Widespread opposition and unhappiness about the PGCC has been a feature of the election campaign in Penang. At the massive 60,000-strong rally at theHan Chiang school field a couple of nights ago, speakers slammed the project to loud applause from the crowd. So, it is clear that the opposition comes not just from the well-heeled residents neighbouring the Penang Turf Club. The PGCC Campaign Group makes clear its position on the proposal to develop the Turf Club land.
Before all else we would like to emphasis that, contrary to some press
reports, the opposition to this project did not come solely or even
primarily from the residents of Jesselton. Most of the anger came from
ordinary Penang folks, and it was widespread; bridging all racial,
generational and income groups.
We are grateful that the CM has put a temporary halt to it, and without being churlish we hope it is not a mere election ploy.
Be it as it may, we wish to state in unequivocal terms that the Chief Minister, no matter how well meaning or how well experienced he is, is not the person to determine how the site should be developed.
The international team of experts that Dato Patrick Lim is assembling, no matter how eminent, also has no right to dictate what should be built on this lovely site.
The only group that has the sole right to make that decision is the people of Penang. The site is so big and prominent as a landmark that it belongs to all of us. Any development there will change the face of the island and we will have far reaching consequences (social, cultural and traffic) for all of us for generations to come.
Every pre-requisite of good democratic governance requires that the public (and not just the immediate neighbours) should be consulted. This is why local plans are required under the Town & County Planning Act, which give an opportunity for every member of the public to give their views and participate in the decision-making of what the details of development in the area in question should look like. The Local Plan is an essential planning document, and it is our stand that no plan should even be considered before a Local Plan is finalised.
At the same time we wish to be assured that the Local Plan will be done fully in the spirit of the Act; that the public will be consulted at all stages; that their views will be given proper consideration; and the Planning Committee will operate transparently.
This principle of involving public participation at every level of decision-making is further underscored by the commitment of the Malaysian government to the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 which was the outcome of the Rio Summit in 1992.
We will resist very strongly any attempt to develop the Turf Club land without a Local Plan or to subvert the planning process or the Local Plan by reducing them to a series of pro forma exercises.
In addition, the State Government should expedite Local Plans for the whole of Penang, prior to further developments in the State, given experience of the PGCC and other haphazard developments which are taking place.
Following the finalisation of the Local Plan, we also request the State, the Municipal Council of Penang (MPPP) and the Department of Environment (DOE) require project proponents of any major developments to prepare a detailed EIA, including a traffic report and a flood risk assessment. These studies should be done by reputable and independent consultants chosen by the MPPP and DOE (and not by the project proponent).
In this regard, we were outraged that the DOE in the cases of the PGCC project, had approved a preliminary EIA without a consideration of the traffic study and without an opportunity for public review and consultation. The DOE ought to have insisted upon a detailed EIA, given the nature and scale of the project.
Dato Patrick Lim has in several public statements said that he wants to be a responsible developer and has given the assurance that he will abide by all local and international guidelines to create a sustainable project that will be acceptable to all, if he is genuine, and is not just making a public relations statement, he should not object to any of our proposals in the public interest.
In summary, our position is this:
There should be no development until a Local Plan is in place for the Penang Turf Club site.
- In addition, the State Government should expedite Local Plans for the whole of Penang, prior to further developments to ensure proper and effective planning.
- The Local Plans should be done transparently with full public participation.
- Detailed EIA including a traffic report and flood risk assessment done by competent and independent consultants are required for any development in the present and future Turf Club area once the local plans are finalised.
- We will be extremely upset by any attempt to circumvent any of the above recommendations.
Ahmad Bin Chik
for and on behalf of the PGCC Campaign Group
• Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)
• Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
• Penang Heritage Trust (PHT)
• Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)
• Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram)
• Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat)
• Jesselton Heights Residents Association
• Residents Association of Jesselton
• Tanjung Bungah Residents Association
• Badan Warisan Malaysia
• Friends of the Penang Botanic Gardens