply open his mouth and say design failure. The question of design failure doesn't arise."

Samy Velly said there had been "little cracks on the structure" which had been studied by experts from Australia engaged by the original consultant of the project and experts from Germany engaged by the Public Works Department (PWD), and both had come up with different views.

"I have asked Zaini (Public Works Department Director-General Tan Sri Ir Zaini Omar) to engage a neutral consultant to study both recommendations to see what actually needs to be done.

"Both of them (the two expert groups) gave two different views. So I have to satisfy myself with a neutral view, which (one) is right, before I give the next directive on what should be done," he said.

The government of Malaysia then appointed British Halcrow Consultancy Ltd on 12 August, 2004 to study the cracks that have appeared on 31 of the 32 crossbeams since 2000.

On the fate of the project consultant, he said: "We didn't find anything wrong with the design. We can't punish them. We cannot make accusations. (We) have to investigate what happened to the columns."

Halcrow has found a rare phenomenon--the expansion of a chemical compound, ettringite, had caused serious cracks. The compound contains calcium, aluminium, oxygen, sulphate, water, etc. On 25 February, 2005, Halcrow recommended to JKR to waterproof the bridge immediately, so that the delayed ettringite formation (DEF) would not result in further cracks.

According to Halcrow that has sought the service of Glascow University, ettringite is found in cement. Usually, it does no harm. But, under rare conditions such as during concrete hardening, temperature reaching over 70 degree Centigrade in the presence of sulphate and plenty of water, ettringite is formed, expanding dangerously.

If all the cracks are not waterproofed, more water seeps into them, aggravating the situation. JKR must stop the water.

Since 1999, when the MRR2 project started, over eight consultants from overseas have been appointed for the design of the project and investigation of the cracks.

In September 2004, The Sun Daily reported that the MRR2 cracks due to design flaw and improper anchorage of crossbeams

That was supposed to be the verdict of Halcrow. Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, who disclosed the findings in a press conference in Parliament lobby said:

"The anchoring was not done properly which was the cause of all these problems. The design also did not indicate the proper anchorage of the beams and the columns."

Halcrow's report was prepared by its bridge engineering director Roger J.Buckby and submitted to the Works Ministry.

"They are still checking to see what went wrong with the design," Samy Vellu said.

Samy Vellu read out a portion of the Halcrow report:

"The main cause of excessive cracking in the crosshead to the T-shaped pier is a deficiency in the design and the anchorage of the columns reinforced into the crosshead. There is also a deficiency in the design of the transverse reinforcement in the top of the crossheads to resist splitting forces between bearings. The horizontal cracking in the crosshead directly above the columns is a direct result of the inadequate anchorage of the column bars into the crosshead."

Samy Vellu had earlier said it would cost RM20mil to repair the flyover located between Taman Bukit Maluri and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

Samy Vellu would not comment on the apportionment of responsibility for the faults, and who should pay for it, adding that the government would pay for it first. He said the RM20 million repair bill he mentioned earlier was only an estimate but added that it would not exceed this amount.

"We can ask the contractor to pay, but if the contractor says he is not interested in doing the job for the lack of funds, then how? Do we have to wait until it obtains the funds? It can't be, as the work has to resume," Samy said.

The whole controversy expanded when eight officers from the ACA's Enigineering Forensic Unit, including a case investigation officer, started investigation into the problem tho' nobody made a report. The team of investigators spent six hours examnining the cracks on pillars and beams of flyover along the MRR2.

The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), apart from investigating possible fraud will also check whether it was built according to specifications. The ACA, which obtained documents relating to the design focused on the technical aspects of the flyover to check for any discrepancies in its construction. The eight-man team took samples from the damaged pillars and beams and sent them for composition and durability analysis. An ACA source said the analysis would show whether the concrete chunks were mixed and laid out according to the road construction industry's specifications.

“The investigations will focus on whether those involved cut corners to reap higher profits at the expense of safety and durability. The technical team will verify whether the builder had adhered to the specifications outlined in its building plan,” ACA spokesman Rosli Ali said. The investigation team led by Rosli Ali measured the length, width and depth of the flyover's pillars and beams.

Politicians wanted the Government to review the process of approving design and building contracts following the recent safety threat at the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2). Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw said a briefing by Public Works Department (PWD) officials showed that the Government had only a minimum role in supervising the project.

“As a result, in the Package 11 stretch of the highway, hairline cracks were found in 31 of the 33 flyover pillars. It is wrong to make the contractor responsible from beginning to end without any PWD supervision,” the Kepong MP said, adding that the committee was briefed that only one PWD engineer supervised the project from time to time.

Bentong MP Liow Tiong Lai said there was an urgent need to study the awarding of design and building contracts.

The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) later gave the green light for the Public Works Department to continue with the remedial work.

Samy Vellu said the department was asked to complete the repairs within the three-month stipulated period. “The priority now is to ensure that the MRR2 is safe for use.” Repair work on MRR2 was halted for the ACA to carry out investigations.

