The Penang Heritage Trust has written a letter to the MPPP president urging her to take stern action in response to the illegal development at the top of Bukit Relau in Penang.

4 July 2013

Dato’ Hajjah Patahiyah Ismail
Yang Di-Pertua,
Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP)
Level 17, KOMTAR
10503 George Town, PENANG.

Dear Dato,

Illegal Hill Development of Bukit Relau, Penang

‘Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten’ – American Indian Proverb.

The Penang Heritage Trust would like to take this opportunity to commend the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) for taking action against the developer involved in the recent illegal hill clearing and development on Bukit Relau. We are heartened that the local and state authorities are taking a stand that will discourage further action of such nature. However, we are also disheartened that it had to take public outcry and obvious damage towards the hill before the authorities are compelled to act and take action against such brazen and flagrant disregard for the law.

The Penang Heritage Trust is committed towards the protection and conservation of culture and heritage, and this includes both built and natural heritage. Therefore, we are compelled to state our stand against such actions of mass destruction, threatening the sanctity and security of our natural landscapes, especially the hills on Penang. These unregulated and recent developments threaten the natural environment of Penang, and will bring upon adverse effects on the economy and the people of Penang. In a State that advocates sustainability, and with a tagline of ‘Cleaner, Greener Penang’, surely such developments do not fall within the aforementioned tagline.

We wish to also raise the concern that despite the law suit against the developer, the sentence and punishment for this illegal act may in fact be too light. It is understood that the developer will be charged under Section 70A of the Street Drainage and Building Act 1974 that carries a jail term of not more than five years and a fine of not less than RM50,000.00 or both. However, we feel that such fine is not significant to deter such ‘in your face’ illegal developments. A daily punitive fine of RM100 per day is relatively light in relation to the quantum of such destruction and development. Such measly fine will never compensate for the demolition and destruction of our pristine jungles, hills and heritage have already taken place. Therefore, PHT will like to urge the authorities to rally together and pass out strong sentences such as imprisonment, the revoking the developers licence and to impose a ban for a good many years. Only such actions may serve as a reminder that the State will not take law-flouters lightly.

Penang Heritage Trust is not unfamiliar with cases of non-compliance happening and the lack of firm, authoritative actions taken. The recent demolition of 20 Pykett Avenue, and the fine of RM 6,000.00 against a development with gross development value of RM 500 million comes to mind immediately.

Penang has lost several prominent landmarks including the likes of The Metropole along Northam Road, Phrya Manopakorn’s bungalow along Burmah Lane; and is facing on-going threats including the desecration of the Goddess of Mercy Temple in Pitt Street (a Category I landmark). These are all victims of poor enforcement and punishment of crimes perpetrated against our heritage.

The Penang Heritage Trust also wishes to state it’s complete objection to this seemingly contradictory precedent set by State- the ‘re-zoning’ of land status to facilitate luxury developments. Hill land, residential land and coastal land is rezoned to benefit luxury developments with no consideration towards the impact on the socio-economic development that is needed. How does the State Government plan on justifying allowing ‘residential luxury bungalows on the top of our precious forested hills’ as ‘special projects’ allowable above the 250ft height limit? As it is, there in an overhang of more than 80,000 residential units in Penang, and most are beyond the affordable range of Penangites. This trend has to stop. PHT strongly advocates the State to review and gazette the Penang Local Plan and Penang Special Area Plan for George Town World Heritage Site in order to avoid such ad hoc rezoning. This will halt unwanted disasters and will be seen that the State Government holds true to its word of providing a ‘Cleaner, Greener’ state and that it is concerned for its citizens, and the sustainability of the environment and its heritage.

From the concerned,

Penang Heritage Trust

cc: YAB Tuan Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang

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