Penang Hill, Berjaya and Chong Eu/Tsu Koon

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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

Alyaa Alhadjri
[email protected]

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.

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nkkhoo.com

Penang Hill can still be developed with eco-tourism model.

Flying fox is a good project, and we can fly around Penang Hill like a superman.

How about building a launching pad for hang glider from the hill top to Balik Pulau.

For the moment, I think a few telescope observation stations are needed for tourists to have a snapshot on the Georgetown and Butterworth.

Can Lee Kah Chuan take on these proposals?

Sebastian

You should sell your ideas to MB Ghani to implement this at Gunung Ledang. Then the people in Johor can enjoy nature instead of casinos in Singapore.

Chuck

Strange to see the likes of BE Lau claiming to be the protector of Penang Hill, when I notice so much of the hill side developement in Penang for high-end residential units. There is even a Setia signage ala Hollywood signage on the hill side. If KTK indeed stood up in the name of environment protection, against his mentor LCE’s (as Berjaya consultant) retirement plan to develop Penang Hill, then shouldn’t his effort be lauded? Or is it a lost opportunity of a hill-top resort (ala Bukit Tinggi but with casino?) that could have drawn tourist dollars to Penang? Easy… Read more »

tunglang

Bukit Tinggi but with casino? You can forget it in Penang till The Lord’s Kingdom comes.

Gambling is a curse, what’s more the Chinese in Penang, already way behind the Singaporeans in earning power and assets can ill afford to gamble away their wives, children, parents and homes.

Want to build another casino? Go to Singapore.

TuaKee

Dear tunglang

Tam Chiak Kui can enjoy buffet (local delights), karaoke (sing Isabella till you drop), movies (Bruce Lee’s classic inclusive) at penang off shore boat cruise cum casino (no prize to guess who own the boats ?)
Is is a sin to indulge in such activities ?

May be Pet Shop Boys can enlighten us :

tunglang

It is the difference when you are doing ‘it’ on a cruise ship which can have no environmental effects unlike a casino up in Penang Hill. Compared to the easier Hill access to gambling of the massive kind, the more dire the consequence on society, families and work ethics of the working class. (Don’t talk about the rich and famous who have no financial concerns, win or lose). Let’s say if you are hook to casino and one fine day the ‘angel’ of ‘Pok Kai’ seems to never let you go. You will do whatever it takes to recover the… Read more »

Rango

In that case, why not build a ‘Christ The Redeemer’ on top of Penang Hill to rival the one in Rio de Janeiro!

You may forget that there are enough sinful elements in Penang in the form of GROs.

tunglang

Even Christ walked among the sinners more than polishing the egos of the Pharisees.
Don’t discriminate but care to redeem and heal. This earth is not perfect yet.
Did Christ ask for a giant monument in His image?

SamG

Evening of CNY eve 2011, I saw the KTK at the Bayan Lepas Airport, burying his head in a laptop. During the 30 odd minutes he was sitting in front of McDs, not a SINGLE person went up to wish him Happy CNY. That just shows how popular he is in Penang. If LGE was in the same place on CNY eve, there will be a huge line formed to wish him Happy CNY. That’s Respect. SO BEFORE WE START LGE bashing here in Penang Hill Project, there is always an opening to make any such development Eco-Friendly and blend… Read more »

Sptay

If u looked at the location of Pg hill u know that it sits right space center of the island…all our streams & rivers have their origins that central hills of Pg…mess with it u have an ecologically disaster in your hands…Langkawi no comparison..almost no population living near it…the island’s population approaching 800k…. Berjaya go find yourself another island…the ecological damage to the island of the Pg. Hill development far outweighs PGCC development… Anyway I think LGE & DAP testing the waters…..what are they doing chumming up with Berjaya Gp … have they forgotten the DAP frog in Perak…..rumor has… Read more »

tunglang

In this country, frogs (animals) can be a kingmaker.
And these species don’t eat flies but money-laden lies and croak innocent-lies.
Time to skin these frogs on my next trip to the Perak rainforest.

TuaKee

someone released a different non-native frog into Penang Botanical Garden and this s species created a havoc to the “asli” frogs there.

no wonder “asli” folks at penang Hill kind of worry about the impending Berjaya … there ? eg can’t compete with the $ strength of Vincent ?

AlbertG

FYI, LGE has never mention anything about over developing Penang Hill. Yes, we need to spruce up interest for Penang Hill but not the cable car, 5star hotel or super condominium that is too expensive for the locals which will erode the environment of the hill. If ever LGE or the state government propose extensive development for Penang Hill, I am sure Penangites will rise up and object. We are not puppets supporting any part blindly.

wira

If I am not mistaken, Tun Lim became an advisor to Berjaya group upon his retirement, possibly drawing a salary from it.

LBJ

Another whack on Koh Tsu Koon’s silly head. No wonder he is reeling from left to right like a drunkard.

tunglang

“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. Premier tourism attraction with frequent environmental disasters if that’s what you like for Penang Hill? We prefer balanced developments but not rampant, massive profit-first-for-me kind of developers’ mentality for ‘out of sync’ projects that don’t blend well with Penang’s unique culture and environment. Anyway, Penang’s tourism potentials come not from massive, mindless concrete development of no tourism brand differentiation but its hundred… Read more »

khor s.l.

can someone enlighten me what project berjaya was actively involved in penang. i can’t remember any unless my memory fails me. i thought it was a blessing in disguise that the idea was shelved. a bit of tidying up here and there should retain its pristine atmosphere rather than bulldozing its way through to create another monster. credit should be given to koh for standing up to that and now is a test for lge. i hope pg people will speak loudly on this, its your last fortress and don’t be tempted by big pocket and their cohorts.

Syiok Syiok

could it be Berjaya was then “tempted” to divert its resources to fund “projects” in the 90s at Langkawi as part of the “national service” ?

Need to balance development vs nature protection. In Bolehland, the abuse could be ramphant when enforcement is lacking & “yang menurut perintah 1%” somehow unable to protect the 99%.

Still still a better option is to build controlled eco-friendly tropical rainforest theme part at Jerejak – a first in the world ?

Rango

The article somehow suggested that Tun M hijacked Berjaya to develop Langkawi and thus deprived LCE’s (alleged) ‘retirement benefits’ in the Penang Hill development? Got some truth.

James Cameron

For Koh, when it rains, it pours

Syiok Syiok

looks like Koh has been given “honeymoon” in KL after 308 and now given signals at all levels & corners to leave for good ?????

Ong Eu Soon

Seem like we need to revive Friend of Penang Hill Campaign to force LGe to abandon his plan to revive LCE’s plan for Penang Hill.

AlbertG

Ah Soon, I know you are anti LGE, anything about DAP or LGE you start to shoot. At present BL & LGE have not mention anything about the Penang Hill project so what are you talking about. Anil’s headline is about Penang Hill, Berjaya, Chong Eu/Tsu Koon.