TNB should respect Federal Court’s decision to pay damages to Cameron Highlands victims without delay

I am extremely disappointed on TNB for delaying paying damages to the 100 flood victims despite the Federal Court ruling that TNB was liable for causing flash floods in the Bertam Valley in Cameron Highlands by releasing water from the dam recklessly.

On Oct 23, 2013, the water level at Sultan Abu Bakar Dam in Ringlet, Cameron Highlands had reached the critical level following heavy downpours in Ringlet and Bertam Valleys areas. Due to TNB’s negligence in managing the dam, including failing to install a water inflow measurement instrument and releasing water from the dam three times without any warning, a devastating flood occurred in Bertam Valley and resulted in the loss of four lives and the destruction of property. After the tragedy, 100 victims from Bertam Valley, Cameron Highlands filed a lawsuit against TNB on November 2, 2015.

On May 25, 2018, High Court judge Justice Nordin Hassan found TNB to be negligent in managing the dam. The company only installed a water inflow measurement instrument at the dam after the incident and released water from the dam three times on the night of Oct 23, 2013, resulting in the disaster. Dissatisfied with the court ruling, TNB went out all to file appeals to overturn it. On December 12, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court finding and awarded RM20,000 in costs to the plaintiffs. After more than 4 years, the three-member bench of the Federal Court unanimously dismissed TNB’s leave application to appeal, hence TNB must pay damages to the victims.

However, TNB didn’t take a proactive approach by directly negotiating compensation with the lawyer M Manogaran, who represented the 100 victims. Instead, TNB demanded all 100 plaintiffs to appear in court and show proof of their claims one by one.

One can’t help but suspect that TNB is deliberately leveraging the complicated procedures to make it difficult for all claimants to comply, thus achieving the ultimate goal of delaying the entire process or even slashing the total amount of compensation.

In fact, Tanah Rata State Assemblyman’s Office also assisted lawyer M Moanogaran twice last year to collect police reports and relevant receipts from the 100 claimants. The victims’ claims are made based on the police reports, with receipts being attached as proof. Therefore, TNB’s demand for every claimant to appear in court is completely redundant and unnecessary.

The fact that TNB lost the case in the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Federal Court proved clearly that the company’s negligence had resulted in the devastating flood in Bertam Valley, Cameron Highlands. As a listed company and GLC, TNB should exhibit social responsibility and moral conscience by respecting the court ruling, understanding the predicament of flood victims who wish to rebuild their homes, and compensating the victims for the damages without delay.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Years after the devastating tragedy happened, the victims and claimants are still waiting for TNB’s compensation to rebuild their homes, while some of the elder victims had already passed away. Hence, TNB should proactively cooperate with the victims’ lawyer M Manogaran to negotiate compensation for the caused damage, so that justice can finally be served. Moreover, TNB must institutionalize and standardize dam management practices in order to prevent any disaster from haunting the residents again.

Chiong Yoke Kong
Media statement by Chiong Yoke Kong in Cameron Highlands on Wednesday, 19th January 2022