Alert: Wild swing in Botanic arches poll result

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UPDATE: Polling closed at 5.30pm sharp on 15 June 2010.
Just before it closed, it was 9,608 (about 66 per cent) saying No to the arches and 4,981 (about 34 per cent) saying Yes.

URGENT ALERT: The percentage of those saying No to the arches in Penang Botanic Garden has inexplicably plunged in a poll hosted on the Tourism Ministry’s website.


Caught in the act: See how the poll results appear to be manipulated

From 91 per cent who said ‘No’ to the arches a few days ago, it is now only 54 50 48 per saying ‘No’. That is an unbelievably sharp drop in the percentage opposing the arches in just a matter of days. When observed, in the space of an hour on a Sunday afternoon (today), over 200 more “Yes-es” were recorded in favour of the arches. And that’s just in an hour.

The poll may close anytime soon and then the government might use the final result to justify its decision on whether the arches should stay or go. So make sure you vote now before it’s too late.

Here’s your chance to tell the government whether those large arches at the Penang Botanic Garden – one of which is believed to be tilting – should be removed.


The Tourism Ministry is carrying out a poll on its website. But be careful, you are asked whether those arches should remain.

Vote ‘Ya’ if you like the arches or ‘Tidak’ if you want the arches to go. For the poll, go here (see right column).

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Some background info:

The Penang Botanic Gardens, established in 1884, is Malaysia’s only Botanic Garden and is one of our most beloved treasures, enjoyed by thousands daily and by more than 2 million a year. Recent developments due to a RM7.75 million grant from the Federal Government are resulting in inappropriate and destructive projects that are ad hoc in nature and do not conform to any principles and good practices of botanic garden planning.

The arches are merely the most visible of these abuses to the Gardens. Others involve a non-existent RM1 million bambusetum, a RM1 million eco-stream walk that turned a natural flowing stream into a glorified drain with nothing ‘eco’ about it, a RM2.5 million visitor centre, which is being built below unstable hill slopes, and various developments within the gardens such as two suraus, the destruction of historic plant houses, and the destruction of the beloved formal gardens.

The arches are part of a RM2.5 million mall entrance with lots of concrete, a large open storm drain, decorative fountains and car parks. Large trees were removed and a pre-war art deco cafe was demolished. The NGOs have proposed an alternative salvage job where the arches are removed, the fountains removed, lots of trees planted
in the car parks and the pools turned into ponds for water plants and fish.

The removal of the arches would at least be symbolic and would allow us to work towards greater transparency and better management of the Penang Botanic Gardens.

And a report from The Star of 8 June:

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49 COMMENTS

  1. Anil, I’m no expert on voting patterns, but if there were features in those graphs I plotted that would suggest poll manipulation, the most obvious one is the “Tidak” vote around mid-day yesterday. I only started recording statistics after your article, so I missed the swing you reported.

    Since online polls are taken to be such an important measure of the national mood, should we be putting some effort into establishing (or finding and employing) an online polling system that would be less prone to manipulation and provide some statistics to support its credibility? Given the available statistics behind the large swings in the motour poll, I would say the final result will be worse than useless.

    If there’s no enthusiasm to develop or find a credible online polling system, I think the next best attitude would be to treat them all as politically-aggravating junk. Better than that, I’d like to see someone in parliament demand that government departments who host the polls produce documentation to validate the value of their polls or remove them immediately on the grounds that they are false information.

    • Thanks, Sean for looking into this. You are right, the “Yes” swings were detected in the hours before my blog entry, and maybe tapered off after that.

      Good idea, if we can find a more credible online polling system. But where?

      • Well, I have to admit that I don’t have a clue where to start looking. It might be possible to provide estimates of from where voters are voting by using their IP addresses, perhaps grouped by geographic area rather than showing individual addresses. There are a number of confounding problems with doing that – not every network provides unique addresses to its clients, for example. It would provide some defence against brain-dead manipulation attempts.

        I’m not convinced that showing the progress of a vote is such a good idea. I know why CMS widgets are designed that way: it encourages people to come back to your site, perhaps to click on your ads. That’s not something a government website should worry about. I think it would be nice if you could leave a vote in a poll that told you how many people had already voted, and perhaps show you a chart of voting activity, but not give any indication of results until a certain cut-off date. Before that date, you should be able to retrieve your vote and change it.

