Friday, March 09, 2012

Please Respect SAM and CAP View on Mega Infrastructure Projects in Penang

Public discourse on governance issues related to the Penang state government, especially Dap leaders, has been attracting worrying and often rude responses from hardcore Pakatan/Dap supporters. Some of the responses had resorted to unbecoming name calling, racism and illogical argument. 

Recently, two NGOs - Sahabat Alam Malaysia and Consumers Association of Penang - both led by veteran activist SM Mohamed Idris had questioned the "transparency and openness" of the state government, claiming it lacked public consultation on planned infrastructure projects. 

To be fair to SM Mohamed Idris, his complaint is reasonable and important. The NGOs had merely asked the state government to hold back the announcement of these huge infrastructure projects until the Transport Master Plan is being tabled. Like it or not, Penang's traffic congestion has been one of the major turnoffs to residents and visitors. 

Previously in the Opposition, some Dap leaders had been critical of major highway projects such as PORR. The construction of these projects will not only burden motorists with unnecessary toll charges but also an anti-thesis to the efforts to find viable and permanent solutions to Penang's public transport woes. 

Here's what the NGOs said:

"Recent press reports state that the Penang government will call for a request of proposals for the construction of the 6.5 km Gurney Drive-Bagan Ajam undersea tunnel, 12 km road connecting Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang, 4.2km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu bypass and 4.6km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass. These projects are expected to be funded by land swap deals with prospective companies.
These mega projects costing billions of dollars which ultimately have to come from public resources, are meant to speed up motor traffic but not to provide affordable and efficient transport for the public.
The undersea tunnel in addition to the new bridge which is scheduled to be operational shortly, will serve only to bring more motor vehicles into the island contributing to the worsening of traffic congestion. As it is, there are more cars than people on the island. So any addition will have serious traffic impacts."
The two NGOs have called for more public consultation before any decision being made to approve the projects. However, SM Mohamed Idris' statement had courted some of the nastiest and unbecoming comments on presumably from hardcore supporters of the state government. Some of these comments are racist, rude and illogical:
wfworker Another Mamak's plot in the name of his public interests!
FLYING EAGLE CAP you are so critical to the Penang State Government under PR about the development without 'your approval'. will CAP be more CRITICAL likewise against the Federal Government for alloting the 2 companies (one under retired CJ's wife co. and the other the lawyer's co. who is UMNO panel of lawyer) for the project costing RM2.2 billion? CAP stands for - Consumers Association of Penang
Chin Tu Lan Cap, you want penang govt to make it public so that the notorious mamak can go there and make fool of themselves again. Consultation means to seek your views and the final decision is made by the state govt. you are the stake holders and you are required to provide input. Now cap wants to decide. Then its about time you register a political party and stand for election.
There is no need to insinuate that Idris is an Indian Muslim (mamak). He is a leader of two NGOs and a Malaysian citizen. He has as much democratic rights as anyone of us to express his views.   
Next, the Transportation Master Plan in Penang is an important issue. Hence, why can't CAP, which is a Penang based NGO, focus on Penang centric issues? If NGOs have to be registered as political parties before they can question the state government then all voters must become members of political parties too before they can exercise their voting rights?
I notice that such rude and crude reaction towards legitimate criticism and queries from stakeholders and activists has become chronic and rampant. Hardcore supporters might want to exercise restraint before their action being misinterpreted as a new dawn of political arrogance. 
Chief minister's political secretary Zairil Mohd Khir has dismissed the claim, saying that the state has revealed public information on the projects, while his boss, Lim Guan Eng had attended two consultation sessions with NGO representatives.
Zairil should take note that two consultation sessions with NGO representatives do not constitute a comprehensive public consultation. In countries such as USA, Australia, Canada, Singapore and other first world governments would normally hold extensive public feedback sessions and town hall meetings to provide crucial information on such massive public infrastructure projects. 
In addition, exhibitions are held to provide useful technical layouts and information to interested public. All questions are often answered without the need to issue any press statement to deny a lack of public consultation. A proper PR strategy would be to immediately release all pertinent information about the projects and invite members of the public to write in to the secretariat regarding their concerns and questions about the projects.
Ironically Zairil is the newly minted CEO of Penang Institute, a think tank to the state government. I am sure his institute is prepared to play the role of a secretariat to provide proper explanation to the public. 
Another activist, Anil Netto, retorted: "For me the real issue is, in view of increasing congestion, rising oil prices, depletion of oil and other natural resources and climate change, should we be spending billions on highways and a tunnel or investing all that money in more sustainable transport alternatives?"
Anil has succinctly expressed my feeling as a Penangite. How many new highways, tunnels and roads can Penang island susport? How many additional private vehicles can the island absorb without creating chocking bottlenecks and traffic jams? Is there any plan for alternative mode of public transportation in Penang?
The newly elected state government should justify their capability by giving us a sustainable and viable solution to public transportation and mobility. It is easy to build and fund highways by pawning away our land banks. But it takes good governance, technical know-how and policy mastery to come out with a viable and sustainable Transportation Master Plan.
There is also a misconception about the true meaning of Open Tender. An open tender is not a simple process of putting up an advertisement on major newspapers inviting companies to tender for a project. An open tender requires a transparent and open process of informing the public why a particular company is being picked for a project and to aptly inform other tenders why they were not successful. Often the process of an Open Tender in Malaysia is not that open.  
State political secretaries, assistants, think tankers and staff should refrain from any act(s) aiming at suppressing legitimate and fair criticism by claiming that its the work of pro-BN protagonists trying to sabotage the state government. In short, do not hide behind the Devil's cloak.  
I am sure the state government is capable of providing a responsible and comprehensive reply to the two NGOs and other concerned individuals like Anil Netto et cetera.


