Tunnel, highways: Did the Penang government consult the public?

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The tunnel and highway projects will have an impact not only along Gurney Drive, but across much of the north, east and south-east of the Island – and the mainland at Bagan Ajam.

So were public consultations carried out for affected residents to give their views? Was much publicity given to these consultations? Were such consultations adequate given the scale and geographical impact of the projects?

Usually a guideline is that such consultations should be open to the public to submit their views over 12 weeks. Read these guidelines on public consultation by the UK Department for Business, Enterprise
and Regulatory Reform and the guidelines for major project community consultation by the New South Wales Department of Planning.

In the case of the Botanic Garden Special Area Plan, the public were allowed a month to submit their views. Upon appeals by NGOs, this was extended to two months (expiring tomorrow!). A systematic process is being followed for the Garden, involving the exhibition of the plan, submission of public comments, and then hearings where individuals may choose to be present to put forward their comments, objections and proposals personally.

How much more extensive should the consultations be for projects involving billions of ringgit?

Even for the Penang Transport Masterplan, the consultants were in the dark as to whether these mega projects would indeed go ahead. (At a consultation with stakeholders for the Masterplan, I heard a consultant asking a Penang state exco member whether the mega projects were actually “committed”.)

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn during the public consultations for the Masterplan that a lot of the feedback from the public was for sustainable transport and public transport options to be pursued and promoted.

The state government and the federal government (including Rapid Penang and the ferry operator) should set aside political differences and come together to work on viable sustainable public transport options for Penang. Am I politically naive to suggest that? Yes, but in the long-term interests of ordinary Penangites, that is the only viable and sustainable way to go for the state.

It is not totally impossible. The state government has made a good start with the CAT shuttle bus service and the Best Penang Bridge shuttle bus, in both instances working with Rapid Penang. These are commendable initiatives that should serve as the foundation for more sustained cooperation. (The longer-term objective should be for Rapid Penang to come under the state government.)

The alternative is a road congestion nightmare for Penang that doesn’t bear thinking about.

Introduce Public Consultation Guidelines

CAP is compelled to respond to the unwarranted outburst by Penang Chief Minister YB Lim Guan Eng on CAP’s complaint on the lack of public consultation by the State Government on some recent mega projects. The mega projects in question are the construction of a 6.5 km Gurney Drive-Bagan Ajam undersea tunnel, 12 km road connecting Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang, 4.2 km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu bypass and 4.6 km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass.

We reiterate our earlier press statement, namely, that there has been no public consultation on these mega projects.

CAP is shocked to note that both the Chief Minister and his Pegawai Khas Encik Zairil Khir Johari appear to have no understanding of the objects and process of public consultation.

Briefing NGOs generally on the mega projects and making statements about them to the press or in the State Assembly do not constitute public consultation.

Public consultation involves engaging the public at the earliest stage of the decision-making process, providing adequate information about the projects and giving due consideration to the representations and views made by individuals and civil society organisations. Such a process has not been adopted by the State Government with regard to the mega projects. A good example of public consultation is the ongoing process in developing a Transport Master Plan for Penang and the Special Area Plan for the Botanic Gardens.

The key question is: Before signing a Memorandum of Understanding and calling for request proposals for construction of these mega projects, was a preliminary study carried out with regard to the need for, and viability of, these projects, as well as their economic, social and environmental impacts? If such a study has been carried out, why was the information not shared with the public for them to make useful representations to the authorities? It would be disastrous to embark on these projects involving huge costs and serious economic, social and environmental impacts without such a study.

Encik Zairil gave reducing traffic congestion as the reason for implementing these mega projects. The State Government has already engaged consultants to prepare a Transport Master Plan, and the question arises as to why a decision was taken on these mega projects as a solution for traffic congestion even before the consultants had made their recommendations.

