Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has responded to the concerns aired earlier on this blog.

Dear Anil,

I felt you did not give a complete picture of the constraints faced by the state govt during these last 5 years in trying to get public transport going with the obstructionist attitude of the Transport Ministry and the Federal govt. Nothing exemplifies more such difficulty faced by the state govt then the Fed govt’s stubborn refusal to accept a RM10 million yearly payment to offer free bus rides during peak hours. This is on top of the 2 earlier successful initiatives of offering free CAT bus rides in the heritage city enclave and free Park & Ride across the 1st Bridge from the mainland to Bayan Lepas FIZ.

You should have pointed out in fairness that the state govt can do nothing to improve public transport without federal government approval even if we pay for it as the RM10 million failed cash offer showed – no say in ferries, taxis, buses and even water transport. As such we feel that it is our responsibility to offer a clear choice – a worst case scenario if we do not win Putrajaya, that at least there are alternatives that we have planned to mitigate traffic congestion. It is worth pointing out that the number of cars coming in across the 1st Bridge had hit record levels of more than 80,000 car per day.

The award tender exercise was done in an open competitive manner and evaluation and recommendation done not by me or other EXCO members but by the State Financial Officer Dato Mokhtar Jait.

I beg to differ that building more roads will finally cause more cars to come in. The advantage of more alternative roads would provide us options of closing down inner city roads for pedestrian walkways, tram lines and dedicated bus lanes.

I respect your strong views on this matter and assure you that such acerbic remarks will not deter me from continuing to engage with dissenting detractors. We all want what is best for Penang but let us continue to engage to see how we can refine our respective positions on the premise that there is no monopoly for being absolutely right.

Attached is my press statement issued today which will allow me to give my side of the story. Thank you.

Regards,
Guan Eng

Dear Guan Eng

I appreciate your response and willingness to engage openly for two hours during the meeting yesterday in the full glare of the media – something which surprised us.

I know your hands are largely tied re public transport, no thanks to the BN federal government’s centralisation of powers over public transport. In previous posts, I have criticised the federal government for not allowing your state government to subsidise RapidPenang bus services during peak hours while I have applauded your express bus service initiative across the Penang Bridge.

I am sorry if I sounded ascerbic. It is just that the main thrust of the disappointment stems from our thinking that the Penang state government should wait for the outcome of the general election before saying it really is unable to do anything more about public transport because of BN federal control. In the election campaign, you and your colleagues can present a clear pledge to the voters of what you will do with public transport if Pakatan captures Putrajaya – rather than taking a big first step to committing to the highways and road-based tunnel (a cross-channel rail link would be a different matter) before the campaign. If Pakatan is still defeated at the federal level, then I am sure voters will understand your hands are really tied at the state level.

It is still not too late to make sustainable/public transport (instead of highway-based options) a major plank of your election campaign. Voters across the country will surely give your coalition a big mandate if you tell them that a Pakatan federal government would do all it can to promote sustainable transport alternatives (instead of highway-based options and cheaper cars to flood those highways) – which will reduce their heavy financial burden of relying on private motor vehicles e.g. car loans, petrol bills, car maintenance, road tax, toll payments, parking fees/tickets and speeding tickets, not to mention improving the overall quality of life through reduced congestion, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and stress. It will also save lives lost on the road. I appeal to you to consider this option in the long-term interest of Penang and the rest of the country.

I reproduce your statement in full below, as I did in the original post before receiving your response.

regards
Anil

Press Statement by Chief Minister of Penang Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town, on 2nd March 2013.
_____________________________________

1.6 Million Penangites Will Decide On Pakatan Rakyat’s 4 Highway Improvement Projects Of RM 6.3 Billion And A Proposed Tram System Throughout The State Linking Both The Island And The Mainland.

The PR Penang state government will submit to the will of 1.6 million Penangites, who will decide on the tender award of 4 highway improvement projects of RM 6.3 billion, including South East Asia first underwater sea tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam. The four major highways were recently awarded to a consortium comprising a local company and Beijing Urban Construction Group, a major Chinese construction company that built the Beijing Olympic Stadium Bird Nest.