        I’m at a loss to know what to suggest other than that public polls with some sort of official sanction really ought to authenticate their voters somehow. That’s an entirely different matter to a jolly widget to brighten up an otherwise dull site. For Malaysian polls, sending a PIN to a Malaysian telephone number (like maybank2u’s TAC) might be the best solution. ‘Free’ solutions like verification emails are open to abuse by people with more than one email address, and even worse abuse by scripts. Perhaps ICs could be used (though not by me!), with stricter authentication reserved for when the same IC is used twice.

  2. All those tricks used in getting feed back on the Arch via online ..!!

    most likely included outsiders from Penang ! And MULTIPLE votes by same readers ??

    A real people’s poll should be from the people of Penang, where the structure stands.

    Something like a referendum, don’t you folks agree ?

  3. Keep them. Rename them as Arches of Shame. A permanent symbol of incompetence … for generations to come.

    Come to think about it, engrave the name of Ng Yen Yen on them for remembrance in perpetuity.

  4. Why not sell it to Khir Toyo to adorn his palace entrance. It looks more appropriate there than a botanic garden.

  5. Please keep it to remind Penangites and ordinary Malaysins what UMNO/BN government has done to Penang after 52 years of nonsensical governing,

  6. Do we actually need the arches in Penang Botanical Garden to remind the people how corrupted BN is???

    To retain the two arches to tell me how corrupted BN is??? It just does not make sense la guys !!!

    Please have them removed by all means (before they collapse and kill someone and we blame Lim Guan Eng again).

    Those two arches really look horrible !!!

    Sometimes just wonder why cant Malasians do things right???

  7. Why waste so much money to redesign the garden ? Go South and ask Singapore and I am sure they are ready to help. Take a look at their botanical garden website alone http://www.sbg.org.sg/ will see how much better they are in managing their assets.

    • Makes me salivate just looking at what Singapore Botanic Gardens can do so much for nature lovers, horticulturalists, gardeners, florists, researchers, artists and nature photographers. And it’s a great venue for events like weddings. There is so much care in the planning, setting up and management of the Garden, it is so integrated and harmonized for man’s enjoyment, that it is indeed world class.
      It is a shame that Penang Botanical Garden, with so much nature to offer (some even better than Singapore Botanic Gardens) cannot even compare to our southern neighbour. Worst, it’s beauty is tarnished with ugly, incongruent, unbotanic cosmetic landscaping structures befitting the Malaysian North South Highway.

  8. you think they really put up polls to get people’s views? dream away!

    they will manipulate at all cost to get their own way

  9. If they wanna cheat even in a poll .What can we do?
    Leave it.
    As nearly all of us know that this is not the doing of the Penang State Govt.

  10. I can see a backlash in the voting at the moment. It would be interesting to see stats over time for some of these votes where the distribution changes suddenly. You can find some nice bandwidth graphs from sites which have been ‘slashdotted’. Maybe you’ll start something local to Malaysia, and local server admins and dodgy vote hosts will complain of being ‘Anilised’.

  11. If the federal government does not remove them, the state government should. After all it is state land.

  12. I have been watching the poll. The “yes” has been going up by units of 10. Something is very fishy here.

  13. Anil, should this vote come from Penangites? If this is done nationwide, I’m afraid it can be manipulated. Just get/pay some to vote Yes. The fate of Penang’s Botanical Garden is now at the fancy of outsiders. Remind us of by-election tactics!

  14. Something similar happened a year or so ago to a Home Ministry poll.

    The country is littered with these hot concrete “parks” that are too hot in the day and closed (or not lighted up) at night. After a year or so, you will find the play equipment broken or the space taken over for some unauthorised use. It comes from the same mindset that wants to pave over or tile every avalable stretch of sidewalk and even road – at your cost.

