All attention seems to be on the airport expansion plan in Penang, a proposed airport in Kulim and the Penang tunnel, running into hundreds of millions, even billions, of ringgit. But who will spend one or two million ringgit to give these low-cost flats in mainland Penang a coat of paint?
If residents of upmarket Sri Tanjung Pinang in Tanjung Tokong, Penang Island peer out of their plush sea-view condos, they might just see these rundown Taman Tun Dr Awang flats in Bagan Ajam, Butterworth on the mainland, directly across the Northern Channel.
What a stark contrast to the lifestyles of the rich and famous at Sri Tanjung Pinang, reflecting the divide between the wealthy and the lower-income group.
The Taman Tun Dr Awang flats don’t look like they have had a fresh coat of paint ever since they were built more than 30 years ago on the site of a former fishing village. (Most of the fish – and the fisher folk – have gone, thanks to muddy waters, siltation since the 1990s and untreated water discharged by a large monsoon drain.)
Whose responsibility is it for painting these low-cost flats, occupied mainly by low-income residents?
I was told these flats come under the Housing Division of the State Secretary.
But this area, I believe, also comes under the BN constituency of Teluk Air Tawar within the Tasik Gelugor parliamentary constituency, both held by the BN. (Teluk Air Tawar is held by Umno’s Jahara Hamid, who is the Penang State Assembly opposition leader.)
Before the general election, we heard all sorts of promises about sprucing up such flats. Back then, both the federal and Penang state governments raced to come up with their own plans to upgrade flats such as these. The federal government was supposed to finance the bulk of the cost of sprucing up such flats while the Penang state government’s ‘Happy!’ scheme was supposed to top up any shortfall.
But what does it matter which side is responsible? Irrespective of whether the federal goverment or state government should be sprucing up areas such as this, no one is going to complain if either side oversteps its jurisdiction to give this place a much-needed facelift.
How much will it cost to paint 10 five-storey blocks of flats (each block housing 40 homes)? One million ringgit? Two million?
Think of the joy and pride of place it would bring to the 1500 residents in the area. No allocation for this? Really? Or is it just a reflection of where priorities lie?
In July 2013, after the general election, I wrote:
I don’t see anyone – BN or Pakatan – scrambling to improve these flats. By right, they should be falling over each other in a race to spruce up the place. Instead both sides seem more inclined towards mega or ‘iconic’ projects.
As you can see from the last couple of photos, this strip of coastline has the potential to be transformed into a picturesque sea-front community if there is the political will.
So let me throw a challenge: Let’s see which side – BN federal government or Pakatan state/local government – is more serious about the people’s welfare and will transform the lives of this community by getting the job done.
Nothing has changed. Instead they are arguing about airports in Penang and Kulim. No problem finding money for that, is there?
Meanwhile, the proposed controversial mega-billion ringgit tunnel, if and when it is completed, will connect these delapidated flats in Bagan Ajam on the mainland to Gurney Drive, near Sri Tanjung Pinang on the island.
Oh, the irony. Tunnel commuters will then be able to see for themselves how both sides of the population live as they enter and exit the tunnel.