joeawk said...

I agree that all are allowed to express their views and should not resort to name calling. However, the decision rest with the executive.

If one is unhappy with the decision, in Penang, one has got the speakers corner to further air one's view.

Alternatively, one can picket but do not become public nuisance like a certain group of people in Penang.

I am a DAP supporter but I do not support blindly. It is as much my Penang as much as others.

bubblegum said...

Dear Mr Khoo,

Is my statement racist, Mr Khoo? What I said in the statement "notorious mamak" and you jump to conclusion that I meant SM Mohammed Idris is a mamak. What I meant by "notorious mamak" is those BN/UMNO/PERKASA goons that create a havoc in anti lynas protest in Esplanade,Penang. Never at at one time that statement is meant for Idris. However, I shall still stick to the statement made by me, that although an NGO is the stakeholder to the policies making process and its role to provide feedback to the state govt. They are not there to decide. There views should be appreciated and should be taken into consideration. But the decision is still Penang State Govt. IF the NGO want to involve in the decision making process, I suggest them to join politics or join the current state govt. I'm from a NGO too and I would like to state the fact a Non Govt. organisation (NGO) should stick to its role to provide the necessary check and balance to the Penang state Govt. Identify the gaps and deficiency of the Penang state policies but please stay out of the decision making process. The Penang state govt should be held accountable for all the decisions they made. Although its a thin line between that but at this juncture, in my opinion I think Idris cross the line. NGO should play their role effectively in assisting Penang state govt in their decison making process but not making on the decision itself.Their views could be opposing from the decision made by the govt but they have to accept it. If the people of Penang feels that the state govt is not capable, they shall then be voted out of the govt.Unfortunately many NGO's today are politically inclined and created with political motives. I'm very sure SAM and CAP are not one of those "pariah" politically motivated NGO's.
Dr Chin Tu lan

Anonymous said...

why the need to use words like Mamak or pariah?perhaps , people should start to use words like "notorious chinese"or "uncouth chinese".

Anonymous said...