  15. exactly like I thought coming from the behavior of MCA Ministers. Another RM7.5m thrown into the pockets of some BN cronies. The … Minister can have all the polls she wants, but everyman or woman worth his/her senses know the arch is (probably) to enrich some BN cronies.
    when will BN stop such wastage? Answer is never ever coz the very reason one joins (them) is for the dole.

  16. Aliran should call for a Press Conference to expose this sudden wild swing of “NOs” from 91 to 48 “NOs” within hours!

    The Penang public/rakyat must be be alerted on this and what those (responsible) are capable of! Where’s Ng Yen Yen, how much are those ‘swing votes’ worth this time? …

  17. Anil,
    This is Malaysia boleh, BN style! Are we at all surprise by the sudden ‘swing’? No!

    I purposely made a trip there to take a look and saw the shoddy work. Yeah, agree with “tan of tanjong bungah” that a plague should be erected next to it but will like to add 2 words to it –
    “Satu lagi shoddy work projek Kerajaan BN”, if those two arches are not demolished. Sigh!

  18. Anil,

    The photo that you’ve posted is grossly exaggerated – you’ve deliberately pictured the arch at such an unrealistic tilt to create unjust hype. Either that, or Penang is tilting in general. Maybe a more competent photographer will do its cause. As a veteran journalist, you should’ve been more responsible for what you publish!

    From a structural point of view, tilting in this direction that you’ve exaggerated is not of major concern. The centre of gravity of the structure will still be within the middle third of the foundation and collapse is unlikely. If, however, the tilting is in the other direction of shorter depth, it is extremely dangerous.

    Apologies for taking a swipe at you.

    • The picture was taken by a concerned Penangite, not me. Other photos of the arches, from different angles, had previously been shown on this blog in earlier posts.

      A couple of engineers have used instruments to check if there’s tilting and they found there is indeed a tilt on one of the arches, and I think this has already been reported in the Chinese media.

      The main point, though, is do Botanic Garden users really want those huge arches, tilting or otherwise?

  19. This fiasco is so typical of Malaysia… First the government goes ahead and build these tacky monstrosities without consulting the community; Secondly they waste money on something that is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY and adds nothing to the beauty of the site…its a wonder they arent painted nipple pink. Thirdly you give the contract to an organisation which obviously hasn’t the expertise to carry out such a project. Fourthly, why does everything built in this country have to have islamic iconography incorporated in the design.

    And fifthly, and most importantly, are the pathetically tidak apah comments that have appeared in this column. Its no wonder one of the most useless governments on the planet walk all over you at every possible opportunity

  20. The arches should be removed. It is not just about the arches but the whole expansion project, including drainage, expanded car park space, visitor’s centre and whatever else that is in the plan. Leaving the arches as a monument to remind people of the approving authority’s incompetence does not serve the interest of the botanical park. The whole area should be redesigned and rebuilt properly. It should be redone to fit the spirit and purpose of the park.If money needs to be spent, so be it.

  21. Hi everyone,

    I saw the arches, such montrosities, last month. If the Ministry of Tourism does not demolish the arches, then a plaque should be erected next to each of the arches to state “Satu lagi projek Kerajaan BN”!

  22. Well, two things you could do with the arch.

    You could have had it become a feature had it been taller like the ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’ which is a bell tower at Pisa, Italy.

    http://www.mapsofworld.com/travel-destinations/leaning-tower-of-pisa.html

    Auyh! No matter what they decide you would of course *have* to make the arch safer than it is now lah!

    ….Or pull it down which would be a pity.

    quote Tunglang Make it a dummy hangman’s arch

    lol but yea..a great idea show them thieves you mean business.

  23. Auyh! Take away those ugly arches. Sakit mata betoi, aiyoh! And we taxpayers won’t pay for any related costs. Let the menteri arch-builder kroni handle the cost. Langsung tak masuk akal, cuma nak masuk pocket!

  24. This is a SABOTAGE project!
    LGE should do something about it. Sabo back in the form of making it another Speaker’s Square (only if the leaning arch is structural safe). Make it a dummy hangman’s arch to shame those corrupt ‘Frogs’. Or let artists to paint shame graffiti on this particular arch to remind us of corrupt, irresponsible government.

  25. Tarak masuk akal punya design. It has to be something that can blend nicely as the botanical garden theme. Looks like a work from the novice.