Should PR win power in Putrajaya, PR is also proposing a tram system throughout the state linking both the island and the mainland. BN’s monorail is inappropriate for a world heritage city like Penang, as its elevated structure will destroy Penang’s charms. As a tram system on level ground would match Penang’s heritage, new alternative roads are required so that existing roads can make way for tram lines.

No To Monorail Yes To Tram

BN’s monorail project will not happen even if BN wins in Penang because of two reasons. One, the monorail would not be permitted by UNESCO and its construction would cause George Town to lose its UNESCO World Heritage city status. Two, BN has never fulfilled its promise when the monorail was first made by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006. Neither was this promised delivered when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak became the Prime Minister. Clearly we have to wait until Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim becomes the Prime Minister, then will there be a tram system.

Public transport is the sole jurisdiction of the Federal government. Even if the state government has the funds, the Federal government can refuse to give licensing and co-operate to allow a public transport system in Penang. This refusal to co-operate was clearly demonstrated when the Federal government refused to accept RM10 million yearly by the state government to provide free Rapid Penang bus rides during peak hours throughout Penang state. The Penang PR state government will not be a do-nothing government and will build new alternative roads to try to make up for the refusal of the BN Federal government to deliver on their promise of providing an effective public transport in Penang.

No To Entry Charges To George Town, Penang.

PR has firmly rejected extreme calls for entry charges for all vehicles entering George Town, Penang as PR is committed to free movement of people within Penang as well as those from outside Penang. To adopt this “Singapore model” to reduce traffic congestion is elitist at best in reserving George Town for existing residents and discriminatory at worse by only ensuring that the well-off can enter George Town, Penang.

Can Teng Chang Yeow Explain Why BN Sold The 940 Acres Of Reclaimed Land in Tanjung Pinang At Only RM1 Per Square Feet?

The Penang state government regrets the lies made by BN Penang Chair Teng Chang Yeow on the tender price, if the federal government has been informed or approved the tender to a joint local-international consortium and relating to the amazing speed in the tender award.

The Federal government was aware of this proposed project as far back as 2011 when both Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak and Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao witnessed the exchange of Memorandum of Understanding by me for these 4 highway and tunnel projects in Kuala Lumpur. The open competitive tender was called in 14.11.2011 and public engagement with the public was carried out in 2011 briefing them of the project. The entire tender exercise was a transparent and accountable process.

How can these four projects be done with amazing speed when the first will be completed after 2017 and the underwater sea tunnel by 2023-25, even though the state government will try to finish it by 2020? The long construction time is due to the need to comply with Environmental Impact Assessment(EIA) requirements. Failure to comply with EIA would mean that the 4 projects would not go on.

The formal contract is still subject to discussion and is expected to be signed in a few months time and it will not proceed if rejected by the people. Further, the final tender price is not the estimated RM8 billion but RM 6.3 billion awarded to the lowest tenderer, Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd. No cash will be paid but payment will be made in the form of 110 acres reclaimed land in Tanjung Pinang.

For Teng to claim that the reclaimed land is non-existent is a shameless lie as BN had approved the reclamation of 940 acres at a shocking price of RM1 per sq foot and 10% of the land to be given to the state government. Can Teng explain why BN had sold the land at such a low and illogical price of RM1 per sq ft? The PR Penang state government had managed to increase the amount of land to be given the state from 10% to more than 20%, which will be used to finance the construction of the 4 major highways.

The horrible traffic congestion a few days ago on the 1st Penang Brigde due to repairs on the bridge reminds us of the importance of having this 3rd link for the future. Whilst the 3 highways mitigating the traffic congestion to Batu Ferringhi, around George Town as well as Bandar Baru Air Itam and Farlim area is necessary, the 3rd underwater sea tunnel serves another function to spur economic development in Seberang Perai Utara(SPU).

The Penang state will not sit back and do-nothing on traffic congestion by taking the easy way out in blaming the Federal government for failing to provide public transport. Neither will we adopt an island-centric approach but instead develop a state-centric approach that encompasses the needs of the mainland. If there is a bridge linking the island in both Seberang Perai Tengah and Seberang Perai Selatan, there should be a link at SPU to advance economic growth.

LIM GUAN ENG

Comments

comments