Unspinning Patrick Lim’s spin on his Penang mega project

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So just as my public relations guru (PR Guru) friend predicted, the spin is out for the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC) project on that sprawling green lung (and prime land) that used to be the Penang Turf Club.

The Star today reports Equine executive chairman Patrick Lim (widely known as “Patrick Badawi”) highlighting two aspects of the project, which will be officially launched on 12 September 2007:

  • Two new flyovers that Equine associate Abad Naluri will build to connect the PGCC to the Penang Outer Ring Road (another controversial project); and
  • The green credentials of the PGCC – 40 per cent of PGCC to be allocated to “green and open spaces”, carbon-free city, blah, blah, blah

It is no coincidence that these two aspects have been highlighted. They are obviously aimed at countering the concerns of Penang-based NGOs, which are opposed to the project because of its dire implications for the traffic (Scotland Road on the perimeter of the Turf Club is already congested) and the environment (there are so few green lungs in Penang).

The spin is of course being masterminded by new PR firm Fox Communication, which has been doing the rounds to solicit views from NGOs. The people behind Fox are ex-journalist types from the mainstream media. It shouldn’t be a big problem for these former journos to make the huge leap from journalism (the pseudo journalism they used to practise, that is) to PR. After all, they had lots of practice putting the spin on the news back then.

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The PGCC project has been on the drawing board for around four years. But it is only now, just before the official launch that they want to “consult” NGOs, presumably so that they can design a more effective spin for the project to counter the NGOs’ concerns.

Even before Patrick Lim had come out with his spin, my PR guru friend, who has vast experience overseeing a similar launch for a major landmark in KL, had described to me the classic PR strategy to counter NGOs’ concerns in such controversial projects:

“As mentioned earlier on — surveys will determine what PR strategy to take and programmes developed:

  1. Public opinion — easy part to handle;
  2. Woo the NGOs so they will be on their (developer’s) side; hard to resist when they put nice girls! good food, posh venues;
  3. They (developer) will counter each objection with standard, rehearsed answers;
  4. They will use employment for the people, green lung for the people; they will talk about the number of trees they will plant — they will fantasise for you — cascading water, babylon gardens and what-have-you… remember (the) concept of a tree is very illusive
  5. They will dazzle (the public) with beautiful artist’s impressions — maybe even famous Mat Salleh architect — also give a beautiful video presentation how it is going to change (the) landscape of Penang — what beautiful contribution to Penang…you (the public) will be so convinced, (the) NGOs will (be forced to) shut up… “

But PR Guru tells me the “40 per cent green and open spaces” is illusory and unlikely to be achieved, going bywhat happened in the KLCC project, where plans for a large park were eventually shrunk to what amounts to little more than an oversized playground with a few trees.

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For one thing, what exactly are “open spaces”, included in this 40 per cent? Is a car park an “open space”? Is some greenery planted at the top of a multi-storey car park building considered a green open space?

Watch out for more spin as the 12 September project launch date draws closer.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. People with the old mind-set find it difficult to work with Lim Guan Eng. There is no more kick back, no more you scrath my back and I scratch your just like the good old days of Gerakan and BN.

    Some former Gerakan guys such as Tan Tee Beng finds his style alien to such an extent that he wants Lim to quit. He just can’t stand him for reasons only known to him. Calling Lim as no class is childish. This guy Tan is really the childish one, a spoilt brat…

    To LGE, keep up the good work. Call on me if you need my help.

  2. Penangnites will support whoever who works in an honest and sincere manner to uplift the living standard of Penangnites. We want to be compared to the the world best, not “Malaysia Boleh” standard!!!

  3. The Rape and Pillaging of Penang stops from now on. The Barisan Rakyat under Lim Guan Eng has the support of all Penangites in particular and I am sure Malaysians all over (they will be planning to do the necessary when PRU 13 comes around – to reject BN entirely) to clean the s*** left behind by the BN… We say no to Patrick Badawi and his crap called PGCC. Frankly he can take his plans and models and shove it up his “where the sun never shines” Nether region. Go back to your equine park and play with your horses s*** and leave Penang alone. You are a disgrace…
    Lim Guan Eng, you have our blessings to take the plans and proposals presented and throw them into Sungai Pinang.

  4. I’m an architect myself, and while I personally like the PGCC scheme (main towers only) – as an architectural object – I also think that the whole project smacks of a land grab by the (previously) well-connected. Given the dense and somewhat haphazard nature of Penang’s urban core, context-sensitive infill projects that renew/replace the existing buildings one at a time would probably be a better solution. Of course, such small-scale projects offer correspondingly lower ROI’s and less ‘glamour’ factor.

    Properly done, urban greenery and public spaces can be compensated for in creative ways – landscaped gardens, rooftop planting, sky gardens etc, but the public must be able to ACCESS these green spaces for it to be meaningful. Having a nominal ‘green carpet’ is not enough either: the most successful part of the KLCC greenery, IMHO, is in fact outside the main park: the small, densely forested plot at the corner of Jalan P.Ramlee and Jalan Pinang.

    Whatever the architectural merits (or otherwise) of the PGCC project, the root of the problem is the lack of transparency and apparent cronyism involved in the ‘procurement’ of the land, as well as the blatant disregard for public opinion displayed by the developer when it previously thought itself to be immune to the public. The people are not stupid, and to try to weasel the additional buildings past them was a condescending move on the part of the stakeholders.

    A thorough review of the project will be a major step forward to introducing transparency into governance and undoing the culture of feudal patronage that has plagued this country for so long.

  5. This sounds very much like the PR spin that we get on logging and deforestation going on in Sarawak, with regards to the highly polluting alumininium smelter plant that looks like a reality for poor Bintulu folks.
    There was an article in the state controlled news(paper), about jobs, how they have planted trees back, followed by approval given by some US body.
    So tired of all of this.

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