  26. The ugly arch be removed immediately & the cost should be deducted from the salaries of bureaucrates who passed the contract.

    • Although LGE got no final say on this Federal funded project, he should not accept ultimatum from tourism ministry to accept or reject the project before the project was reviewed by all stalkholders.

      LGE should learn a lesson from collapsed stadium in Terengganu.

      LGE and NYY both are to be blamed for these awful arches.

  27. But the poll is now conducted by the ministry. What’s the matter? Isn’t the poll akin to shutting the barn door after the horses have bolted? Are they trying to fool us into thinking they actually cared? The money is already spent, and is in some BN contractor’s pockets. But if they can actually get more budget for the tearing the structure down, they can make the party last longer.

    They only game left is how to leave all this on the state government’s front door.

  28. Please remove the arches. Not only are they a waste of public funds, it is a laughing stock to those who visit the Gardens.It is so damn out of place and I wonder who the planner is ? My message to Ng Yen Yen, please do what is right and do not do something against the people’s will. REMOVE THE DAMN ARCHES.

  29. I wonder who is the chicken brain that suggested the arches to be built at the Botanical Gardens. The concrete structures and the design is out of place among the greens.

    It was a bad planning from the start by the Tourism Ministry. Get rid of it before it crumple down on someone especially if it happen to be a tourist. We don’t need the bad publicity on the front page in the newspapers or the headline on the TVs around the world.

  30. As HarbX said it out, a wrong was done, undo the wrong also cost taxpayers’ money.

    Let the arches be there as a symbol of blunder for ignoring rakyat voices by PR Chief Minister and BN Tourism Minister before a project is planned.

  31. The arches strike an arresting panorama to the background greens, but is there a functional purpose to it – besides being artsy? It has the capacity of being a landmark, provided one allows for the piece of fortress to grow with local history.

    The expansion around the arches has given the gardens the look and feel of depth and mystery, so I hope authorities cordoned off motor vehicles from encroaching into the vicinity – giving more thoughts into garden-access methods.

  32. I say keep them. The leaning arches of Penang should be a permanent symbol of BN govt’s failure of doing anything right. It should be a symbol of shame for the Federal govt.

  33. I think should keep them so that we can have our very own ‘Leaning Arches of Penang’ something akin to ‘Leaning tower of PISA’, which is good for tourism…

  34. I really hope they will remove them. They are not compatible with the overall idea of a botanic garden. When will people learn that many times less is best! The highlight of the botanic gardens should be the flora. A good florist knows how to arrange so that one’s attention is drawn to the main subject. The beauty of nature should not be eclipsed by monstrous man made structures of concrete. Nature itself is magnificent enough without our help. The Penang Botanic Gardens is a unique LIVING heritage. Let’s perserve its beauty, not warp it with a false sense of grandeur…no psychadelic paving, no pretentious roman columns… and definitely not those two arches.

  35. The question is why taking a poll to remove or not after it had been constructed. The ministry should get the view from the public before construction and not after. I am very sure a majority will vote no because simple logic tell us that why waste the fund when it is already constructed and surely the ministry will be proud to announce that the majority are happy with the arches. Are all the ministers eating through their back, just like the spot betting license, issued than seeking public feedback. DAMN DAMN DAMN

    • Keep the arches. At least Penang Botanical garden has a permanent monument, an alternative tourist product.

      It also serves as a talking point for bad planning and wastage of taxpayers’ money in any MBA class.

  36. At the moment, they’re already built.

    If they’ve spent the money and built these things already, how much more do they need to spend if they are going to remove them?

    What’s done is done – as a regular visitor to the Gardens, I welcome the car park extension and I am somewhat undecided about the arches, but I’m more concerned about whether more wastage is going to occur in terms of funding if someone’s going to remove them.

    If they’re free, and the majority of people says get rid of them, no problem. If not, leave them there.

  37. Tidak is not enough. The contrator who built this UNSAFE sructure has to absorb the cost. The budget for this project to be given to the state government to do something acceptable to the public and the Famous Landmark of the Botanic Garden, not this awful concrete structure !What a shame.

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