Till today, it is more than one year, and the repair works has yet to begin.

Samy, when will the three months commence????

Construction Industry in Malaysia is SICK!

The Malaysian Construction Industry and Development Board (CIDB) was set up to enhance the quality and skills of the construction industry.

Over the years, CIDB had collected billions of dollars of levy from contractors (0.25% of contract sum for each contract exceeding $500,000), and include $250 from each worker who are required to be registered with CIDB.

However, over the two decades, what had been achieved is that CIDB has become a joint venture partner of some construction entities and are procuring projects in India and Sri Lanka. They are now scoping into Vietnam and Cambodia. But the industry is still plagued by poor quality, poor workmanship, poor safety and health environment and practices and project failures.

Steel Formwork killed Dr Liew Boon Borng

What? A two-tons steel mould fall down from the sky & killed our Top-Gun Dr Liew?

You must be mad! How can it be so chun (coincidental)?

And, Malaysia has NOISH (National Occupational Institute for Safety and Health) and DOSH (Department of Safety and Health) to monitor the safety and health of works in Construction Projects?

And, the contractor is an ISO 9000 certified quality system?

Ya, ISO is about documentation, proper signages and consistency - consistently failing; and you are certified!

And, there is a Safety and Health Officer (SHO) in-charge of the works and he is certified by NOISH?

Ya, Safety and Health Officer (SHO) at construction projects are in-charge to make sure workers wear safety boots and safety helmet. But that one is a two ton, 3m x 3m steel mould; so nothing to do with SHO. His duty now is to make police report and file in a Non-Conformity Report. That's all his duty!

How can that piece fall down from the sky? Is it because the tower crane is hoisting it from the central lift-core?

The Star picture show it falls from the window.

How can that be? Well, you asked the Star reporter lah!

And, hell, that man killed is Ethos Consulting managing director.

Who is this Dr Liew Boon Horng? Is he smart?

Oh ya! He has double degree from Cambridge U - both also first class honour - in electrical and information science and also got Master Degree. He completed his PhD at the same university in engineering.

Wow, so smart ah? Sayang lah, die so young?

Ya lah, he is only 35, and his wife also badly damaged by the steel mould; she is in ICU.

The accident that killed Dr Liew Boon Horng was classified as "Sudden Death".

Police investigation is ongoing and the Atorney-General is waiting for the report to decide whether there is an offence indictable.

The family of Dr Liew can institute civil proceedings against the property developer and the contractor for criminal damages under the Law of Tort.

Any such damages suit will include burial cost, bereavement and loss of dependency. dependency claim is the income that the victim would have earned had he been alive.

However, under the Civil Law Act 1956 (amended 1980), the maximum liability will be up to a maximum limit of the total current income up to the age of 55, divided by two. In literal sense, Dr Liew is 35; so he had 20 years till age 55, and divided by 2, his family can claim dependency up to a maximum of 10 years.

If the victim is 56 year-old, and killed as a result of reckless negligence, the family will get nothing under loss of dependency.

Will this incident wake up all contractors and property developers; including governmental bodies and regulators?

Will we learnt a lesson from here, or will this kind of incident need to be repeated a few more times until a minister's son or son-in-law is strickened before we learnt to be safety conscious and adopt it as a culture in the system of construction management?

The hypothesis is: The regulators had been sleeping. Most construction projects, particularly high-rise buildings under construction lack proper safety and health control system. What we see of those safety nets, safety shoes and helmets are for the purpose of visibility. There is no system to monitor and control safety and health. There exist only activities that denotes safety; not fundamental of a system management.

DOSH, NOISH, HSE - All are bullshit!!! System dysfunctioning yet, the executives are parading their efforts of incompetence in the name of competence.

The contractor for the project was served with seven stop-work orders, nine notices and three summonses over the last 2 years since construction work for the Plaza Damas service apartments began.

You believe it? Yet the NOISH authorities allowed the project to go on indefinitely?

The Contractor is MWE Advance Structures Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of public listed company, MWE Holdings Bhd. A public listed company and an ISO 9000 certified organization for quality system?

My God, is ISO certification a problem in Malaysia? Or, is the quality auditors blind?

The company was given a safety rating of D, E, being the lowest rating by DOSH!!!

The company was served 3-summonses for safety breach and among the main offences were unsafe scaffolding, absence of guardrails, and loading platforms are not designed by certified engineers. The contractor was also found to have used unregistered heavy machineries which are not inspected and certified fit by the Machinery Department.

On complaints by residents from nearby Puncak Prima apartments that work was still in progress, Human Resources Minister, Dr Fong Chan onn said the contractor was carrying out minor remedial work on its safety equipments. “We have issued the stop-work order and we will make sure the contractor complies with it,” he said.