It is instructive to note that in response to press queries whether the projects were part of the Transport Master Plan, the Chief Minister responded by characterising these projects as a “bonus”. The notion of a bonus is something that is additional to what has been agreed. Presumably, the Chief Minister has persuaded himself that he is giving the people of Penang a gift in addition to what they bargained for. That may very well be so, but the point is that this is effectively an admission that the projects were never part of the Transport Master Plan. The attempt to pass them off as a “bonus” cannot make them so.

If the government is serious about practising the CAT principle with regard to large public projects, then it should introduce and implement guidelines on public participation. The British government and, in Australia, State Governments have implemented such guidelines. The British guidelines provide that “formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome”.

CAP would like to emphasise that our comments and criticism of policies and projects are made solely in the public interest and not designed to advance any political or party interest. For over 45 years we have criticized, without fear or favour, projects and policies which do not bring long-term benefits to society and which have serious adverse social and environmental impacts. We will continue to do so.

In the interest of our people and nation, it is vital that Malaysian politicians, NGOs and the media should embrace a culture of debate and discussion in a spirit of mutual respect. Most importantly, those who hold public office must always be prepared to accept public criticisms and respond to them with due decorum.

S M Mohamed Idris
President

Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 13.3.2012.

The Penang PR state government has chosen to be transparent and accountable by getting public inputs and consultation over its proposed 4 infrastructure projects to mitigate traffic congestion and spur economic development in the state, especially Seberang Perai Utara(SPU). No public consultation was held by the previous BN government when building the 2nd Penang Bridge. And yet the Penang PR state government is being criticized more severely for being transparent and accountable than the previous BN state government, which had never sought public input or consultation over the 2nd Penang Bridge.

The PR Penang state government concedes that it has failed to convince some NGOs such as the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) of the importance of the proposed 4 infrastructure projects to mitigate traffic congestion and spur economic development in SPU specifically and Penang generally. The projects in question are the construction of a 6.5-km Gurney Drive-Bagan Ajam(near Butterworth) undersea tunnel, 15 km road connecting Tanjung Bungah and Teluk Bahang, the 5 km Gurney Drive-Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu bypass and the 5 km Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu-Bandar Baru Air Itam bypass.

CAP is not the only organization that has opposed the 4 infrastructure projects. Even BN and Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has opposed the construction of the undersea tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam on 17 November 2011. However public feedback from Penangites, particularly at Gurney Drive and SPU, shows that an overwhelming majority of Malays, Indians and Chinese support and want these infrastructure projects to proceed.

The Penang state EXCO had decided to undertake these projects by open competitive tender on 19 October 2011 after public consultations were conducted from 29 April 2011. Therefore it is untrue for CAP to claim that the Penang state government had not conducted public consultations.

The Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) signed on 28th April 2011 between Beijing Urban Construction Group(BUCG) and the Penang state government had no legal force as the Penang state government had clearly stated that these projects must be conducted by open competitive tender. That the MOU signing was witnessed by both Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was a positive indication of China’s interest in undertaking these projects in Penang.

Following the MOU signing, the Penang state government had asked for public inputs beginning on 29th April 2011. Two consultative sessions were even held by me directly with the NGOs on 16 October 2011 and 19 November 2011. In both sessions, CAP was represented by Rudhrapathy Vijayala (Ravi). I did not remember Mr Ravi expressing strenuous opposition to the four infrastructure projects at the end of the session.

The PR state government is presently conducting a pre-qualification exercise by open competitive tender for the 4 infrastructure projects to short-list qualified companies with the financial strength, technical expertise, experience and track record to complete the infrastructure projects. No money will be paid, as the 4 projects were to be financed by a land swap from reclaimed land by Tanjung Pinang Development Sdn Bhd(TP).

During the consultative session on 19 November 2011 with the NGOs, I had explained the rationale for coming up with the sea tunnel infrastructure projects to compel Tanjung Pinang Development Sdn Bhd(TP) to surrender as much reclaimed land as possible to the state government. By two agreements signed with the previous BN government in 1990 and 1999, TP was given the right to reclaim 980 acres of land.

