Penang's dying hills for all to see

Sharanjit Singh New Straits Times 22 Jun 12;

CONTRADICTING: DAP silencing any discordant note in its ranks

CHIEF Minister Lim Guan Eng was all steamed up as he huffed and puffed his way up to the midpoint of Penang Hill last week.

Lim, the DAP secretary-general, wanted to show that all was well with Bukit Bendera (as Penang Hill is also known) and other hills on the island.

"The hills in Penang are not dying. Even when you look down from here, you cannot see any development because we (the state government) have not approved any building development above 76.2m," Lim declared to a group of accompanying reporters.

One wonders which direction Lim was looking at when he shouted out that the hills were not dying, but certainly, Lim was not eyeballing the northeast side of the island.

For if he had turned to that direction, Lim could not have missed the blatant destruction that is ongoing on the hills -- from Mount Erskine in Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah onto Batu Ferringhi, Teluk Bahang and Balik Pulau. All the travellers' reviews that I have come across state that one can have a 360 degree panoramic view of the island from Penang Hill.

However, for reasons best known to himself, Lim did not seem interested in looking towards the northeast side.

In contrast, DAP assemblyman for Tanjung Bungah, Teh Yee Cheu, has been looking at what's going on there.

He has been infuriated with the destruction that is taking place in his constituency and has been shouting out loud against it.

Teh, too, took journalists on hill treks. However, unlike Lim, he had shown the true picture of how the once green hills have been stripped bare, slopes flattened and trees replaced with a concrete jungle.

Just a few days ago, he showed journalists how Mount Erskine was being "killed" in the name of development.

It was reported that a developer had been given approval to build three blocks of 38-storey buildings for The Peak Residences project and another 38-storey low-medium-cost apartment block adjacent to it.

Instead of being lauded for speaking up in the interest of his constituents, and just like what he predicted, Teh has found himself in trouble with his party.

He has been hauled up by the state DAP for highlighting the indiscriminate hillside development that is taking place all over the island. The first term assemblyman has been directed by DAP to explain his complaints.

It was reported in a Chinese daily that Teh might be shown the exit by DAP in the next general election for his "conflicting" comments.

Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow was reported as saying that the party had, in a meeting last Friday, instructed Teh to clarify his recent comments.

DAP's decision to haul up Teh has not gone down well with residents in Tanjung Bungah, who have leapt to the defence of their assemblyman.

Mount Pleasure Residents Interest Group spokesman Dr P. Sundramoorthy said if DAP took any action against Teh, it would just lend credence to allegations that developers had taken over Penang.

"The state government must explain if it is acting against Teh because of pressure from developers. Otherwise, there can be no excuse for DAP to haul up the assemblyman who is just speaking up and acting in the best interest of his constituents," he said.

Sundramoorthy said he was shocked over how DAP was treating the issue, considering the fact that the current state government had gone around claiming it was administering the state in an open, transparent and accountable manner.

DAP's contention that Teh should have raised the issue of hillslope development using internal channels also smacks of hypocrisy, considering how local authorities had failed to do anything until issues were highlighted in the press.

Teh has revealed that a 49-storey "super condo" is being proposed in Tanjung Bungah and that the developer is submitting planning permission to the local authority. Surely he cannot be hauled up and ordered to keep his mouth shut for exposing this.

But those who have been following recent developments would not be surprised with how DAP treats dissent within its ranks.

Reveal details of all hillslope projects, state govt told
Winnie Yeoh 22 Jun 12;

GEORGE TOWN: Two Barisan Nasional leaders have hit out at the state government for only wanting to reveal details of hillslope projects approved in the state from 1985 till March 2008.

They have demanded that the state government reveal technical reports on all hillslope projects approved from 1985 until this year.

State Barisan publicity bureau committee member Tang Heap Seng said there should not be a selective approach.

“Since the state government wants to declassify the information and files, it is only appropriate that they include the latest approved projects,” he told a press conference at the state MCA headquarters here yesterday.

He was responding to state Local Government and Traffic Management Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow’s statement that the state would soon reveal the names of state executive councillors, local councillors and high ranking state officials who attended meetings to approve 37 projects on land above 76.2m from 1985 to March 2008.

Chow said the move was to refresh the memories of the previous state government officials, and at the same time clear the air on how the projects were approved and by whom.

David Yim, who is Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow’s special officer, also questioned the motive of the state government in revealing the documents only till March 2008.

“Is this the kind of transparency that they are preaching about?” he asked.

He also urged Penang Municipal Council president Patahiyah Ismail to provide more details on the approval given to two projects in Sungai Ara.

“She has stated that one of the projects was first approved in 1996 but council records indicate that the project was approved in February this year.

“There’s also another housing project there which is being undertaken on a former school land which was converted to state land in 2003.

“Under council policy, land cannot be converted for housing, commercial or industrial use.

“However, houses are being built at the site,” he said.

Yim said basic information on approved hillslope projects was available on the council’s website but there was a stark difference between the ones approved before March 2008 and after that.

“For those projects approved before 2008, the date of submissions, purposes, the name of applicants, consultants and the date of approvals have been provided.

“But for those approved after 2008, only the lot numbers, districts, locations and the name of applicants are available,” he said.