Fox makes its move

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Not making much headway with the Penang-based NGOs, the Fox Communication/Equine people have now trained their sights on the Jesselton Residents Association, neighbouring the Turf Club. The latest I hear is that this meeting will be held on 10 September at the Penang Sports Club nearby – two days before the official launch of the Penang Global City Centre mega project on the Turf Club land.

This means the idea to hold the meeting at “The Mansion” has probably been dropped. What to do, their original invitees don’t want to turn up. Update: Now I hear they are targeting the performing arts people and trying to woo them with the proposed performing arts centre in the PGCC. And they are still trying to round up activists to attend the Mansion meeting.

But hey, the Penang Sports Club is still pretty exclusive. Members – and their guests – only.

Apparently, they want to limit the meeting to 10 reps from the resident association. Maybe they are worried the public might turn up and start shouting at them.

But if Fox/Equine think its going to be smooth sailing with the residents association, they have another thing coming. Jesselton Heights is a tranquil, lush green upper-middle-class neighbourhood in Penang – perhaps equivalent to Damansara in KL (though I am not sure what that is like these days!).

I gather Jesselton folks are not exactly leaping with joy at the prospect of the Penang Outer Ring Road cutting in near their property. Neither are they dancing in the streets celebrating the idea of the Turf Club land being rezoned from recreational use to “development corridor” under the Penang Structure Plan. If fact, they have submitted objections to this. Nobody is excited about 30-40 office blocks being built near their home.

One theory is that all this pre-launch publicity for the project is just to ramp up the value of the land, so that the developers can obtain more financing – which they can then subcontract to others to develop on a piecemeal basis. Maybe that might side-step EIA requirements, who knows.

Anyway, I hope the Fox people are not thinking of playing “divide-and-rule” with the Penang NGOs.

To give you an idea of the newfound unity among Penang-based NGOs, have a look at this article I wrote for Aliran Monthly about an alternative Merdeka celebration that brought together a range of NGOs in Penang and left many wondering whether they had witnessed the genesis of a broader, more cohesive civil society movement.

It took weeks of hard work and endless rounds of planning meetings. In the end it was all worth it as the Pesta Rakyat Merdeka left a lasting impression on those who were a part of it.

A group of 25 civil society groups had harnessed their resources and come together on 24 June 2007 for a most meaningful celebration to mark 50 years of Merdeka and 44 years of Malaysia.

Held at the foyer of the venerable Dewan Sri Pinang auditorium, the inaugural Pesta Rakyat Merdeka had something for everyone – a civil society exhibition, musical, dance and cultural performances, a forum and films, and a “soapbox” for activists to highlight their causes. Some 200 people turned up for the launch while waves of others – old and young, of all ethnic groups, including migrant workers – came and went during the day. Full article: Pesta Rakyat Merdeka – A new beginning?

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