The traffic congestion during the holiday session and huge traffic jam yesterday caused by a minor accident where a car overturned on the First Penang Bridge, will be a regular feature as Penang emerges as a regional and national tourist, services and manufacturing hub. If we do not want traffic congestion to be a regular feature for our children, there is a need for a paradigm shift towards a concept of “moving people instead of moving vehicles” that entails huge investment in public transportation and infrastructure.
The Federal government realises how serious traffic congestion is in Penang, and has dangled a LRT system only on the island, with the Prime Minister himself promising 3 times to build one. However, just like his previous empty promises to abolish the Sedition Act, the Prime Minister has not kept his word to Penang.
We will not allow the Federal government to choke Penang to death with traffic congestion. For this reason the Penang Pakatan Harapan state government has no choice but to take the initiative to do a comprehensive public transport system on our own that involves both the mainland and the island, and not just only the island.
The Penang state government understands concerns amongst some segments of the public about the scale and scope of a Transport Master Plan(TMP) that involves a huge sum of RM27 billion, because the TMP caters for the whole state of Penang and is not just island-centric. However these concerns stem for justifiable fears that the whole exercise will follow the BN approach of enriching BN cronies with hugely inflated costs that finally does not benefit public interest.
Similar concerns were expressed about why would Penang need the RM300 million sub-terranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition(sPICE) Centre in Bayan Baru. However despite severe criticism, the decision of the state government to press on in building sPICE has been proven correct with the refurbishment carried out sold out bookings for sPICE.
The Penang state government can allay such concerns about the TMP by adopting the CAT governance of competency, accountability and transparency of conducting open competitive tenders, full disclosure of information under the Freedom of Information Act; and public hearings to gain public feedback BEFORE the state government decides whether or not to proceed.
The people of Penang will make the final decision and if they choose to reject the RM27 billion TMP, in accordance with democratic principles the state government will humbly accept their decision. The state government has come out with the TMP and we are willing to “fail trying” than fail to try.
Questions have also been raised why we would adopt a 5-in-1 solution involving buses, taxies, LRT/monorail, water taxies/ferries and cable car. To improve connectivity, we must try to have as many links as possible between both the mainland and the island to reduce traffic bottlenecks. The ferry service has failed abysmally to perform its public duty under the Federal government and the traffic accident in the First Penang Bridge yesterday only underlines the importance of the proposed under seabed tunnel and the cable car.
To win the future, we must invest in the future. To invest in the future is not about investing in building a new underground city but investing in people, education and public transport. There is no doubt that an efficient public transport benefits the poor more than the rich. This is the rationale why the public in Penang has so far being overwhelmingly positive, even though the RM27 billion cost will have to be financed through land reclamation.
The Penang state government is not surprised at Penang BN’s new-found opposition towards land reclamation when they had issued out land reclamation contracts to their cronies when they were in power before 2008. Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia(LKIM) is now opposing land reclamation allegedly to protect fishermen in Penang, despite supporting the tens of thousands of acres of reclamation recently approved by other BN-controlled state governments. Can LKIM explain whether there any difference between Penang fishermen and those fishermen from other states?
Malaysians are not so gullible to believe in such double-standards and hypocrisy by BN and LKIM. The present Penang state government has even secured a higher compensation payout to fishermen for the Tanjung Pinang land reclamation project approved by the previous BN state government – the highest in Malaysian history.
Penangites want a secure future for their children – to be able to live in a liveable city that is clean, green, safe and healthy free from crime and traffic congestion. Only a clean leadership and good governance can transform Penang into an international and intelligent city.
LIM GUAN ENG