I have lost count of the number of visitors to Penang who have told me, “Please ask your government to do something about these flats” in Butterworth.
These must be about 10 blocks of flats here on the mainland, facing Straits Quay on the island. They don’t look like they have had a fresh coat of paint ever since they were built more than 30 years ago. Rubbish disposal is a serious problem, with steel bins either missing or with gaping holes in them.
What a sharp contrast to Straits Quay and Sri Tanjung Pinang across the channel on the island, reflecting the divide between the rich and the lower-income group.
I enquired with an MPSP councillor and he told me that these flats come under
‘Perumahan’ under the federal Housing and Local Government Ministry (actually, it comes under the the Housing Division of the State Secretary). Apparently, he added, they are responsible for the collection of a small monthly maintenance fee of about RM20 from each resident, but it is not clear if these fees have been collected and if so, what they have being used for.
Correct me if I am wrong, this area also comes under the BN constituency of Teluk Air Tawar within the Tasik Gelugor parliamentary constituency, both held by the BN. (Teluk Air Tawar is held by Umno’s Jahara Hamid, who was recently chosen as the Penang State Assembly opposition leader, the first female to hold that position in a state assembly in Malaysia.)
Before the general election both the federal and Penang state governments raced to come up with their own plans to upgrade flats such as these. The federal government was supposed to finance the upgrading of such flats while the Penang state government’s Happy! scheme was supposed to cover any shortfall.
Even if the federal government is responsible for upgrading, no one is going to complain if the state government/MPSP steps in to give this place a much-needed facelift. If anything, it would gain the state/local government a lot of brownie points among the residents.
The rubbish collection problem clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the MPSP.
But I don’t see anyone – BN or Pakatan – scrambling to improve these flats. By right, they should be falling over each other in a race to spruce up the place. Instead both sides seem more inclined towards mega or ‘iconic’ projects.
As you can see from the last couple of photos, this strip of coastline has the potential to be transformed into a picturesque sea-front community if there is the political will.
So let me throw a challenge: Let’s see which side – BN federal government or Pakatan state/local government – is more serious about the people’s welfare and will transform the lives of this community by getting the job done.