I refer to the letter Penang must arrest this alarming decline . As a citizen journalist and a Penangite who loves my island, I wish to point out some of the things that the writer mentioned in his letter. Being a citizen journalist, it is my habit to observe and report on things on the ground.
Firstly, I found that the same writer has written the same letter to The Star and The Sun in January. Obviously, he is still sore from the 'supposed nightmares' he encountered in Penang after two months. A blogger had posted these two letters on his blog and claimed it as
a blatant attempt to discredit the Penang government by BN/Umno.
I shall not dwell into the political side of things. But I can provide my own observations:
1. Penang has improved tremendously in terms of cleanliness. The writer said he found Penang to have deteriorated so much that it made him to swear not to visit the 'Pearl of the Orient' ever again. But as a Penangite, I can see the state has improved a lot in terms of cleanliness in recent months.
In fact, the former council president had ‘gone to the ground’ to meet us citizen journalists when we pointed out a pile of rubbish outside Captain Francis Light's grave. He then ordered a garbage disposal truck to clear the debris left by irresponsible people and asked his men to ensure cleanliness.
2. ‘Overwhelming’ posters of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng - The writer implied Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had an overwhelming presence like North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and Tamil Nadu politicians through his billboards and banners. I agree that there were some tourism billboards with Lim's face on them. However, when I mentioned this over my Facebook status a while back, I was told that these will be taken down. Now, they are no longer there so I guess our grouses have been heard and heeded.
However, it is common in Pakatan Rakyat states such as Kedah and Penang (the only two states I have observed) to place at strategic locations the Hari Raya, Christmas, Chinese New Year and Deepavali greetings from state leaders and elected reps. I have asked a few state assembly persons why the need the spend money on such posters and was told that many people in their constituencies do not recognise their representatives.
Therefore, I can only say that we shall have to endure these smiling faces grinning at us until our fellow Penangites are sure who are their state reps.
3. Bad traffic jams due to the Grand Prix - The Petronas Cub Prix held on Dec 20, 2009 was an event covered by citizen journalists and we can attest that the event received tremendous response. Only a certain stretch of road along the Esplanade was closed for a short time. Therefore, it is ridiculous for the writer to expect a jam-free Penang waiting for him during Christmas, New Year and the school holiday seasons.
Moreover, there are very few hotels in that area. The bigger hotels like E&O and City Bayview would have probably warned their guests in advance.
4. Midnight parking - The state did not ‘quietly’ extended parking fees to midnight as claimed by the writer. It was mentioned in the papers and Penangites knew about this. The reason given for the extended parking fee collection was to deter the 'jaga kereta' menace. Some of them used to haunt the Esplanade areas and there were several drug addicts high on drugs who create a huge spectacle if you dis not give them some money.
I have seen this with my own eyes and certainly welcomed the move to feed the machine 30 sen every half and hour. It is legitimate money earned by the municipal council instead of encouraging drug abusers to demand money and terrorise tourists.
5. ‘Ugly structures’ at Batu Feringghi - It is very easy to give a general picture of 'ugly structures'. If the writer wishes to be more specific, please write to the municipal council and lodge a formal complaint. As far as I know, there have not been any 'cleaners' at Penang’s beaches.
We are not like the Thais where each stall, pub and hotel owner works hard to keep the beaches clean. I have personally heard the new municipal council president telling her directors and staff to ensure beach and toilet cleanliness.
6. ‘Frenzied’ construction in town - As far as I know, some of the works are part of heritage restoration. Georgetown is part of a Unesco World Heritage Site.
7. Illegal hawkers and parking - I am sure CM Lim will be very pleased to get the writer's specific complaints on which illegal structures he is referring to because the state has come under a lot of flak over the demolition of illegal structures. I bet the writer’s grouses will help CM Lim tremendously in proving the importance of maintaining orderliness.
As for parking, the Pulau Tikus area is a clamping zone and no one dares to do double parking there. Otherwise, we Penangites are pretty patient folks and we live with the bit of chaos which is what makes us unique. Charm amidst the chaos.
8. Tamil road signs - Since I don't read Tamil, I cannot go into this. But rest assured, if I ever get a chance, I will go to Little India and ask the Indians there if the signs are translated properly. So which road names were wrongly translated?
9. Not familiar with the state politics? The writer started out as a very displeased tourist. However, it puzzles me why he would want to mention that he is not familiar with the state’s politics? As a Penangite, I don't see any politics in these issues as they are all administrative matters. Since Pakatan Rakyat took over, the state has improved by leaps and bounds.
We are now people-centric. So regular folks like me get a voice. If something displeases me, I get to lodge a complaint with the right authority. The state departments like the council and Land Office etc all have their own websites. We can write to the directors and get our views heard by the right department. Our state reps are easily accessible to us. So as far as we are concerned, it is not about politics unless one wants to dabble in it.
As I had mentioned in my opening paragraph, I take pride in being a Penangite. Letters like the writer’s which give sweeping statements do not augur well for the attractions of this beautiful island I am living in. He has sent letter after letter to the media with the same complaints.
If he is so deeply unhappy, please forward all your complaints to the right department instead of painting Penang as such an ugly picture. Otherwise, our wide network of citizen journalists around Malaysia can help the writer make a video with specific details. I personally give the writer my assurance that I will ensure that all the relevant departments including the CM's office are informed about his grouses but only if they are supported by facts, receipts (of parking ticket) and photos.