Penang Botanic Garden: What went wrong?


Concerned Penangites distributed leaflets yesterday calling for a halt to projects to ‘upgrade’ the Penang Botanic Garden which have resulted in more concrete structures, including two large arches at the entrance.

They came face-to-face with federal and state government officials responsible for managing and overseeing the Garden who were there for the launch of the official programme to mark the 126th anniversary of the historical site.

One activist was overhead telling the officials, “The whole world is trying to move towards more greenery; here, we are adding more concrete.” The officials say they will hold a public briefing on what is happening to the Garden.

What went wrong at the Garden? Who is responsible for the mess? A source familiar with the workings of the Garden described the situation as follows:

We can say that the present development of the gardens is the result of failures at many levels.

Overall failure

–the failure to provide for and develop the expertise necessary to develop and manage a botanic garden. There was one graduate-level curator/director 52 years ago at the independence of Malaya and still only one curator/director now. As such, there is no expertise to manage the botanic garden as a botanic garden. The counterpart to the Penang Botanic Garden, the Singapore Botanic Garden, which was very similar to the Penang Botanic Garden, now has more than 35 graduate-level staff of which more than half have graduate degrees.

Specific failures

– the failure to have an orderly transition and handover from the retirement of the previous director to an inexperienced new director who was a recent graduate not in the field of botany or horticulture (at a time when the state government changed hands),
– the failure of the present garden management which has no expertise in the planning and management of a botanic garden to seek and get expert advise,
– the failure of the new state exco to understand the bureaucratic procedures of project implementation and properly review and oversee the projects,
– the failure of the garden management and state government to consult the public and to understand the sensitivity of the people of Penang towards one of the most cherished and historic institutions in the state,
– the failure of the federal government to be sensitive to the needs of the botanic garden where it can appoint fresh and inexperienced personnel to be the director of the garden and to appoint consultants for the garden development against the recommendations of the previous state government, which had shortlisted competent consultants for the job

State government officials are arguing that all the projects were approved by the previous government. This is at best only partially true, says the source. Even though the projects may come from the federal government, how they are actually carried out is the state’s prerogative, he says.

The allocation came during the 9th MP, ie 2006. RM7 million was allocated for the development of the expanded garden which had been recently gazetted to include about 590 acres of the surrounding areas of the old garden. The RM7 million figure must have been based on the JKR estimate in 1989 for the implementation of the Clive Justice Masterplan which was commissioned when the expansion of the garden was proposed. Because the gazetting of the transfer of land to the PBG took so long (gazetted only in 2004), the master plan had been superseded by a number of ad hoc developments and this made the master plan dated and inapplicable (the construction of the horticulture center, the hawker stalls, the surau and the quarry public park).

With the allocation of the funds under the 9MP, the PBG Dept proposed in 2006 the construction of a huge archway and entrance of the newly extended PBG (at the site of the former illegal batik shop) at an estimated cost of RM1 million. This was rejected by the PBG management committee chaired by YB Teng Chang Yeow. The PBG also proposed the construction of a garden mall at the place where the old government quarters and coffee shop was.

The PBG Dept then in 2007 asked a landscape consultant to submit a proposal of the design. After the presentation by the consultants to the Management Committee, the design was not accepted as it had too much hard landscape and unsightly water fountains and arches. The idea then was to have a more botanical water gardens with water lily and lotus ponds as well as for the giant water lily, Victoria spp.

Goverment-funded projects are normally handled by the JKR. The JKR, because of their heavy workload under the 9th MP, requested the DID to implement the projects, which included the eco-stream walkway and bambusetum. However, before these projects could be completed, the government of Penang changed.

The state exco, however, did not convene any meeting of the PBG management committee in 2008 and all the review and approvals for projects were undertaken without any scrunity or review. The consultants were also changed by DID, apparently in KL. The new consultants made one presentation of their proposed plans to the PBG Department and the Scientific advisory committee, which consisted of academics, botanists and NGOs. The scientific advisory disagreed with the proposals and requested that the plans be re-done. It is usually at the review stage that suggestions and counter proposals were made. It is not clear whether the proposals were presented to the relevant state exco, as normally the exco member would have to approve the final project. The scientifc advisory committee was never invited again to provide input on the nature of the water gardens or any other developments (because of their critical views?).

Alarmed at the developments, some members of the scientific advisory committee together with the Friends of Botanic Garden and MNS organised a forum in December 2008 on ‘The Future of the Penang Botanic Garden’. All the reviews and approvals for the development projects were in 2008 and early 2009. There would be ample time and opportunities to review and modify the projects and have public input. In fact, for the forum, the consultants were asked to present their proposals but the PBG did not do so (or they did not want to come?). The proposal was presented by the Director of the PBG.

It is therefore disingenous to say that all the projects were approved by the previous government and nothing can be done. It is not credible. It is a case of (the failure) of the PBG, the implementing agencies and PBG management committee.

Please help to support this blog if you can.