Over 200 acres have already been reclaimed by TP, which is now the Straits Quay project. TP has the legal right to reclaim the remaining over 700 acres. For the PR state government to prevent TP from reclaiming land would require payment of enormous sums of compensation to TP.

The only recourse available to the PR state government was to require a sea tunnel and road infrastructure projects as compliance to road traffic requirements to compel TP to surrender as much reclaimed land as possible to the state government. CAP must also bear in mind that TP is now owned by a government-linked corporation(GLC), Sime Darby Bhd.

Unfortunately, the state government had no control over public transport as it is a federal jurisdiction. Much as we want to improve public transport, the Penang state government is helpless to act as this is completely up to the Federal government. All bus services, taxis and trams or LRT are within the powers of the Federal government.

Even when the Penang state government wanted to provide free CAT bus services paid by the state government around the heritage enclave of George Town, the federal government initially rejected the initiative. The Penang state government was willing to pay RM720,000 per year to provide the free CAT bus services, which is very popular with local residents and tourists. Only after intense appeals by the state government directly to the Minister in charge for nearly a year, was the approval finally given for a free CAT bus service paid by the state government.

CAP president SM Mohamed Idris had said that public consultation involves engaging the people at the earliest stage of the decision-making process, providing adequate information about the projects and giving due consideration to the representations and views made by individuals and civil society organisations,”. I would like to humbly remind the veteran CAP President that the very process he outlined was followed in deciding whether or not to proceed with the 4 infrastructure projects.

Only after due consideration, did the Penang PR state government decide to approve the 4 infrastructure projects to reduce traffic congestion to Batu Ferringhi, from Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway to Gurney Drive and the densely populated areas of Paya Terubong and Relau. As for the sea tunnel, not only would it facilitate communication between the island at Gurney Drive to the mainland at Bagan Ajam, it would also spur economic growth in SPU. The Penang PR state government wants to bring development growth to SPU to dispel vicious lies that the Malays and BN supporters in SPU which is dominated by BN, are neglected or marginalized.

The PR state government is equally concerned about the environmental effects surrounding the construction of the sea tunnel. These environmental concerns will be dealt during the second round of public consultations when the design and route is chosen by end 2012. Even though NGOs such as the CAP has strongly objected to these infrastructure projects, the state government will still engage them by inviting them to the public consultation after the design and the route is chosen. If the state government is not satisfied then, the state government can still reject and refuse to proceed with the infrastructure projects.

According to the schedule for the construction of the projects under the pre-Q exercise, the earliest date for commencement of works on the tunnel is end 2015. This is to allow all the technical, design and environmental studies to be carried out between 2012 and 2015. If the government is not satisfied, the EXCO can refuse to sign the final construction agreement which is the final requirement scheduled for the middle of 2015.

LIM GUAN ENG

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Sharon

Kee, I agree. In fact, to be able to grow old is a privilege. LGE is supposed to be the head of the state. What sort of message LGE is sending out to the younger generation when a leader does not show his respect for the elders. LGE should argue his points with facts and not simply throw his weight around just because S M did not agree with him. Instead of trying to understand what S M was trying to say, he lashed out with his usual outburst. And No, I am not pro-BN. I just feel the need… Read more »

ong eu soon

So the so called public cosultation that took place also the twist of STAR?????????????????????????

tunglang

If STAR has been accurate & truthful without bias reporting, its paper would by now have sold more and be so revered that it doesn’t have to end up in the Cheng Beng grave yards!
It is a shame to speak lies of others that can cause hatred and misjudgment. On behalf of those who misjudge LGE statement (due to STAR’s mischievous venom), we should apologize to our CM here.

tuakee

What can we buy with RM1.20 instead of The Star ?

1 bungkus tasty nasi lemak – quite filling for my stomach ! Or Kopi O kau kau !!!!

Don’t need to buy the paper – can read it (half truth or truth) in the internet anyway.

tunglang

Yeah, Kopi-O kau kau clears the mind & is good for the mood.
Unlike STAR which muddles the truth and causes hatred of the righteous.

mushmellow

I might add that Idris was always complaining about, for instance, unacceptable chemicals and stuff in our food products, and the list of unhealthy foodstuffs grew and grew and was exhaustive, until we all wondered what was left for us to eat. “Aiya! Everything he say cannot eat!”

