Malaysia: Marine theme park on Jerejak, Penang may invite criticism

ARNOLD LOH The Star 17 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: Building a marine theme park and possibly a dolphinarium in Pulau Jerejak may invite disapproval on a global scale for Penang’s tourism development, said a marine expert.

“Except for research purposes, it is not a good move to keep dolphins in tanks and teach them tricks for public amusement.

“Many animal rights groups worldwide are against this,” said Universiti Sains Malaysia marine biologist Assoc Prof Dr Aileen Tan.

Also, marine theme parks have been labelled as a form of animal abuse by environmental groups worldwide and many people were being put off by such attractions.

It was learnt that a company that owns the only development land on the island has been exploring the possibility of setting up such a park after state investment arm Penang Development Corporation (PDC) divests its stake in the company.

A source familiar with Penang’s tourism development plans revealed that the company hoped to build a combined public aquarium and amusement park.

Planning for this began in 2013 by a property developer who recently paid a 10% deposit to buy PDC’s 49% share in Tropical Island Resort Sdn Bhd (TIRSB).

TIRSB has a 60-year lease on the only piece of development land in Pulau Jerejak.

With PDC’s divestment of the shares for RM156mil, Ideal Property Group will develop a 32ha tract with UDA Holdings which is the majority partner.

Pulau Jerejak has been a quarantine centre for migrants, leper colony, tuberculosis treatment centre, penal colony, British political detention camp, contagious diseases site, drug rehabilitation centre and a prison for hardcore criminals.

The source said that between 2003 and 2005, another group studied the possibility of having a marine theme park there, but the idea was shelved as Pulau Jerejak was too hilly for development without major hill-cutting work while the sea around it was too polluted.

Dr Tan agreed with the pollution problem, saying that the industrial and urban discharge from Penang Island contained too much toxins.

“There have been spikes in the amounts of heavy metal effluents in the sea around Bayan Lepas in the past,” she said, adding that salinity levels of the seawater in the area “may not be at full strength”.

She explained that the salinity would be vital for the welfare of any marine creatures exhibited at the theme park if it was built.

The intrinsic quality of the seawater in that area was brackish because there were several rivers flowing into the sea there.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals group, via its website, is calling on the public to avoid visiting places that keep marine animals in captivity.

It is also asking people to get their governments to stop using taxpayers’ money to subsidise such facilities.

According to Britain’s Whale and Dolphin Conservation group, a survey in May showed that 50% of Americans interviewed were against the practice of confining killer whales (orcas) in marine parks while 86% of British respondents said they would avoid marine parks.

In contrast, according to the NGO’s captivity campaign manager Cathy Williamson, the marine park business was growing exponentially in other parts of the world.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve seen around 50 aquaria opening up that have captive belugas and bottlenose dolphins, and they are looking at orcas as well.

“So, while we’re making progress in one part of the world, things are not going so well in other places,” she was quoted as saying.

Pulau Jerejak land sale questioned
DAVID TAN The Star 16 Nov 16;

GEORGE TOWN: The controversy involving Pulau Jerejak continues with Penang Gerakan hitting out at the state government over the recent sale of Penang Development Corpora­tion’s (PDC) 49% stake in Tropical Island Resort Sdn Bhd (TIRSB) to a local developer.

Penang Gerakan chairman Teng Chang Yeow questioned the sale to Q Islands Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Ideal Property Group, when Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng rejected the deal in 2013.

“The rejection of the joint-venture agreement caused PDC to lose about RM220mil in profit guarantee and also the authority over its land on Pulau Jerejak,” said Teng.

Quoting “reliable” PDC sources, he said the agreement inked in December 2013 had a potential profit guarantee of up to RM450mil based on a gross development value of RM1.5bil.

He said the Chief Minister, who is also PDC chairman, had, however, rejected the 2013 agreement between TIRSB and Ideal Property.

“Why did Lim keep silent over his rejection of the joint-venture agreement but decided to sell PDC’s 49% stake in Pulau Jerejak to Ideal Property’s subsidiary?

“Why has his initial rejection become a successful deal three years later?” he asked at a press conference at the state Gerakan headquarters here yesterday.

Meanwhile, Ideal Property said they won the Pulau Jerejak redevelopment project via a request for proposal that saw the participation of five other developers in 2013.

(right) An aerial view of Pulau Jerejak, with the jetty of the closed down resort over the water..
Treasured island: An aerial view of the jetty belonging to Pulau Jerejak’s closed-down resort.
Its group executive chairman Datuk Alex Ooi said Ideal was one of three developers short-listed for the project.

“Tropical Island Resort gave us the project because our master plan was the most cost-effective, eco-friendly, and had a low-density design,” he said.

Ideal, he added, got the project because it promised attractive returns and demonstrated its financial capability to undertake the project with a significant deposit payment to TIRSB in 2013.

“It took us three years to get the master plan approved, complying with all the stringent requirements of the state and Federal Government,” he said.

Ooi said the completed design adhered strictly to the Federal Government’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) guidelines.

“The project will be developed outside the proposed forest reserve area,” he said.

The proposed eight-year development will have a theme park and two hotels surrounded by a low-density and low-rise residential scheme.

“The project will create a few thousand job opportunities for the locals,” he noted.

On whether there will be foreign participation in the project, Ooi said no overseas investors had been approached to co-develop the project.

“The only partner is Tropical Island Resort,” he said.

An English daily reported that Ideal Property had gone to China in March to sign an agreement with a Chinese company to develop Pulau Jerejak.

On Saturday, PDC general manager Datuk Rosli Jaafar said the corporation accepted the offer by UDA Holdings to sell its (PDC) 49% stake in TIRSB to Ideal Property for RM156mil, generating a RM140.6mil profit.

TIRSB was a joint-venture company between UDA and PDC, and is the owner of Jerejak Rainforest Resort & Spa, which closed down in May this year.

Rosli also said UDA had submitted its plans to the state government to develop 1,200 residential units over 32ha, a marina, two hotels, a theme park, an 11.5km round-island cycling track and related infrastructure to promote tourism in the state.

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