Penangites fume over PGCC deception at packed forum

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PGCC forum crowd

Angry and disgusted: Strong views from Penangites

Before the public forum this morning, organisers in the PGCC Campaign Group, a network of activists representing more than half a dozen Penang-based NGOs, were privately fretting over whether they would get a decent turnout at the seminar rooms of the Dewan Sri Pinang.

They needn’t have worried. Close to 300 people showed up to express their concern and disgust over the implications of the proposed Penang Global City Centre, referred to by some as the “Penang Graveyard and Crematorium Complex” due to its proximity to the Batu Gantong crematorium and the Western Road cemetery, not to mention its resemblance to an array of tombstones. Extra chairs had to be brought in, and even these were not enough and some had to stand at the back and at the sides of the hall.

These concerned Penangites sacrificed their Sunday morning and spent an hour and a half listening to two panel speakers before taking to the floor to express their own strong views against the PGCC.

The panel speakers were consumer rights lawyer Meenakshi Raman of the Consumers Association of Penang and Goh Ban Lee, a newspaper columnist on local government issues. The moderator was Chet Singh, formerly the general manager of the Penang Development Corporation.

Sandwiched between the two speakers was conservation consultant Lin Lee Loh-Lim, who showed in a powerpoint presentation the glaring difference between the developer’s slick brochure, which highlighted only the twisted twin towers, and the actual miniature model (commissioned by concerned nearby residents) with all 40 towers. I could hear gasps from the audience as some of them were seeing all 40 towers for the first time.

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What appeared to rile up the audience the most was the developer’s attempt to hoodwink the public by not showing all 40 towers during the launch of the project and in the glossy launch booklet. (Only aerial views were shown, and where the twin towers were shown from a vantage point behind the towers and facing the sea towards the east, the 38 other towers were conspicuously missing. Someone later dubbed the project the “Millionaire’s Rifle Range”, a reference to the run-down low-cost flats in nearby Air Hitam.)

It was also pointed out that the developer had included an area of hilly land that could not be developed in their calculations of plot and density ratios to give misleadingly low figures.

Lin Lee asked who would pay for the cost of the road-widening work along Scotland Road and Green Lane to cater for the higher volume of traffic as a result of the project. Would the taxpayers have to foot the bill?

Murmurs from the audience indicated disgust.

One distinguished veteran activist got up to the mike and promptly declared that he for one would not be voting for the Barisan Nasional in the coming general election.

Aliran president P Ramakrishnan then followed up by saying that it was not enough to say “No to the PGCC!” but Penangites should also say “No to the BN!” – as that was the only language it would understand: the message of the ballot box.

Parallels were drawn to the successful Save Penang Hill campaign, following which the BN suffered a sharp erosion of support in the 1990 general election, losing a string of seats to the DAP.

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Another speaker from the floor said it would be impossible to reverse the project – it was a done deal – as the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister had given their backing for the project and only God could stop it. That prompted me to remind the audience that sometimes we tend to underestimate the power of God and the will of the people and give too much credit to the CM and the PM’s ability to influence the course of events. I pointed out that with global warming heating up the planet, it was vital for us to preserve the green lungs that we have and turn them into state parks as a legacy to future generations.

Another veteran activist said the PGCC was the worst project he had seen in all his 40 years of public service in terms of the horrendous implications for the urban environment.

Did anyone bother to ask the people in the state whether they really wanted a Penang version of the KLCC – “iconic” or otherwise?

Later and inevitably, the discussion broadened to the terrible urban planning and traffic congestion in Penang. One mother of two complained about how difficult it was to walk along the roads of Penang without risking her life. Another spoke of how it was almost impossible to cross certain roads especially the busy thoroughfares. A representative of the Tanjung Bunga Residents Association highlighted illegal structures in their area.

At the end of the forum, a resolution was passed with members of the audience voting overwhelmingly against the PGCC in a show of hands. Volunteers distributed postcards for participants at the forum to sign and mail to the Chief Minister – to let him know how Penangites felt about the PGCC. Everyone seemed to agree that it was critical that the campaign reaches the Chinese-speaking group.

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Someone lamented, “Where are all the young people? Aren’t they concerned about this? Have we failed in educating them (about the issue)?

After the forum, a group of students, aged around 20, came up to me said, “We felt like waving and telling him, ‘Hello, we are here!'” I was proud of them.

More than the actual turnout, it was the intensity of those who turned up and their willingness to stand up and be counted – the sense of solidarity in numbers – that struck a chord. As one member of the audience later told me, “It was exciting to see Penangites so passionate and concerned about the environment.”

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17 Comments on "Penangites fume over PGCC deception at packed forum"

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penangpek
penangpek

Future of Penang is in the hand of all Penangites, if our brother and sister from Penang are willing to let Gerakan destroy their island through gradual environmental degradation process in monumental project like PGCC without a fight, then even GOD can’t help them who choose not to help themselves.