But hey, don’t blame him for this. That would be like shooting the messenger for the news!

The fact that the list was huge and frightening is only an indictment of the way our authorities fail us.

Sharon

I find LGE very rude to call S.M Mohamad Idris – an Old Man (in reference to the Star today). LGE is the leader of the state of Penang. No matter how a person irks him, he should have some respect for his opponent. No one stays young forever including the CM.

mushmellow

I totally agree. Rude, insensitive and not at all addressing the crux of the matter, that Idris had brought up. The old man had been voicing out against shortcomings in all previous administrations, without fear or favour. The late Tun LCE said though he might not have agreed with everything he’d said, he respected him for the service he tried to do on behalf of consumers and the environment.

kee

Sharon, old man is acceptable not old fool …

I think we must not get angry if we are labelled according to facts. For eg my older sis said she wont get angry if people call her menopausal woman because she said it is a fact, why angry.

soon be gone

u got guts go and be an independent (if not pro barang naik or pakatan) and see if the general public buy your ideas !

LOL

Jonny T

I wonder if it was taken out of context:

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2012/03/12/cap-lectures-cm-on-meaning-of-consultation/

“I never revealed his repeated apologies because he is an old man and a respected figure; so we let the matter rest. Now he is making another mistake.”

ABDULLAH37

You are a victim of reading MSM. period

ong eu soon

Anil, I also pleasantly surprised that you are asking the political divide to aside political differences and come together to work on viable sustainable public transport options for Penang. Why you refuse to accept my Penang Citizen’s Alternative Transport Initiative? Tell me where else can you find any better alternative than mine? Just because you know my evil intention of using it to make lgE look like a fool, you don’t give it a damn? You can make your call but wait lah see anyone can come out with any sensible solutions. What a fool!

ong eu soon

You start the public transport forum, what do you want to achieve? The initiative is written for your forum, and you has no gut to do anything about it!

sunnyooi

Ok la. I just finish reading your PCATI. I think feasibility study and EIA missing.

ong eu soon

Einstein came out with this formula E=mc2 and the world never the same any more.

Now (they) come out with this formula con+insult+people=consultant and bolehland will never be the shame any more!

Jonny T

^ Hello Leonard. Interesting ideas. May I add in the following as well? – A regional rail for Penang mainland, similar to KTM Komuter in Kuala Lumpur… but with better mgmt, and more frequent trains. The mainland has roughly 800k people, and its surprising no commuter rail exists. The double tracking & electrification project is already almost complete, and it’ll be a big waste if these are not used for regional commuter rail transport. The infrastructure is there… just buy some trains and build some komuter stations Actually this problem of no commuter rail transport is evident in all medium… Read more »

ong eu soon

Further search with google came out with this public consultation not sure is it the one lgE been talking about! CONSULTATION: The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS) is pleased to open for public consultation the issue of electric bicycles in Malaysia. PURPOSE: The aim of this public consultation is to obtain views, comments and feedback from the public on whether and how to regulate electric bicycles in Malaysia. BACKGROUND: MIROS has been directed to study and make proposals on how to regulate the use of electric bicycles in the country. The possible use of electric bicycles in Malaysia… Read more »

ong eu soon

I’d rather try failing than fail without trying TO gEt rID OF lgE come next election.

ong eu soon

There is no point improving public supports for dap without providing alternative transport policies and dedicated public participation and consultation!

ong eu soon

When the 40+ NGOs tried desperately to meet their hero, the outcome became 2 public consultations without the knowledge of Penangites! Best! Anil doesn’t even know that he has been consulted! What a joke!

ong eu soon

Is the following news on April 29,2011 the public consultation that took place while I was travelling from venus to mars, jupiter , saturn, mercury before returning to planet Earth. LGE – Butterworth – Penang tunnel project 29 April 2011 Guan Eng mum on cost of mega-road project with China firm As the 13th general election looms, Penang is scrambling to rectify its perennial traffic congestion problem that is expected to be an election campaign hot topic. The state government’s answer: a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed yesterday in Putrajaya between the Penang government and Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG).… Read more »

lenin_my

The NGOs in Penang seem to be against any road building projects in Penang, they were against the 2nd Bridge, PORR and now this? Look at JB and how roads are built there to ease traffic dispersal, even in KL, they don’t face much objection over roadbuilding projects. The usual vocal NGOs don’t really represent the vast majority of the public

Kevin

Thats why KL is so jammed. All the highways built just get you from one jam to another jam quicker. Doesn’t solve the jams. Contrast this with singapore which built public transport first and then catered for highways later.

kee

Kevin, your suggestion is insightful please pass it to DAP government. TQ!

Ya, KL traffic is chaotic – no planning at all.

Why so difficult, just get the experts from Sg. NGOs sometimes they are a nuisance.

Jonny T

Actually I’m from KL and living in Penang. and I will say traffic in the Klang Valley is much worse than Penang… barring perhaps Green Lane & the Penang Bridge access lanes during rush hour. Thats because, like Kevin said… the newly constructed KL highways, overpasses, roads just push the jam from one area to another… you have a newly tolled highway 6 lanes (3-by-3) that ends in a 4 lane road… Secondly, terrace housing estates/suburbs in Klang Valley heavily contributes to the jam. These areas are far from the city center and many lack rail/BRT transport. Only way to… Read more »

Ho Ho Ho

Ho 😆 Ho 😆 Ho 😆

😆 💡 PAKATAN RAKYAT 💡 YOU’RE STILL THE ONE that i will vote for ….. 😆

kee

Ho Ho Ho, i am with you… but there are still tons of idiots saying that BN or Pakatan also same la… Malaysians need another century to evolve… sad and sigh, sob sob sob !!!

Ho Ho Ho

Ho 😆 Ho 😆 Ho 😆

😆 THANKS 💡 Kee 💡 Yes…there are many IGNORANCE peoples out there n ….you know n i know n also many knows la….this b-end already swindle n robs all dry n now wanna give little 500 sweets to get votes!!! after all these 54++ years incharge…..no more for them bcoz it’s time for CHANGE n majority now should give PAKATAN RAKYAT a chance to lead us to a GREATER HEIGHT from now on…..bring it on…..13th GE….PEOPLES POWER is the BOSS…. 😆

Ho 😆 Ho 😆 Ho 😆

ong eu soon

They are not same, they are the shame!

kee

Ah Soon Kor, we will vote you to be the next CM of Penang since you are so clever.

I think you have not answered me yet, did you spew venom to Gerakan/BN as you did to DAP/Pakatan government in Penang?

Many many years ago i read one article about how to improve inner Penang, eg Macalister Road, etc etc, a very good one indeed, i should have kept the article so that i can pass it to LimGuanEng.

Just wonder, Ah Soon Kor, did you write one on that?

soon be gone

ah soon now not getting consultant job from present gomen so he is hitting at them at every opportunity.

sometimes people are greedy. some have orchard at balik pulau (from past contracts?) yet never feel satisfied ???

Leonard

Dear Anilnetto, I travel round Malaysia, but spent most time in Penang where my wife and children are staying. These are my observations : 1. The only way to solve Penang’s housing and traffic problems is by developing the Penang mainland, and not the island. 2. The factories and airport must be shifted to mainland, to be later connected to high speed rails. 3. The island will concentrate in Health, Finance, Arts, R & D, tourism, Higher Educations etc. 4. The mainland can be further developed into agriculture and food supply area, creating immediate job and business opportunities to hundred… Read more »

