Residents Unhappy DBKL Hiring Gopal Sri Ram in Taman Rimba Kiara Case

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The top lawyer’s fee will come from public funds and ratepayers’ taxes.

Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents are livid that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is hiring top lawyer Gopal Sri Ram to protect its interests in the Taman Rimba Kiara (TRK) development case.

The former judge is known to command a princely sum for his services and DBKL’s budget will come from public funds and ratepayers’ taxes.

Save Taman Rimba Kiara Group bulletin boards flashed the news over the weekend on social media and residents are unhappy that such a prominent lawyer is hired to make a stand against their case.

“We have been asked whether we should be worried about Sri Ram joining as counsel for DBKL,” said one post.

“It’s (lawyer) Cecil Abraham plus Sri Ram plus unlimited Malton Berhad and DBKL money – versus Prof Gurdial Singh and poor TTDI residents. At least David fought only one Goliath!” said another resident in the leafy suburb at the edge of the Federal Territory.

The case revolves around an appeal filed by the TTDI residents to reverse a lower court’s dismissal of their judicial review challenge over the approval of the TRK development.

The residents opposed the proposed nine blocks of apartments in a venture between Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP) and Memang Perkasa Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Malton Bhd.

DBKL approved the joint venture in 2014, which residents said would destroy 10ha of one of the last remaining green lungs in Kuala Lumpur.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad had been negotiating for a scaled-down plan comprising four blocks of serviced apartments and 204 affordable housing units, which most residents rejected.

The residents now fear that DBKL is hiring big guns to defeat them in court.

Turning up during a preliminary hearing on Friday was Sri Ram, who acted as lead counsel for DBKL. The former Federal Court judge is currently the lead prosecutor for two ongoing Najib Razak 1MDB cases, which he said he is doing pro bono.

Mohd Sahar Misni/The Star

“Suddenly he appeared,” said Save Taman Rimba Kiara Group media coordinator Khairudin Rahim.

“Nobody was aware he would be there until that day. It’s just strange, somebody of that calibre doing that,” he said yesterday, adding that the group is aware that Sri Ram is paid a “premium”.

“A question for Khalid….why is DBKL not using lawyers from the Attorney-General’s Chambers?” he added.

Khairudin’s group bulletin posted over the weekend: “People are angered with Gopal Sri Ram’s deployment as DBKL counsel for TRK suit. Not that they fear GSR tipping the case in favour of DBKL.

“It is that GSR should be deployed by the government to deal with cases of high national importance, such as prosecuting kleptocrats and thieves of the public’s billions. Instead public money is being spent to unleash GSR on members of the public, and GSR’s time and resources are being tapped to fight voters?”

A full hearing of the appeal has now been fixed for January 15, 2020. – TMI