It was a concerted civil society postcard campaign around 1990 that pressured the state government to stop any development on Penang Hill.
Plans for Penang Hill were first mooted in October 1989 and an MOU between the state and Berjaya was signed on 1 September 1990.
But a postcard campaign by the determined “Friends of Penang Hill”, involving groups like CAP and Penang Hill residents, received tremendous response from the public. And just like the ‘Stop PGCC’ campaign did 18 years later, the “Save Penang Hill” campaign cost the Gerakan/BN votes at the 1990 general election. Chief Minister Lim Chong Eu was stunningly dumped at the polls on 21 October 1990. (Unlike his successor Koh Tsu Koon, he didn’t then try the back-door route to power.)
Tsu Koon really didn’t have much choice but to scrap those ill-conceived plans for Penang Hill after the 1990 general election. The project comprised “27 acres upland (Crag Hotel and Penang Hill Village, besides the Lomond Service Apartments), 67.3 acres for lowland development, installation of a cable car system and privatisation of the Hill Railway”.
In his letter to Vincent Tan on 14 May 1992, Tsu Koon, mindful of public sentiment, recalled the political and ecological “sensitivity” of the Penang Hill plans.
… it was impressed upon your delegation that while the Government is keen to develop the hill into an attractive resort, it is also mindful of the fact that, unlike the development of many other resorts which are situated in rather remote areas, whatever happens on Penang Hill is highly visible to and is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of people downhill in the urban area of Penang. This accounts for the sensitive nature of this issue politically, besides ecological sensitivity in view of the small size and fragile nature of the hill.
Let us remember history correctly. And both the BN and Pakatan should learn these lessons of history. (Tsu Koon himself forgot the 1990 Penang Hill ‘lesson’ when he presided over the PGCC fiasco, which contributed to the BN’s electoral debacle in 2008.)
I am not sure all this so-called “development” is going to be good for a green lung like Penang Hill, ‘the last frontier’? Don’t we have enough of rampant development on the rest of the island?
This report from theSun, which is owned by Berjaya:
BLand explains why Penang Hill development was not realised
Posted on 24 August 2011 – 05:27am
Last updated on 24 August 2011 – 12:44pm
KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 23, 2011): Berjaya Land Berhad today rebutted former Penang chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s assertion that Berjaya Group’s proposal to develop Penang Hill was rejected because an environmental impact assessment (EIA) report was unfavourable.
Explaining what led to the proposal being scrapped, Berjaya Land CEO Datuk Francis Ng said Berjaya Group was invited in 1989 by then Penang chief minister the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu to carry out his vision of developing Penang Hill into a premier tourist destination.
He said Lim had conducted an hour-long presentation and outlined his vision for the development of Penang Hill at a briefing session attended by officers of the state administration and representatives of Berjaya Group on Oct 8, 1989.
“Berjaya subsequently engaged a team of local and foreign consultants including environmental experts to prepare the first Penang Hill Master Plan based on Tun Lim’s brief and a memorandum of understanding(MoU) between the state government and Berjaya for the development of Penang Hill was signed on Sept 1, 1990,” he said.
Ng said when Koh took over the state administration in 1991, he completely changed Lim’s Master Plan and instead approved a second master plan which effectively watered down the proposed development of Penang Hill.
“When Berjaya wanted to appeal against the rejection of its EIA Report on the second master plan, Koh appealed to Berjaya to rescind the MoU and to wait for a local plan to be gazetted before carrying out any development plans,” Ng said.
Owing to the delay and non-committal attitude of Koh towards the Penang Hill development, Berjaya reluctantly made the decision to withdraw from the project and focused its efforts and resources on tourism development in Langkawi and other parts of the country, Ng added.
“Whilst the other tourist destinations in Malaysia saw rapid development and growth, Penang Hill fell behind in the development process and was left to stagnate for the benefit of a few exclusive residents on the hill,” Ng said.
He said many pioneering and environmentally friendly development concepts like the cable car, tourist villages and building of chalets in the wooded areas that were originally proposed for Penang Hill have now been successfully implemented by the Berjaya Group in Langkawi and other parts of Malaysia.
“Penang’s loss was Langkawi’s gain,” said Ng, adding that if Koh had been more far-sighted, firm and decisive, Penang Hill, with investments from Berjaya and other property developers, would have been developed into a premier tourist attraction today.
The current state government, following Lim’s plan has established the Penang Hill Corporation and is now pressing ahead to implement the development of the hill on similar concepts initially proposed by Berjaya.
“With the support of the public, hopefully, Tun Lim’s vision for Penang Hill will finally be realised for the benefit of the people of Penang, said Ng, adding it was regrettable that Lim passed away without seeing his vision realised due to Koh’s indecisiveness.
Koh claimed last weekend that his administration had taken the stand to reject Berjaya Corp chairman Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s proposal to develop Penang Hill in 1993, because the EIA report was not favourable.
“There was a lot of pressure on us because this (Berjaya) was a big developer. But we had to do what was in the best interest of the people,” Koh had said.
Koh’s comment had been made in response to Tan’s remark last Tuesday that Berjaya Group had stayed away from investing in Penang for about 18 years (Koh was chief minister for 18 years) because it was “put off” by the state leadership.
“We were active in the property development scene in Penang during the tenure of the late Tun Lim Chong Eu (as chief minister). After his tenure, we were put off by the state leadership and I decided not to invest in Penang ever again,” Tan had said at the signing of the sale-and-purchase agreement of a property with the Penang Turf Club in Penang last Tuesday.
Berjaya Land subsidiary Berjaya Land Development Sdn Bhd plans to develop a RM1.52 billion, low-density exclusive guarded and gated housing development comprising bungalows, semi-detached homes, two blocks of 10-storey condominiums and low-cost housing units.