2 issues I wish to comment:

1. traffic congestion - Those NGOs are no traffic consultants - if they are interested to champion that, it is best the collect data, opinion, comments, suggestions and send to GOV during the planning period. I believe during the master planning stage the consultant would and should engage the relevant parties for feedback.

I strongly believe the heavy traffic issue on the Penang bridge is due to poor design by previous GOV. The existing Penang bridge has 2 issues - long queue before you enter the bridge at Butterworth - need to use smart tags or abolish it (this we need to wait for PR to be GOV). then there will be no more queue.

another issue is the congestions created because of the out going at Penang Island site, especially that joined to the main road (USM).

The new bridge should (may be it is in the plan) have the exit in the inner land rather than just the coastal area. It should bring motorist into the inner land, say, 2 -3 KM and it may also form part of the inner ring road.

2. Open tender - no one in the world will tell the world why the company lost a tender. IT is confidential and privy to the BOD and tender committees only. To publish in the newspaper is good enough, but they need to ensure the good companies are also invited (especially those oversea international bidders). I only request, the tender be opened for at least 3 months for them to prepare a proper bid. No negotiation of price until the last stage (left with 2 best bidders).


Michael Tneh said...

I am in agreement with Mr Khoo Kay Peng that we should be more open to constructive criticisms. Opinions that differ should not be treated with contempt and loud voices threatening from the party supporters to drown out the individual whose opinion differs from the state govt.

I am fearful that we are now in a situation whereby anyone that voices anything different from the state govt of the day would be branded a traitor. If that is the case, what different is this current state govt from the previous state govt headed by BN?

What Anil Netto said is right. We need more efficient public transport like KL. We need the LRT/MRT mode of transport. I want to leave my car at home and go to work in a public transport like my younger brother does in KL! In fact, I am sick and tired of hearing more public transportation infrastructure being built in KL time and time again! What about Penang? Where does Penang stand in the eyes of the Federal Govt? And now, all I hear from the current state govt would be more roads and not public transportation infrastructure?

Building more roads and tunnels means attracting more cars to Penang. It would not solve our current traffic woes. It would only postpone the inevitable traffic chaos that would envelope the whole island. If one goes to Gurney Plaza on either a Friday or Saturday evening, you would get my drift about what I am saying! Can we get something better than more roads and tunnels please?

Before you throw rotten eggs and tomatoes in my direction, I am a die hard DAP supporter who has been trying to convince my parents to vote for the DAP time and time again.

Wuming said...

Kay Peng, this is a useful article for PR supporters. We are willing to support PR until the end, at the same time, we know that in order to beat BN, we need to use our brain, rather than mere shouting.

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Bubblegum & Chin,

I did not find any part of SAM and CAP statement suggesting that they should be the decision making body. Yes, ultimately the decision lies with the executive. So, we should not complain too if the Federal Govt decides to appoint a suspected 'crony' company run by an ex-judge wife and UMNO's legal rep to build a RM2.2 bil highway or a cabinet minister's family to run the NFCorp.


Do we need to be an expert to know that there's traffic congestion in the city especially on the Penang Island?

bubblegum said...

Mr Khoo,
I might not agree with what the federal govt has done. In fact i despise it but this is democracy. No matter what happens we have to respect the govt of the day. It is voted by the people and the majority wins. Im no PR supporter. I am just a Malaysian who wants a better Malaysia. Whoever can do that I shall support them.
As for encik idris, pleack check his alliance and his motive.A quick check on google will know where he is aligned to. I might not know him but I have met you before and i admiried your neutrality. But in this case I have to disagree with you.
Dr Chin Tu Lan

Anonymous said...

As a tiny island state, Penang is short on land and its present mode of transportation is unsustainable. To continue allowing more vehicles from mainland entering into the island, builidng more highway and street to prevent traffic congestion is a shortsighted vision per se; in order to come out with a right solution, the state government's administration need to think out of the box, a rapid public transportation system is the only viable solution to the ever rising future congestion and air pollution problem in Penang, failure to come to term with the reality may cause more problems and complicate the existing problem down the road, it is time for a thorough review of a comprehensive mode of public transportation for residents and visitors alike for the sake of a sustainable future.