Several complaints from Puncak Prima residents that work on the project was still on early yesterday. “The crane was moving all morning and I could hear sounds of machinery works, hammering and chiselling,” said a chartered accountant, who declined to be named. Another resident, who only wanted to be known as Cheong, claimed that work at the site used to be carried out even on public holidays and weekends, sometimes until 2am.

“Residents are unhappy over the inadequate safety measures at the site and have complained many times to City Hall but our grouses fell on deaf ears,” he said.

There will be more of such problems in the days/years to come. There is no solution to it as every problem can be "settled" (under-table or on-top of table), and even if more regulations and departments are set up, it is a matter of paying over-the-table or under-the-table. It is inherent culture, and rules and regulations are made to provide opportunities for some side-income.

Believe me, that's the culture that had been since decades.

Soon, Dr Liew Boon Horng (the decease) will be forgotten until the next minister's son is hit by a collapse tower crane.

The government has set up an investigation committee headed by former Public Works Department (PWD) Director-General Tan Sri Omar Ibrahim to probe into the accident that killed management consultant Dr Liew Boon Horng.

This committee was set up within the Malaysian Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) as the Investigations Committee and will include current PWD Deputy Director-General II Dr Judin Abdul Karim and PWD Director of Expert and Civil Engineering Branch P.N. Selvanayagam. Other members of the committee would be selected by Tan Sri Omar in consultation with the Works Minister and the CIDB.

I am sure Tan Sri Omar, a person who commands high respect, will do his job thoroughly and efficiently. Tan Sri Omar is recognised as a NO-Nonsense guy and he doesn't curry flavour or compromise his integrity.

But what suprised me is two key elements:

First, why is CIDB involved in such investigation? In the first place, CIDB had never shown to be involved actively in monitoring or controlling the construction projects in whatever role that can tangibly be said to have proactively, nor productively, being a partner of the industry other than to spent time in India trying to secure some projects and selling it to the few high profile Malaysian contractors for a percentage of commissions.

Since the setup of CIDB decades ago, what had been seen of CIDB in the eyes of contractors and property developers is that they exist to collect 0.25% of the project contract sum from the contractors for each and every construction project exceeding $500,000. Thereafter, nothing beneficial had been done to assist the contractors other than to ensure that the contractors register themselves with them, buy the green cards issued by CIDB, and apart of this, is the great Indian mission of projects.

The Human Resources Ministry wants answers from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) on the 700 cases of negligence at project sites reported since 2003. Datuk Seri Dr Fong Chan Onn said his ministry would meet with the board this week to ascertain what was wrong in the industry. “We want to know the outcome of their investigations as CIDB has the power to issue stop-work orders and take action against errant contractors. We are serious as we do not want a repeat of the tragedy which happened in Sri Hartamas (Kuala Lumpur) last week,” he said. Dr Fong statement was in response to media reports about the 700 cases, which included 150 high-profile incidents.

I am not sure if Dr Fong understands the role and responsibility of CIDB and also whether CIDB understand their purpose of existence.

Secondly, I am puzzled at the committee that is set up to investigate the incidence at Plaza Damas. It seemed to consist of structural engineering design engineers. But the key problem that is involved in the incident involves the operation management of the construction activities, the mechanical engineering operation of hoisting steel moulds, clamping and locking of the craning and hoisting system, how the workers and supervisors control and monitor the craning, hoisting, fixing, removing and stacking the steel moulds. This concerns, project management, construction site operation management, tower-cranage management, safety and risk operation management of work activities and tasks. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is involved with structural engineering design.

It puzzles me - are they going to investigate the steel mould design? Are they looking into the reinforced concrete design? Are they going to check and analyse the scaffolding design and installation? What for? What the F**k for?

Primarily as I see it, the investigation should be centered on how the steel moulding operations are carried out from hoisting, installation, removal and stacking; how the safety of the work's operation were planned, monitored and controlled; and whether there any risk management - identification, quantification, response planning, risk monitoring, risk control, and workaround management? The analysis should include the methods of operation and resource competence such as the competence and control of tower-crane operation, how contractor execute and supervise their work and task operations, how they manage safety and risk, and whether the consulting engineers and architects of the project had played their professional roles of project management.

The committee should therefore include those who understand tower-crane operation, steel formwork system operation management (not design), construction management safety and health experts, mechanical engineers to analyse the hoisting and installation process for the steel moulding formwork system, project management experts in high-rise building construction, and construction-risk system managers.

At such, if the investigation committee is crowded with structural design experts, and government servants, including CIDB staffs, the presumption is that they understand nothing of contractors' operation management and process. Even those purported associated consultants of CIDB are good talkers, and none have been experienced as contractor's operation managers or had been construction site managers who had been involved in high-rise building construction management process in the role of the contractor's operation.

Unless you are been involved with the contractors in construction process and management role, it is hard for government servants irrespective whether they are ex-JKR or ex-consulting engineers, to be able to have insights to the real emphirical problem that caused such incident.

Fantasy and fallacy always prevail... I hope Tan Sri Omar truly understand and discover the profound knowledge of the contractor's operation.