Whither transparency? There was much talk in Penang about freedom of information last week especially around Right to Information Day (28 September).

But sadly, when it came to the crunch, a freedom of information request to the Penang state government to disclose the 20-volume transport proposal by SRS Consortium was rejected.

The SRS transport proposal is expected to cost the state a staggering RM50bn, and the state government is expected to raise this anount by auctioning off 4,500 acres of reclaimed land.

In view of the high stakes, Michael Leow of Sinar Project, which spearheads freedom of information initiatives, submitted a request for the proposal to be made public in line with the Freedom of Information Enactment 2010 in Penang. The 20 volumes are presently locked up in a small room in Komtar, accessible only to Penang Transport Council members, minus their phones and cameras.

Michael had wanted a soft copy of the 20 volumes but was told this was not possible. The most he could hope for was a visit to that locked room in Komtar.

Unfortunately, his request to gain access to the 20 thick volumes was rejected by the deputy state secretary (development). The reason for the rejection? The agreement between the relevant parties has not yet been finalised. Presumably, this refers to the project delivery partner agreement that will be signed between the Penang state government and SRS Consortium. The deadline for signing had been extended to February 2017.

“For a clear CAT process, the public should have been involved transparently, right from the beginning. There is no excuse in this day and age, as the documents could easily have been put online,” said a disappointed Michael, when contacted.

Meanwhile, after the SRS proposal had been submitted to the state government, more controversial components were added such as a monorail line on the mainland. A north-south highway proposed for the island was also expanded. No wonder the cost of the proposal is now almost touching RM50bn.

But the public are largely in the dark about the details. For instance, they have no clue how many buildings would be affected – “encumbrances”, as they are called – by the north-south highway and elevated LRT on the island.

The problem is that if we wait for the agreement to be finalised, it would be too close to the signing deadline. By then it would probably be too late: any changes after the agreement has been signed might result in the familiar refrain that compensation would have to be paid.

At a recent Penang Transport Council meeting, when council members asked when the SRS proposal would be made public, they were told that maybe after a two-day workshop was held to brief council members about the SRS proposal. Well, that two-day workshop on 24-25 September 2016 has come and gone, and still the proposal has not yet been made public.

This delay leaves little time for the SRS proposal to receive proper public scrutiny, feedback and criticism. Perhaps that is the idea.

For now, what is clear is that the FOI Enactment has failed its biggest test.

29 COMMENTS

    • Sabah Watergate scandal is the failure of AG in auditing. But it is likely just a wayang from SPRM.

  1. Penang has its own Official Secrecy Act?
    Must respect that like all those hidden issues surrounding 1MDB?

  2. No country have FOI ON DEMAND. Its just not practical. Even in the US, selected information is disclosed in due time. Asking for FOI on Demand is no different that saying states have rights into all people’s private information on demand. You want that?

    • Are you also implying the Penang Local Plan (of 9 yrs MIA) is beyond FOI demand?
      Could it be that the CAT is still seeking continuous ‘advice & feedback’ of more profiteering swap deal development planning forever in the changing room of 28th For Komtar?
      There are limits to some things hidden from public scrutiny unless one readily subscribes to an autocratic gomen which crawls for innocent votes comes GE!

      • You will have to ask Unesco that. Unesco didnt reply to PF. They wrote to Jabatan Warisan Negara, which played a key role in getting George Town listed as a world heritage site.

      • why not complain Unesco does not practise FOI? Unesco throw the complainer’s letter into the bin? what human rights and transparency UN is talking about?

      • anil try asking warisan negara to reveal the contents to see if there is FOI? or to shy and no interested now as it could be bad news and better hush hush?

  3. I think it is not an unfair statement that the state government could not release the proposal as a definite agreement has not been signed. I hope the agreement would be disclosed once it has been signed. Let’s give the state government the benefit of the doubt.

    • Once the agreement has been signed it would be pointless to make it public as it would be unlikely that any changes can be made to the proposal after that.

      • This is how it works sweetly for them:
        Once the agreement is signed, any change or backtracking due to public pressure will bring the Niao Kong’s threats of compensation to the fore.
        This is exactly how they do it to play (the fool) the CAT game.
        Did the father teach his son that unsavoury game?

      • When the Rakyat voted a government into power, the government should be given reasonable power and authority to execute plans. DAP has been pushing BN to declassified concession agreements. I hope the Penang state government will make the agreement public.

    • do you know there are clauses which states works as directed by the arch or engr and carry out without objection? please read drawing and condition of contract.

  4. Can Anil explain ‘belum memuktamadkan perjanjian’, the reason given for non-disclosure for now?

    • If Huan of PCM not bringing up the local plan matter on its political platform, what are we the ordinary folks can ask for? Dream on?

      • Keeping quiet is not a good option.
        Unless one is weepy!
        Btw, how would you know this contention may not be a ‘bullet’ in the coming GE???
        CAT MY Foot!

    • why dont you ask your gilakan, pcm, ah soon to raise the subject…
      what happen to ah soon teh tarik session on lge cost for tunnel and highways?

  5. What was the purpose of the workshop?Were there any more info revealed?

    What about BCF’s proposal? Was it put forward in the council?
    And also other issues like status of Sia Boey.

    Thanks for the constant updates of the PTMP progress

    • It was a 2-day workshop to brief council members in a bit more detail whats in store. One session allowed for BCF to be explained. Sia Boey was also brought up. And the last sessions allowed us to discuss issues of concern. But it looks as if little will change.

      • Anil, one word says it all (if little will change) of CAT: Absolute Arrogance!
        In Cantonese: Choy Ni Gong Koi! = Who cares? Stupid! is the ultimate attitude of this state gomen.
        Penang Transport Council is but a mere public expression of CAT Slogan with a Slap in the Face as in the 3 Stooges TV Shows. Botak hills are nice baldies for such slapping!

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