Blog Page 578

Pakatan leaders, euphoric over the turnout at their Lunar New Year open house in Kota Kinabalu, have told Sabahans that their state could play a leading role in changing the political landscape of the country.

A sea of people packed the hall – Photo via Tian Chua

The turnout this afternoon was “overflowing”, observed Lim Kit Siang, noting that Anwar Ibrahim arrived to a “riotous welcome”.

It is a “sign of the times (for) Sabah, Malaysia”, said Kit Siang.

7 4

Live coverage of the tsunami alert for Hawaii.

Live coverage of rescue operations after the 8.8 earthquake in Chile

0213: Blog readers Kent and Silvia Sharrar comment at 12.25am (Malaysian time): “We are Ewa Beach residents in Acapulco (at the Fairmont right on the beach). It came & went w/no effect. Loud crash when wave hit the beach.”

0122: Social networking site Twitter is being heavily used with about 500-1,000 updates per minute.

0105: The Malaysian Met Department issued a statement at 8.30 last night. “NO tsunami threat to Malaysia. However, those staying at coastal areas of Lahad Datu, Semporna, Tawau and Sandakan, Sabah are advised to be alert as there are likely to occur rough sea conditions and sea level rise starting tomorrow afternoon, 28 February 2010.”

0100: Sirens wail along the Hawaiian coast again.

0059: This will be a major event with dangerous waves for Hawaii, but nobody can predict how big the waves will be, says a televised warning.

Najib says the Malaysian economy is out of the woods and we are poised to do better this year. From what you see around you, do you agree?

A bunch of bananas in Penang is now RM1 more expensive, char koay teow and roti canai servings have shrunk, and many workers have lost out on increments over the last couple of years. Stress levels have soared as workers have to work longer hours to cover for those retrenched and not replaced. And now we have the spectre of GST looming over us.

The GDP figures did not do as badly as anticipated last year because of the pump priming and fiscal stimulus packages.

While others are marvelling at the unique Penang Hill funicular railyway, we are about to lose large chunks of a priceless heritage, thanks to a hasty federal “upgrading” project.

Who was the RM63 million contract awarded to? And who will absorb any cost overruns?

Already, not a few Penangites are muttering that the proposed quick 10-minute train ride up the hill will defeat the whole purpose of going up the hill – a leisurely ride up for passengers to savour the tropical fauna and the lush greenery along the route as they leave the cares of the world down below. Okay, the trains may be crammed now during the holiday seasons, but there was an alternative proposal to improve the railway here.

Rob Dickinson, of the International Steam Pages, commented on this blog that he spent a week here filming the funicular line in December 2009. A DVD of its operation – which can now double up as an ‘obituary’ of the old line – will be ready by May 2010. Check out his brilliant photos here, especially those of the machinery. “This was definitely ‘just in time’ industrial archaeology,” reflects Rob.

Garth Johnson, whose great uncle Arnold R Johnson designed the railway, commented on this blog that Arnold’s “very clever” blueprint involved carving the hillside taking into account the weight of the cable. “That was why he divided the track into two sections with a central station,” said Garth. The Penang Heritage Trust points out below that the existing funicular track, which opened in 1923, was actually the second attempt at building a railway on Penang Hill. The first attempt, begun in 1898 and completed in 1906, was a two-car system that comprised only one section covering the entire distance. It flopped due to technical reasons.

The big question now is, how much hill-cutting and tree-chopping will we now see when they try to put in place the new track alignment? Have they carefully considered the terrain, the maintenance required and passenger safety?