Read the commenting guidlelines for this blog.
Notify of

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Aiyoo.. Aiyoo,,, Previous Koh Tsu Koon did it!??%$

Not LGE Govt.. LGE is very very innocent and Hoooonest like his father…



Pls get rid of Lim Guan Eng and his father Lim Kit Siang from Penang.. Penang will be better place without them. It is only proper that a Penangnite be Penang CM!!!


My goodness. The BN troopers are really really out in force. Spewing venom all the way. Luckily, as far as I know, the people of Penang are still firmly in support of the Pakatan state govt. yes, the botanical gardens in an issue. But people know that the issues are deeply embedded in the web of intrigue and control exercised by the Federal Govt having a hand in state matters that they should have no business to be in. That is the crux of the issue.


My goodness. The BN troopers are really really out in force.

My goodness !

The DAP “yadda yadda people” are really really simple minded !

Spewing venom all the way.

Spreading vicious lies all the way.


“Yadda yadda yadda, 52 years, yadda yadda yadda, 2 years, yadda yadda yadda” Is that all you can do? Finding excuses for DAP? Is there such a drought of intellect among the DAP supporters that whoever dare to criticize Lim Guan Eng must automatically be “BN Supporters” ? Why don’t you guys go down to Selangor to take a look at how a proper government is being run? True, it’s not perfect, but it has been run as a GOVERNMENT, not as a BLAMING MACHINE ! Both states started out the same. All documents vanished. Had to start from the… Read more »


The state of Botanical Garden is a reflection of the incompetence, idiocy and development-driven business friendly administration of Towkay Lim aka Chairman Lim.

(His administration) has destroyed heritage, economy,culture, environment and in fact the very chracter and essence of Penang is in danger of being eroded and annihilated permanently.

He has repeatedly shown that all he cares is mindless development.

DAP – Development Above People
Pulau Pinang Darul Konkrit
LGE Bapa Pemunduran Pulau Pinang


These people are all pro BN. For all those donkey years of suffering under BN rule, they got no … to speak up, afraid of losing projects or ISA? Be fair, the PR government is only 2 years old compare to 52 years BN rule. Give them a chance to serve. And Ong Eu Soon, please mind your language. Don’t call people stupid. We are entitled to our opinions. You can have yours. Are you still living in the jungle? What have LGE done to make you hate him so much. I think alot of people knows why but its… Read more »


Well said, Kee. It is so easy to critisize and condemn. After 52 years of slumber some of the funny Penangites are going up in arms against the present state government. Power is now within their grasp to call to vote out whoever displeases them. Please look at the bigger picture and help the present state government to work towards it. It is an enormous task and responsibility to look after the welfare of the state let alone to please all and sundry. Wars repeat themselves because people forget. When you point an accusing finger three of your fingers are… Read more »


I’m saddened by the state of Penang’s Botanic Garden and some of the heated remarks being made. We reap what we sow, and don’t expect magnificent trees if you sow ‘lousy seeds’.

Here is an example of how lovely a botanical garden can be if it is well-managed and cared for by its visitors. Bodnant charges an entrance fee which goes some way towards its upkeep.


“What to do?” Well, since there’s probably less confusion over Penang’s status as a democracy as there might be in other states, you could always rise to the highest call in a democracy and represent yourself. Mahathir was absolutely wrong recently when he said that democracy is “rule by the majority”. Maybe he didn’t study Greek. Democracy is rule by the people. It is patently idiotic to expect 2 parties to represent all the views of 25 million people. If you can find people who agree with you, you won’t have to pay the whole election deposit yourself. If you… Read more »


I agree with Kee.

52 years is a long process where many habits are cast set in molds. 308 opened the pandora’s box and now we have criticisms galore.

Yes, I can tolerate a green horn government which makes a lot of mistakes as long as citizens voices are heard and wrongs put to right. Most importantly, I want the taxes which I paid be rightly accountable and not opaquely find their way into the pockets of some politicians or civil servants.

Thus, my expectation of good governance is a CLEAN and TRANSPARENT government. Everything else comes second.


I agree we have many “funny” people. May I remind every one to stay professional and do not oppose and criticize for the sake of criticizing. Please offer constructive and fair criticism, and if possible lent a hand to shape Penang into a world-class destination. Otherwise, keep quiet or move out …..


Maybe some Malaysians do not appreciate what wonders are the trees and nature. The rings within the tree trunk bear testimonies of our lives through the centuries. The older the tree, the more precious it becomes and should be preserved…but our municipal officers just like to chop them down. Sometimes, I wonder whether it is ‘chopped’ because old trees like the angsana trees are worth their 1/2 weight in gold. Those in Damansara Jaya (SS22) will remember the magnificent 30 feet pine trees that lined the roundabout. One day, the municipal workers chopped down the trees and left only 3… Read more »


Mr Anil, i feel that Penang people are kind of very funny… a bunch of very funny people… For 52 years, they are like sleeping … apa pun boleh… never mind about corruption and injustices so long as they can sell two plates of “char kuih teow” and so long as they themselves and their families are safe and sound, do they care about injustices done to others? But now, suddenly, after 308 each and everyone of them has become an expert in criticising the PR government, esp, the Penang government, rightly or wrongly, a good example is Kg Buah… Read more »


They only wanted to hear one side of the stories saying from their PKR friends saying this and that but they are old men very guilable and never hear the other side of the story to get a balance view. They say they support PR but hate another component party like Gila… This that part of the pakatan spirit? When one of the component party EXCOs are under investigation about corruption, they say nothing. The best solution is let Penang goes to UMNO because one component part is “stabbing” the other like Brutus.

