1. Members of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), civil societies, social activists and environmentalists along with a majority of local residents in Penang are outraged over how the state government is bent on bulldozing its desire to proceed with the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.
2. The state has totally ignored criticism of the project by concerned Penangites by announcing PSR would proceed as scheduled next year even though legal issues concerning it have yet to be settled in the courts. It is mind boggling that the state is going ahead with the project even as the appeal has yet to be heard and the legal issues resolved.
3. Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has said the contract for the first stage of reclamation was expected to be awarded on February 1 and the construction of a workers’ dorm and a site office at Permatang Damar Laut were expected to be awarded on December 1.
4. This clearly shows how little respect the state government has for the country’s legal system. It was reported that an appeal was filed in July last year challenging the EIA on the PSR. A hearing is pending against the decision by the then DOE (Department of Environment) director-general, granting conditional approval of the project’s EIA.
5. It must be noted that the appeal was not filed by any politician looking to win support or publicity but done by those who are directly going to be imoacted by the project. The court battle is being fought by the Sungai Batu fishermen who are challenging the approval of the EIA on various grounds.
6. Their grouses include that the DOE’s approval of the EIA was premature as the it was incomplete and had not taken into account the conditions imposed by the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry.
7. The fishermen have done their research and have argued that the project undermined Malaysia’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The matter could be litigated right up to the Federal Court and could take many months.
8. The PSR project will be spread over 17 sq km, with three islands sized 9.3 sq km, 4.45 sq km and 3.23 sq km, to be reclaimed off the coast of Permatang Damar Laut, near the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas.
9. From the information available so far, it is said the reclaimed islands will belong to the state government but land parcels will be auctioned off to the highest bidders to finance the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
10. Even after the public outcry, Chow has chosen to remain silent, relegating the task of countering all round criticism against the PSR to lesser state officials, who could only meekly counter by saying that detractors had been given a chance to voice their disgruntlement to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed.
11. The state now argues that just because it had arranged the meeting, it has fulfilled its responsibility of practicing openness. I say this is nothing but bunkum… absolute nonsense. The truth is the state, more so the DAP, has totally ignored its promise of running a Competent, Accountable and Transparent (C.A.T) administration by failing to respect the country’s legal system.
12. No C.A.T. government would sidestep the legal process and bulldoze a much despised project by claiming it had fulfilled its obligation just because one meeting with the PM had been arranged. The truth of the matter is the DAP has clearly drowned its C.A.T.