Opposition to Penang port privatisation

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Some 200 people among those who attended Penang Forum 5 on 4 August 2012 signed a petition opposing the privatisation of Penang port.

The participants who signed represented came from a cross-section of Penang civil society. The petition recognised that Penang Port, Malaysia’s first port, is a valuable cultural and economic heritage of Penangites, indeed of all Malaysians. The port has in no small way contributed towards the economic dynamism and the cosmopolitanism of Penang and in turn towards our Unesco Heritage listing.

It was recently revealed that the port would be privatised to Seaport Terminal, owned by tycoon Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary.

There are three major concerns regarding the proposed takeover.

First, Seaport Terminal already controls Pelabuhan Tanjung Pelepas (PTP) and Johor Port. Consequently, concern has arisen that Seaport Terminal will not be interested in developing Penang Port and that it might be relegated to a feeder port for PTP.

Second, there is a lack of transparency over the award of the dredging work for Penang port, which is estimated to cost RM350m. Will the contract be awarded to Integrated Marine Works Sdn Bhd, which we understand has a 15-year concession agreement with the Malaysian government for the dredging of all ports under federal jurisdiction? And yet, we don’t know who the real owners of this company are and how accountable they are.

The third concern arising from Seaport’s acquisition of Penang Port is that it will further facilitate Syed Mokhtar’s tightening of his already considerable grip over logistics in the country. Apart from the two ports in Johor and related activities, he already has interests, whether directly or indirectly, in Pos Malaysia, Proton, and DRB Hicom. He is also reportedly working on a takeover of national railway KTM and interested in stakes in the sewerage system and national water assets. Such control can only lead to a monopolies, which cannot be healthy for our country.

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The petition therefore demands to know the terms and conditions of the takeover. It prefers that the port not be privatised.

Instead, the petition calls for the federal government to allow the Penang state government to submit a bid on behalf of the people of Penang to take over the port in the interests of decentralisation.

Save Penang Port!

Aliran executive committee
9 August 2012

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