Born2reign
Born2reign
Modernisation does not equate high-rise towers. Modernisation means there is a more efficient transportation for commuters and commercial goods, safe and clean environment (sewerage, waste disposals, etc), good ratio of green lungs in the city for community and social activities. BN has always been one-track minded – CONSTRUCTION and MEGA PROJECTS (with 100% commission to cronies pockets). However, when it comes to maintenance and enforcement, it is sorely lacking. Just check the many commercial areas in Puchong, Equine, Old Klang Road, Cheras, etc. Highways are badly designed, causing MORE congestion, new roads are redrilled and repatched endless times, manhole covers… Read more »
t
t
Albert, I am 21 and I am from Penang. I highly oppose the PGCC if it is going to be implemented in a manner that will cause further social and environmental problems. Indeed, this sort of development plan is inevitable for Penang island but really, if a development plan that claims to be sustainable is far from it, it would make things worse to disguise it underneath a blanket of environmental jargons. Please think twice before making the statement that all or most young Penangites would support such a project. I for one know that a few of my friends… Read more »
Pigeon
Pigeon
The success of the project depends on how well the state government can restraint anymore encroachment of run-in-the-mill redevelopment into older parts of Penang. While the PGCC is somewhat close to Georgetown, Singapore have proven that it is able to maintain and refurbish entire pre-war neighbourhoods beside redeveloped commercial centres. Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Georgetown, on the other hand, have shown the complete opposite: Unregulated development with no proper official planning areas, and no effort to designate heritage areas (as opposed to just individual buildings). I’ve seen what KLCC has done to the immediate surrounding (the recent demolition of the… Read more »
alfred ho
Dear marina, As the Almighty has given your father a new lease of life, and being the fair-minded person that you are, please impress upon him to turn over a new leaf when he has fully recovered, by exposing all the corrupt ministers and top government officials in his previous cabinet. Maybe you could even advice him to return all his ill-gotten gains to all of us poor Malaysians, and at the same time, shed light on the Lingamgate scandal as he may have played a pivotal role in this matter. With hari raya being just around the corner, I… Read more »
alfred ho
Dear Anil, I wish here to relate an incident to you for your amusement. Recently, a private tv station invited me to participate in a reality tv show to highlight the talents of the disabled community where some recordings have already been made for the programme through my participation. However, when the tv authorities visited my blog and found out that I am critical of the government, I was unceremoniously dropped from the show. When I brought this matter to the attention of Malaysiakini, their investigative reporter was told by the tv authorities that the programme was only meant to… Read more »
jeffrey chew

Blog Action Day – write your piece on how you feel about this project. Get a free blog, sign up facebook, mobilize your uncles and aunties to talk about this project. Sooner or later, they will need more than a simple communication company.

http://www.blogactionday.org – incidentally, Oct 15 – write all about the environment. There is a case in point here. I will be doing that.

anilnetto

Yes, publicity could be improved. Meanwhile, there are several websites you can check for info on future events: aliran.com, pht.org.my and penangwatch.net/pgcc

christina anne
christina anne

can future forums/meetings like this be disseminated to more penangnites. i for one did not know about this

paolo
paolo

Desmind

Its the balance of powers we strive to achieve

Albert
Albert
My dear paolo, please don’t drag Chung Ling into all these mess. What’s wrong for a Chung Ling boy to become a lawyer and then a director of a construction company. FYI, I am a Chung Ling boy and proud of it. I do urged, again, to all NGOs in Penang to initiate CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT with issues pertaining PGCC. Remember the good ol’ saying ‘you scratch my back, I scratch your back.’ Ensure that adequate amenities are there for all walk of Penang folks. An even more youthful Youth Park, modern and contemporary art centres, performing art centres, be the… Read more »
Desmind
Desmind

Everyone has the right to choose their way of life. Some people really need a work and the money to support their living. It’s not about not concern the environment but it’s about what is the priority to survive. In fact, I don’t see PGCC will rape all the greens in Penang not even one percent of it.

Gregory
Gregory

It is a pity that I had to miss the forum due to a previous engagement which I could not miss. I feel that this developer and his powerful backers will steam roll this project like they did elsewhere e.g Pulau Duyung. I hope that by raising awareness we can make a dent in the majority of the BN in the next election.

Like the earlier comment many will not give their support because tey can see this as an opportunity to make money. Environment does not matter to them

paolo
paolo
Something has to be done, but is there power of the people, do we have the balls to stand up against what we feel is wrong. If more forums are held more people will attend and this will be a show of force. There was also talk of the Chinese, sadly some of them are happy just making money, to some this project makes money and thats all fine for them. They all think that all this Jessolton folks so much money have time for this, if they no money u think they have time for this ?? Sadly the… Read more »
Albert
Albert
Let’s ask ourselves honestly, do we want Penang to be, one day, on par with great cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei or even Shanghai? Development is essential, of course it has to be moderated. Scotland Road is always jammed up ever since that I could remember, how worst could it be? That’s why the ring roads’ projects need to be implemented as soon as possible. Come on, seriously, how many Penanghites are complaining about the PGCC? I am actually proud of it. You see, I stay at Reservoir Garden, the PORR just skidded past my house, I relent about… Read more »
anilnetto

Those familiar with NGO activities in Penang would probably tell you that the average turnout for an NGO forum would probably number a few dozen. So anything over 200 would be considered excellent. Remember, public awareness of the issue is still low, given the media blackout. And this is only the first in a series of activities that the Campaign Group is planning to organise.

sShalini
sShalini

I have attended so many forum and seminars and most of them not less than 300 attendees. I thought the forum on the opposition of PGCC would attract more people because the issue was much bigger and important. But as I can see PGCC forum attendess or angry Penangite was way too small and the worst thing is it even can’t represent as the majority.

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