Penang People

wandererAUS, Penang people agree with you…


Perhaps these same officials should make a visit to Seremban Lake Garden….such a beautiful natural sight before…what a blooming mes today!
In the middle of it all, they put a concrete stage and a pavilion, hardly in use. As usual no follow maintenance works…waiting to rot…wasting tax payers’ money on white elephants monuments!!
Are these crowns expert in the field of Horticulture and landscaping?
Even a lay man like me, I would like to see “The Trees Embrace The Evening Breeze” for lovers to stroll happily by…..DON’T DISTURB NATURE!

Dalbinder Singh Gill

The outcome of the project?

Ong Eu Soon

LGE only concern with money, if he can get funding from the federal that is consider as an achievement. Money, money,money that is the only thing matter! If we allow LGE to run the state in this manner,everything in Penang will go wrong.


Agree with you Ah Soon. You are correct this time. Getting money from the Fed to fund projects which the Feds under Ah Khoon, to destroy the one greeen lungs left untouched for decades, that will burn the hearts of Penangnites. Yes, protests should be organized every weeek at the PBG to highlight the peoples plight. I do not mind spending some of my time during weekends to highlight the plights of Penangnites to visitors of PBG. It looks the DAP is losing a battle here and are already giving up. The PKR reps should sit up and evaluate their… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

That is the only reason why me and my buddies go against LGE. On PGCC, LGE dare not make a stand, ‘cos that means money from …. On PORR, he want it ‘cos that is money from Federal. On Penang Second Bridge, he want it ‘cos that is money from Federal too. On Tiger Farm or sorry Park, he want it ‘cos that is money from someone else. On hill slope deve;lopment, he want it ‘cos that is money from developers. On land reclamation, he want it ‘cos that is money from ….. All he want is money for Penang.


No money – no talk – No money for PICC and garden = NO talk for you and all of us. We are talking now because there is money (for the projects especially for Engineers)


Maybe this is typical of how things got done in boleh land? By committees of blind and deaf civil servants and politicians.


DAP is king, no need to consult with anyone on any matter. If they cannot manage a small matter like the PBG, do you expect them to handle the PICC well? Bayan Baru folks, you better know what to do come the next election, otherwise just imagine the concrete structures that are expected to come along with the PICC. Good luck folks, and may the added traffic congestion be a source of pride for the DAP! And they are damn good in pushing and blaming the previous administration for any mistakes! Wake up DAP, it had been for more than… Read more »


“DAP is king, no need to consult with anyone on any matter.” What to do? PKR is treating Lim Guan Eng as if he is a prince and he can not be criticized. See what happened last time when some PKR people openly criticized LGE? They were ordered by their PKR HQ in KL to apologize to LGE and they quit PKR instead. That development only give even more face to DAP. Now they think they are invincible. Lim Guan Eng is just like Koh Tsu Koon. Last time Koh Tsu Koon was thinking the same thing Lim Guan Eng… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

Penangites are basically stupid! They need to suffer for another 25 years to realise. One Sarawakian asked me how can I say thing like that. I replied all of you are fool, big time fool. The day I critised Dr M, someone challenged me for a fist fight and asked me to leave this country. When KTK decided to join politic, I was the one who question his stand on ISA and made a fool out of him in USM. From that day onward he will stare at me… Now I critise LGE and someone asked me to move to… Read more »


“Penangites are basically stupid! They need to suffer for another 25 years to realise.” That, you do not have to worry, Sir. Penangites have a very solid reason to suffer for 18 years before dumping Koh Tsu Koon. It’s our way of saying “THANK YOU !!!” to the “Triangle Party” — previously United Democratic Party which later changed to Gerakan. It was the “Triangle Party” that saved Penang from a very serious economic collapse. It was the “Triangle Party” that set up the Bayan Lepas and Prai industrial estates. It was the “Triangle Party” that set up Malaysia’s best water… Read more »


What went wrong?

Danny Law is what went wrong !!

A person who has no idea what to do, how to do, when to do and which to do is the exco who has created so many controversies in Penang.

That is the one big WHAT that has gone very very VERY wrong.

Remove Danny Law from the exco seat immediately !


Agree with you bro! Too many mistakes and too many problems from this portfolio. But, he is LGE’s “godson”, so Penangnites must bear with it!

THIS IS THE DAP! What are penangnites! Hahaha! Be prepared to suffer another 12 months or slightly more before we do what we need to do, and 12 months is a short time!