Penang is known as the pearl of the orient, often praised as the exemplary state driven by meritocracy rather than nepotism. But it seems like Lim Guan Eng’s honeymoon period is over.
The past few weeks have seen his weaknesses highlighted again and again on various issues. From political relations to disregarding the livelihood of Penangites. People are no longer gushing over Penang’s competent, accountable and transparent (CAT) administration under Lim Guan Eng.
Tension is brewing between DAP and PKR and Guan Eng’s double standards in governance is becoming more apparent as the days go by. The ‘CAT’ is out of the bag, the livelihood of Penangites is at risk.
Just recently, Penang was rocked by the land reclamation issue that led to the resignation of Tanjung Bungah assemblyperson Teh Yee Cheu from his party post, after casting a conscience vote to protect the environment. It is an issue that has fallen on deaf ears many times prior to the recent debacle.
Guan Eng’s administration had previously approved one of the largest land reclamation projects the country has seen (over 1000 acres of land were involved). Yet, the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) report for the massive project was conducted by a third party appointed by the project proponent, creating doubts over the report’s credibility.
More recently, the DAP-led administration initiated the Penang LRT project that would involve the reclamation of 1,618ha of land. While the idea behind the large-scale development project is lauded, it is obvious the check and balance process leaves much to be desired.
This, however, is not the first time that Guan Eng has put the livelihood of Penangites in danger. Does anyone still remember Penang’s Solar issue? It was an issue that was swept under the carpet quietly as the country fussed over the 1MDB issue.
The opening of the world’s biggest photovoltaic plant in Penang was curiously carried out discreetly without any pomp and circumstance. It is unlike the Guan Eng that we know who would always go to town to beat the drums and gongs when something big like this arrives at his doorstep.
The opening of the world’s biggest photovoltaic panel plant in Prai, Penang on May 26, 2015 has caused grave concerns among the citizens. The plant in question is operated by the controversial solar power manufacturer that was banned in China over malpractices.
In September 2011, 500 protesters stormed into the plant and ransacked its offices for three days when the solar plant in Haining, China killed a large number of fishes and pigs and caused 31 cancer cases after it polluted a nearby river with fluoride. The river contained 10 times the acceptable level of fluoride and it was later revealed that the plant has been failing pollution tests since April that year!
The fact that this was ignored by the management until they were forced to face the problem becomes a worry for the current residents in the vicinity. The company exudes neither confidence nor accountability.
Real concern about hazardous effects
Guan Eng’s vision to have a cleaner, greener, safer and healthier Penang should not involve having a solar plant that puts the lives of Penangites in danger. The positioning of a photovoltaic plant so near to the sea presents a real concern about the hazardous effects it might have.
Former Batu Kawan MP Huan Cheng Guan has pointed out that “Some kinds of photovoltaic panels contain cadmium, which is an extremely toxic metal. In the form of cadmium telluride, it is a stable non-metallic substance but insoluble in water”.
The reactor will also be cleaned using sulphur hexafluoride, which is a very potent greenhouse gas which reacts with silicon to create other compounds. This does not only pose health risk but also water contamination which would have adverse effects on Penangites, especially the fishing community of the state.
You cried foul when the Lynas facility was first opened their facility in Pahang and cited concerns over how it would affect the livelihood of the residents in the vicinity. Yet, when you are questioned on the solar plant, you dismissed those questions as ‘a waste of your time’. When a motion was brought up to improve the environmental assessment of Penang’s development projects, it was outright rejected by the DAP-led state assembly.
These concerns are not a waste of your time, Guan Eng. You are accountable to the rakyat.
In the past two general elections, many voted for Pakatan Rakyat in the hopes of better governance, especially in Penang. Yet, at a time when your authority is challenged and questioned, you dismiss the concerns of your voters.
Suddenly Penang’s competency, accountability and transparency goes missing. Suddenly Penang no longer represents the hope and vision that the hopeful rakyats like me aspires to have one day.
Maybe it’s time to stop believing the sweet promises of the opposition.
(Note: According to PRNewswire-Asia-FirstCal , the solar plant resumed production at its Haining facility on Dec 17, 2011, a few months after the protest.)