“The developers are the most organised lobby group and they are big financiers of certain political parties. What role are they playing in government?” — Question raised at the Penang Forum on Sunday
My earlier posting on Friday urged MPPP councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui to speak up in the public interest on Penang’s sPICE project.
A latest related development has another MPPP councillor Lim Boo Chang – who resigned his post a few days ago – threatening to file a libel suit against Ng Wei Aik who is the political secretary to Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng.
The two councillors were the only conscientious objectors (among 24 appointed council members) who protested the way the Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre (sPICE) mega project had been bulldozed through without adequate consultation.
Boo Chang maintains that the councillors were not given any copy of the sPICE contract to scrutinize. His claim is yet to be refuted by the Penang state government.
This keeping councillors in the dark begs the question of how the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) could approve a RM50 million budget for sPICE without the councillors being notified of its terms and conditions much less debate the lopsided provisions.
Assuming the claim by Boo Chang is valid, the seeming irregularity – which is seen as deliberate obfuscation – on the part of MPPP gives the lie to the persistent boast by Guan Eng’s state administration that his Pakatan government practices CAT (competency, accountability, transparency).
Instead of addressing the critical issues raised by Boo Chang, a key aide to the chief minister has instead chosen to launch a personal attack in a local Chinese paper on the character of the ex-councillor.
Wei Aik’s remarks have prompted Boo Chang to go ahead with action for defamation should a retraction and apology not be forthcoming from the former within 24 hours.
The screenshot above is taken from a draft jotted in freelance journalist Anil Netto’s blog.
Anil covered live the proceedings of the 4th Penang Forum on Dec 18 where various NGOs got together to discuss sustainable development issues.
Dr Lim Mah Hui was one of the speakers.
Mah Hui talked about Penang’s inflated property bubble where there is a mismatch of supply and needs, i.e. an over-abundance of high-end condos and property targeted at the rich and foreign buyers.
[A speaker from the floor raises the plight of the urban poor who are forced to live in ‘”chicken coops”.]
It is an open secret that “The developers’ lobby is influential”. — see Anil’s posting.
Anil quoted Mah Hui as saying “we cannot put the internationalisation of Penang above local needs”.
Among the concerns of the NGO representatives expressed at the Penang Forum were:
- the hills being raped for profit and how condo projects on steep slopes in Tanjung Bungah pose a safety risk
- the proliferation of high-rise projects with 7,305 new units in the pipeline alone in Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi (tourist beach area)
- the demolishment of a bungalow to make way for construction project with high Gross Development Value (GDV)
- a factory built within a residential area where the owner is alleged to have tried to enlist the help of a Yang Berhormat
- lack of open green spaces and parks
- poor maintenance of low-cost housing especially on the mainland
- query if the 30 per cent low-cost housing requirement is being fulfilled
- the lack of implementation of Department of Environment (DOE) guidelines for land reclamation and the non-application of the National Land Code on Penang’s reclaimed foreshores
With the “development frenzy” that is going on at breakneck speed in Penang as well as the influence that developers appear to exert on state policies, it is no surprise that someone should whisper to Anil:
“We won’t be an island anymore. Soon we will be able to walk to the mainland!”
Among the terms of the sPICE contract is one allowing the developer to build other projects which exceed the maximum density of housing units per acre vis-a-vis the local plan.
Mah Hui in his presentation at the forum touched on the “drivers of development mania”.
Those who doubt the accountability and transparency of the Penang state government in this matter are troubled by the following factors:
- the chief minister Lim Guan Eng holds the land portfolio in the state exco
- the chief minister Lim Guan Eng is chairman of the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) which is the state development agency
- the chief minister Lim Guan Eng is chairman of Penang Green Council (holding these dual positions simultaneously negates the principle of ‘check and balance’)
- the chief minister Lim Guan Eng personally chairs the tender board — a disclosure by Bayan Baru independent Member of Parliament Zahrain Mohd Hashim
Therefore we’re left to ponder whether the chief minister Lim Guan Eng is a chief source of the problems.
The allegation raised at the Penang Forum that the developers are big financiers of certain political parties is a most serious one.
Another observation made at the forum is how influential the developers’ lobby is.
Hence the public needs to know what is the real extent of influence that these developers have on the Penang Pakatan government.
What happened in Kg Buah Pala is a grim reminder to us all.
Again it is imperative that Dr Lim Mah Hui speaks up if he is any way able to clarify and allay the pressing public concerns.
These postings might interest you: