Sunday July 8, 2012
Stop the blame game and focus on saving the hills
The Star Says
ENOUGH has been said about the hills of Penang.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has blamed the previous state government for almost everything that has gone wrong in Penang since he took over. And that includes the dying hills of Penang.
The Barisan Nasional opposition, on the other hand, is accusing the state government of not doing its part to save the hills.
As the finger-pointing continues, the fact is that the hills are crying to be saved.
We are sick and tired of the blame game that has the people of Penang caught in the middle.
Ordinary people have been speaking out and protesting against what they see as unplanned development.
The fact that middle-class communities are voicing their concern in public protests is a sign that things are not right in the state’s development policy.
The Chief Minister has repeatedly declared that he has not approved a single development that is 76m above sea level.
He said that all the projects that were above 76m were inherited from the previous government.
The Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) president Patahiyah Ismail joined the blame game, releasing details of 37 hillslope projects approved by the Barisan government.
Yes, we agree that former Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon is guilty as charged. But the record shows that after 2008, the MPPP approved 19 projects on land above 76m based on zoning guidelines drawn up in 1996.
The MPPP’s justification for those approvals: They could not be rejected because they were categorised as “special projects”.
But what exactly are “special projects”? And what is so untouchable about “special projects”? If projects, special or otherwise, are detrimental to the environment and the people, the MPPP has the authority to act.
The Penang people are angry, sad and fed-up with the situation.
Claiming that “our hands are tied” is not a good excuse for allowing bad projects to proceed.
This government came in promising to be different and the state leadership must show political will and commitment on this issue.
A picture, as they say, speaks a thousand words and we are letting the pictures speak for the hills.
These pictures explain why the people of Penang think that development is taking place without proper planning or consideration for their quality of life. Penang’s environment-conscious NGO calls it “mindless development”.
Lim Guan Eng implies that he is being singled out for criticism.
We would like to set the record straight. The Star has not spared the Chief Ministers before him.
We spoke out against the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu when he joined hands with a developer to try to put a holiday resort on top of Penang Hill.
The ill-conceived idea ended his illustrious career in 1990.
The Star spoke up on the preservation of heritage houses in George Town during Dr Koh’s time.
Today, George Town is a World Heritage City and we are not shy to say we played our part.
Perhaps the only Chief Minister who escaped censure was Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee. He lived in an era when life was still sweet, gentle and not so greedy and, besides, The Star had yet to be born in Penang.
The Star has many reporters who were born and bred in Penang and who are in tune with the sentiments and aspirations of the people there, perhaps more so than some of the new political importees now running the state.
Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu said it for those who care about Penang’s environment when he asked the public to say it “loud and clear” if they are against hillslope development. His bosses have told him to shut up but we say, way to go YB!
We appreciate that, unlike your colleagues, you are not deaf and dumb on this vital issue.
The YB also said that there were some 15 new applications to build on the hillslopes and seafront of Tanjung Bungah.
We are urging the MPPP to review these projects in the interest of Penangites. Penang people gave Lim Guan Eng and his team a sweeping majority in 2008. With that comes high expectations.
The Chief Minister must stop the blame game and start taking responsibility.
After more than four years in charge of the state, blaming the other side for everything is starting to sound lame.
If The Star sometimes comes across as rather too involved in Penang issues, it is because The Star was born there and we do not forget the source of the spring from where we first drank.
Like the Penang people, we want the hills to stay green and live forever.