A few years ago, the government allocated funds to turn parts of the area around Jalan Kapitan Keling in Penang into a “Gold Bazaar”.
According to Seri:
…the Gold Bazaar was proposed by former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad after a trip to Dubai and upon being told that the majority of the jewellery on display were from Penang, Malaysia. Having seen the vast market potential, it was then proposed that the areas of Jalan Kapitan Keling, Buckingham Street and Campbell Street be gazetted as the Gold Bazaar of Penang. (In 2004), the Federal Government allocated RM6 million to start the project.
Never mind how the project turned out – I haven’t heard anyone talking about the “Gold Bazaar”, so that is an indication – but what is relevant to the PGCC is that the council invited the local business community, the Penang Heritage Trust and environmentalists for discussions on the project. I understand this was not required by law, but the council, to its credit, allowed some measure of public participation. Imagine, this could be done for a project worth only a few million ringgit.
This is in stark contrast to the PGCC, where the local authorities are sticking to the letter of the law and insisting that there will be no public hearings (apart from listening to the complaints of nearby residents) as none is required under the law.
The question is, if there could be public meetings for a small project such as the Gold Bazaar and the beautification of Little India, why can’t there be public hearings for the RM25 billion PGCC, which is going to have massive and far-reaching implications not just for neighbouring residents but for all Penangites? Why are they so afraid of meeting the public, if the PGCC is really going to benefit the people of Penang?
This is why we really need to bring back local democracy (local council elections) in the country so that the local authorities become accountable and more responsive to the aspirations of the people.