Concerned Penangites have scored a huge psychological victory in a battle of online petitions on the mega transport plans for the state.
The petition against the SRS Consortium’s extravagant RM46bn transport plan has sensationally pipped the petition in support of the plan by 12,226-12,218. (This is excluding the 2,000 hard-copy signed petitions against the Pan Island Link ‘monster’ highway that were handed over to Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin last Thursday.) Syabas to the people of Penang!
At one stage a month ago, the ‘against’ petition was trailing the ‘for’ petition by 3,500 to 10,000. Campaigners faced an uphill battle considering that the state government was riding on almost 70% of the popular vote in the last general election – which the state had erroneously cited as evidence of public backing for the SRS plan.
In early August, this blog had predicted that the activism among concerned Penangites, apart from the work of civil society groups, would create a groundswell of protests against the plans. Since then, this groundswell has grown and will continue to grow in the days to come – even larger than what we saw at the town hall meeting on the EIA for the Pan Island Link highway last Thursday.
The improbable victory in the petition battle was achieved largely due to the tireless campaigning work of concerned Penangites who worked hard to raise public awareness of the damaging social, health, aesthetic and environmental impact of the mega transport plans. It shows how grassroots mobilisation succeeded in overhauling well-oiled state and corporate media propaganda in shaping public opinion.
What these rival petitions have revealed is that the number of people actually willing to support the extravagant plan are fewer than what the state government had expected – with a large section of the population still largely unaware of the damaging impact of these mega transport plans.
The win achieved by concerned Penangites today coincides with the 24 September deadline day for public feedback on the EIA on the RM8.5bn monster highway that will mar and scar the face of Penang.
It also comes on the heels of the Penang state government’s adamant plan to go ahead with the RM8bn elevated LRT line from Komtar to the airport, despite unrealistic ridership projections and cheaper options available like bus rapid transit, modern trams and trackless tram systems.
What we are seeing today is also confirmation of the emergence of a green movement in Penang that will snowball in the months to come and perhaps one day spill over into electoral politics to give the mainstream parties a run for their (corporate?) money..
Meanwhile, politicians who choose to side with vested interests have been served notice that they can no longer ride roughshod over the concerns of many ordinary Penangites on the ground who have awakened to the damaging impact of the SRS plan.