Tanjung Bunga state assembly member, Teh Yee Cheu, says his position is simple: No cutting of steep hill slopes – Photos by Anil Netto
Tanjung Bunga residents protesting at the bottom of the steep hill slope along Solok Tan Jit Seng
When the Tanjung Bunga protesters invited their elected rep, Teh Yee Cheu of the DAP, to say a few words at their “coffee party” yesterday, they introduced him as “the people’s YB”.
Teh walked up to the mike, and along the way, picked up a placard which read “No more Class 3 and 4 hill cutting”. Pointing to the placard, he told the residents that this was his position. It was clear that he was on the residents’ side and he told them to continue with their “parties”.
At Solok Tan Jit Seng, developer DynamicPro plans to build 25 three-storey town-houses on a hill-slope which residents claim has a gradient of over 65 degrees. That’s steep! (Class 3 is over 25 degrees and Class 4 over 35 degrees). The project site on the slope looks down on a row of houses, behind which stands the Tanjung Bunga school. Above the project site on the slope lies the precariously perched Pearl Hill apartments. Before the Appeals Board could decide on the residents’ concerns, several trees on the hill-slope were felled.
The Pearl Hill apartments perched precariously above the project site.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was also invited, did not turn up. Instead, he made sure state exco member Phee Boon Poh, who recently assumed the environment portfolio, attended.
In contrast to Teh, Phee was more guarded when addressing the residents and said he would have to walk a “middle road” between the developers’ and the people’s interests and make an independent decision. He said if he openly sided with either party, he could be accused of corruption.
This prompted a disgusted placard-carrying protester to blurt out, “Political talk!” which Phee overheard. But the exco member remained non-committal, maintaining that the state government would need to consider all factors.
One resident, Ismail, said he was worried about the safety of the residents especially the children at the Tanjung Bunga school. Another resident told the state government reps to take back the message that the residents are not stupid. “Most of us voted for change on March 8 (last year) – you can ask the people here, many of them voted for the DAP – but we want to see change.”
Yet another resident said the issue of the state having to pay compensation to developers for projects terminated was a lame excuse. “There are ways and means of stopping these developers.” One of them suggested that the state authorities could impose tough restrictions on rock blasting and the height of retaining walls, making it all but impossible to proceed with the project. Or the state government could investigate how such a project was approved on such a steep hill slope in the first place.
Residents later took Phee for a tour of the area to show him how serious the Tanjung Bunga environmental problem is and some of the likely problems that could arise.
The residents told Phee they worry another four high-rise apartment blocks could be coming up next to the existing four in Tanjung Bunga
Clearly, the state government will have to decide whose side they are on: the residents’ or the developers’ whose projects could pose a threat to public safety. The residents, for their part, are not about to accept any dangerous or unsustainable development lying down.