Anonymous said...

alternative mode of public transportation - is th ekey word to all traffic woes in Malaysia. Even with LRT . . .it does not cover the whole of KL.

Anonymous said...

If you have to spend at lease 1 hour of your precious life, i.e. I presume it is to you, in a traffic jam everyday, then tell me you would not give your opinion simply because you are "not an expert".

Do we need to wait until PR take over the whole Earth before we have a better world? Since the Opposition's logic is always, "wait until PR takes over Putrajaya, and we would give you free highway".

Guess what the Communists told the Chinese people in order to get their supports to take over China --- liberated China, and then guess what happened after that --- a proper Cultural Revolution, and a push back to Iron-Age (or Steel-Age), and famine, and an iron-fist government.

Nothing is free in this world, even the wool has to come from the sheep's body, and I am surprised some of you highly learned souls still think the "wool" is free. Amen

p/s, We definitely need something more creative and innovative than just building more highways and bridges.

Anonymous said...

when a government bends on building more highways and bridges to tackle traffic congestion and public transport lacking, this government can be said to be bankrupt of ideas. Case studies can be read on faraway countries, e.g. EU countries, or Far East countries, Korea and Japan, or better still, our neighbor, Singapore.

Anonymous said...

@ Dr Chin Tu Lan, please bear in mind that when a person speaks or makes a statement on behalf an organization, it is the function of the person plays in that organization which we should take note of, NOT the person's ethnicity, religion, affinity, etc.

How come you never question his "alliance" with so and so, when the same person in the same capacity spoke against the Lynas plant?

Read "Lynas plant rushed ahead before radiation study" ---

A typical sign of "selective criticism" syndrome.

What is the difference between BN and PR cyber-troopers?

We want to fight against corruption, and it looks like we will end up having to fight against tyranny as well.

The CAT in Penang is not as accountable and transparent as it likes us to believe, trust me. Don't believe me? Go and GET INVOLVED!

Competency is another thing we should study, if it exists.

One thing you don't need to worry about is --- politics, everything the present DAP government did/does had/has relative political implication to them, instead of the GENUINE desire to make Penang a better place for Penangnites.

Anonymous said...

When the 2nd Link is still being built and yet to be completed, they are already talking about building a tunnel (the 3rd Link). Why?

It is simply like planning to marry another wife (a 3rd wife) when the wedding to marry a 2nd wife is still in planning stage.

It has got nothing to do with our ability to match up with other more advanced countries, it is more like whether WE NEED IT OR NOT?!?

LGE, let the 2nd Link be completed first! Why you are always so helter-skelter? Are you planning on going somewhere else soon? We aren't going anywhere, neither is the island, so relax! Isn't your salaries enough for your family? Wanna follow the Yellow Submarine case, by building a submarine Link?

Anonymous said...

when a politician give money to the people to "prove" that he/she is not corrupt, then this politician is playing "Manipulation" and whatever transparency and/or accountability he/she claims to uphold are/is toppled, as you can not be manipulative and yet be transparent and/or accountable at the same time!

The transparency that is being promoted and lauded is not a transparency at all. Why is it so? Because it is a manufactured one!

Did LGE ever tell us where he raised his fund, from which he "give back" to Penang's elderly persons? If he was using our local taxes to do that, then there would be his political disaster, think of all the costs incurred, i.e. administration, transaction etc.

It might as well be better if LGE announced that the "cukai pintu" for medium and low cost flats be abolished or car-parking is free after 5pm, because these would have more direct effect on the disposable incomes of Penangnites, after all, the meager sum of money given to the elderly per year is incapable to bring any real effect on their lives.

I mean, what kind you pay for with RM100 or RM200 a year? That would be like RM8.35 or RM16.70 per month in either case.