Zairil is the CEO of Penang Institute (formerly known as SERI) and his institute is funded directly by the state government. This makes Zairil a state civil servant. On the other hand, I am a registered voter of Penang. Dap had criticized a Sarawak state minister for acting like a 'towkay' but shockingly Zairil is behaving exactly the same like James Masing from the land of the hornbills.
It is his full time duty to respond to a voter's concern and queries about the Bayan Mutiara deal. He should engage me in the same manner I had engaged the Dap-led state government.
In his response to my article, he did not even have a courtesy and an intellectual respect to make a reference to me. He preferred to call me "one particular political commentator". Instead of addressing the points I had raised on the Bayan Mutiara controversy, he had chosen to label me as obsessive and myopic.
First, let me address the part of being obsessive. Zairil is partly correct, yes, I am obsessive about everything Penang but not the Dap. Political parties come and go. Both MCA and Gerakan are the best examples. The former led Penang from 1957 to 1969 and the latter from 1969 to 2008.
MCA took away Penang's free port status but Gerakan gave us the free trade zone. Subsequently, the leadership of Koh Tsu Koon gave up Penang to Umno and their cronies to run freely. Koh's Gerakan had left us with bad urban development, potentially dangerous hilltop development, bad traffic management and a host of other issues which had contributed to his party's demise.
However, when a political party is shown the door the social and economic destruction they created do not go with them. This is a sad reality and Penangites are the ones who have to suffer the consequences. Hence, we do not want the same history repeating itself.
Is it wrong for me to ask and probe the Dap on the Bayan Mutiara deal and a seemingly lack of vision on how to develop the last piece of a sizable prime land on the island? Did his political bosses show any initiative to provide us with enough information to help convince us that the best way to help fund low cost housing is to sell off the Bayan Mutiara land to a private developer?
Speaking of pragmatic reformism and curbing injustices emanating from capitalist system, I am baffled how the Dap-led state government can endorse the sale of Bayan Mutiara land to a private developer and yet claiming to have served its purpose.
How pragmatic can the party be if it is selling it to a single buyer and yet claiming that no single company is capable of paying the sum of RM1.07 billion upfront in order to justify offering a 5-year payment period? How can it curb injustices if only a single company is given the privilege to participate in the development of the huge prime land?
Without a proper master plan, the state is trying to convince us through Tropicana Ivory Sdn. Bhd. that they are going to build us a world class city. There is little we know about this world class city apart from being told that the property prices on Penang World City are going to be very expensive! The only track record we can refer to is the Penang Times Square. Shouldn't Penang Institute be providing the state government with proper feedback on the master plan?
On the accusation that I am myopic, I had asked these questions which the state government had chosen to stay mum and which Zairil had conveniently avoided:
- Can the state government guarantee that the new mega city, Penang World City (PWC), would be able to meet the aspirations of the average Penangites and fulfil the requirements of a sustainable development which is inclusive and value added to the state’s socio-economic transformation?
- What is Dap’s vision for the PWC? How can the PWCT create jobs and opportunities for the average people?
- Will the average people be one day pushed out from the island due to unreasonable escalation of property prices and inflation?
- The development of PWC is not without its risks which are associated to the highly fragile global economy. Most of the developed economies, which are Malaysia’s most important trading partners, such as US, Europe, Middle East and Japan are facing unprecedented political and economic challenges since post World War II. It is believed that Tropicana Ivory Sdn. Bhd. (TISB) will be taking over the Bayan Mutiara land in phases in accordance to the payment schedule. Since the project will be dependent on foreigners to purchase a big chunk of the development, it is not insulated from the impact of a global economic slowdown.What will happen should TISB fails to complete the project? Did the state government conduct any scenario planning to avoid and prevent the project from being abandoned half way? Does the state government have a back-up plan if the project is being abandoned?
The questions I had listed above are similar to the ones I had asked in my last article. I believe any reasonable and fair minded readers would be able to help answer Zairil's accusation of me for being myopic.
Since Zairil is a friend, I might give him an Oxford dictionary as a birthday present.