At least five residents and activists were arrested this morning while protesting the construction of high voltage pylons in the residential areas of Taman Cheras Hartamas.
Local pressure group "Pylon Issues Support Team" leader Mae Yap told Malaysiakini in a phone interview that some residents had went to the electric pylon construction site to stop the work, even hugging the electric pole stubbornly.
“They are against the high voltage electrical cable pole construction and formed a human shield, trying to block the construction. Because of their refusal to cooperate with the police, some got arrested.
“Police told us not to obstruct the construction, but we did not obey, instead, we sat at the foot of the electric cable pylon. But, the construction workers ignored us, and forcefully erected the pylons.
"The residents noticed it, they rushed to the pole and hugged it, trying to stop the pylon from being raised. Later, while it is not really clear what happened, the police targeted five persons and arrested them, one was even handcuffed,” Yap said.
Meanwhile at about 5.20pm, Teratai assemblyperson Tiew Way Keng informed Malaysiakini that those arrested were yet to be released, although police had promised to let them go by today.
Tiew was at the police station, together with the residents, to show their upport for those arrested.
In an immediate reaction, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) demanded the immediate release of the residents and activists arrested this morning.
Condemning the arrests, the human rights NGO also called for Tenaga National Berhad (TNB) to immediately halt the project and conduct proper dialogues with the residents instead of just steamrolling the project through.
"TNB disregarded the welfare of the local population when they failed to conduct proper consultations and discussions with local residents on the construction of high voltage pylons in close proximity with residential houses.
"With no clear studies conducted on the long-term health impact of high voltage pylons in such close proximity, and lack of initiative in exploring alternatives, it was necessary for residents to peacefully protest and halt the project pending government intervention," reasoned Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy in a statement.
With the absence of any visible alternatives, Suaram said the residents of Taman Cheras Hartamas had no choice but to protest, and took reasonable measures to stop the projects, pending possible state intervention and court injunction.
Suaram also lamented that the residents and activists were arrested despite the peaceful nature of the measures adopted during their protested.
The NGO called on the state government of Selangor to intervene on the matter and ensure that the welfare of the people is taken care of.
Some of the residents and activists arrested include Lam Guan Loong, Yim Ah Ming, Yap Ah Tai, Long Chef Chew and Tan Teck Chye.
In a statement later, the Selangor Menteri Besar's office said the arrests were "regrettable" and urged cooperation from TNB and the residents.
"...it is the state’s concern that any delay will cause interference to the Langat 2 Water Treatment Plant project and the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang line which will have an impact on the larger community of public transport and water users in the state.
"The Menteri Besar of Selangor has heard the concerns of the campaigners and assures the residents that the relevant authorities will ensure that the construction of the power transmission pylons complies to safety rules and regulations.
"We urge TNB to resolve the issue with the campaigners in an amicable manner – including facilitating access to the latest scientific information regarding their concerns – and for the residents to give full cooperation for the collective benefit of the state," MB's office strategic communications director Yin Shao Loong said.