About a hundred concerned Penangites gathered peacefully outside the Penang State Assembly this morning to call for an an independent review of SRS Consortium’s outlandish RM46bn transport proposal, which critics have derided as a ‘property play’.
Under the proposal, an RM8bn six-lane highway will eventually link high-end property development on reclaimed land opposite Gurney Plaza off Gurney Drive to more high-end development on three artificial islands in southern Penang Island. Under phase one of the highway, it ends not far from even more high-end property development on reclaimed land now under construction off the coast of southeastern Penang Island.
The multi-ethnic crowd of protesters this morning included concerned residents, academics, environmentalists, park-lovers, advocates of the fishing communities and the marine ecology, representatives of various residents associations and activists.
Independent filmmaker Andrew Ng, who produced the award-winning documentary The Hills and the Sea, led the crowd with chants of “No way, highway; we want public transport”, “Cancel PIL; review PTMP”, “SRS, go away; far, far away” and “We want BRT and modern trams”.
Many expressed dismay that SRS’ 20-volume proposal has not yet been put online for serious public scrutiny. The hard copies of the 20 volumes were only made public for a limited period around Chinese New Year at selected locations, with no photography allowed, thus handicapping those who wanted to study the thick volumes at length. Others wondered why a traffic impact assessment has not been made public.
The protesters called for an independent review of SRS’ RM46bn proposal and the cancellation of the Pan Island Link, which is not a long-term solution to congestion in Penang and will only contribute to more emissions in this era of climate change.
Time is running out, as the display of the environment impact assessment for the RM8bn Pan Island Link ends on 7 September.
Experts say a project of this nature should have a strategic environmental assessment as required in development nations. Under such a participatory, open and transparent assessment, all possible alternatives are considered so that the most sustainable option is chosen – in sharp contrast with the more limited and narrow Malaysian process.
Unlike yesterday, when state government leaders came out of the state assembly to meet a group of 10 supporting the contractor-and-developers’ RM46bn transport proposal, this time they were nowhere to be seen.
To their credit, police guided traffic and allowed the peaceful assembly to proceed unhindered – a positive development in the new Malaysia.
Meanwhile, signatures for the online petition against the highway have surpassed the 5,000 mark. Do sign on to indicate your concern.
Tomorrow, the youth are gathering once again at Speakers Square at 6pm to make their feelings about the highway known.