Yang

Leonard,
I believed the mainland is now as congested as Penang island if not worse

moo_t

Dear Leonard, how much tax you willing to pay to justify the cost of i. Moving the airport, shift the factories ii. funding the high speed rails woohahaha. Even the rich Germany and American can’t justify the cost of building in their metropolitan which is 20-50times more population than Penang! Get real people! When come to commuting, is that ONLY bus and mass transit you people can think about. Malaysian mentality are still stuck on “unsafe bicycle” , and refuse to think about electric bicycle, which move millions of population in metropolitan like Shanghai and Beijing daily. A proper plan… Read more »

tunglang

3. The island will concentrate in Health, Finance, Arts, R & D, tourism, Higher Educations etc. Leonard, this is a better focus that state gomen should consider. Not only is it jobs generating, it will have less impact on housing market and the environment caused by dizzy brick & mortar development only for expensive lifestyles, which the average Penangites can’t afford. 4. The mainland can be further developed into agriculture and food supply area, creating immediate job and business opportunities to hundred of thousands of Penang citizens. Agro related industries focused on the mainland have huge potentials now that prices… Read more »

hordlay

SM Idris makes perfect sense. He cites the British and Australian examples. For a government that bandies a slogan on competence, accountability and transparency, where was the competence, accountability and transparency in this case? I am a planning and design professional; I know that massive infrastructure projects like these, with huge, life-changing consequences for Penangites, must not spring into being on the whims and fancies of the powers-that-be, without detailed and considered advice and feedback from experts and stakeholders alike. What’s wrong with some transparency?

sunnyooi

Elected CM already have the majority’s blessing. Get over it NGOs.

SamG

So by public – that will also include Gelakan K and Ah Soon the ArmChair peelosopher, who thinks he knows the Bestest of Best of and for everything and everyone.
God Bless PR Govt if they have to consult someone like SM Idris. His principles are simple – We Must Oppose Everything

kee

I think this guy SM Idris is pro BN…

ong ong

How about building road + improving better public transportation? Penang Government should really come up with the Master plan.

Kevin

State funds are very limited without federal support. U have to choose one or the other. I would go for public transport first. It helps everyone, poor and rich, ppl with cars and without, pedestrians, old people who cannot drive and if implemented holistically, even the disabled. After that is done and if there is still spare cash, we can built highways that cater to car owners. But priorities have to be set from day one.

ong eu soon

Rapid penang enjoys better ridership compared to Rapid Kl in term of population size. Who said Penangites don’t take public buses? Most of the time, I have no seat but to stand all the way from one end to another when travelling in Rapid Penang.

kee

ya Kevin, i agree, a holistic approach towards public transport system but if you live in Pulau Tikus, you will find that the public system is superb.

Kevin

I know, I am a regular user of Rapid Penang. Bus 101 has a frequency of 1 bus every 5 minutes. Sometimes quicker that buses in sg. But not everyone lives in pulau tikus and tanjung bungah area. This frequency of buses should be extended throughout the island but is difficult because of jams. Rapid Penang has asked for dedicated bus lanes on main roads which are jammed like green lane but this has been rejected. Reason given by state authorities is the lack of space on these roads.

kee

Kevin, to have a bus lane is not feasible esp in Penang as the roads are already so narrow.

When i was in Auckland, they wanted it that way also, but it just didnt work.

I think sometimes people have to change their attitudes also, we cant expect things to be done the way we want or at our own convenience, sometimes there is a bit of jam, so we need to wait a bit longer.

Racheljansz

S M Mohamed Idris is not the correct person to talk about traffic!
Where was he when they built the Batu Lancang-Hamilton flyover across GreenLane!!!
And he has to cheek to blame McD outlet at the Penang Free School for the traffic jam!

Kevin

I don’t know who SM Mohamed Idris, where he comes from and how he qualified or where he was when the hamilton road flyover was built. But I don’t really care. Because that is not the point. What he says now makes sense. If the state can have proper public consultation on the SPICE centre and Botanical Garden SAP, why can’t it do that for these 4 projects. Its so simple, print out your plans and show to the public and ask for feedback for two months like what they are doing for other projects. Surely they have a few… Read more »