Malaysiakini Letter

Invisible transparency and accountability of the Penang gov't

Ravinder Singh  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | In their article “Penang NGOs: An opposition force without accountability?,” Timothy Tye and Joshua Woo attack the NGOs opposed to the massive Penang South Reclamation project to find money for the MRT, LRT and tunnel projects, saying that their questions are not constructive and their proposals lack accountability.

Talking of "accountability", they should turn their guns on the Penang state government that is totally lacking in accountability and transparency regarding this project, although when DAP took over the leadership of the state, it had promised Penangites that its administration will be CAT (Competent, Accountable and Transparent).

The three-island reclamation project is the single biggest project the state government is pushing ahead in a "bermati-matian" (fight to the death) manner. One would expect that the state would show full accountability and transparency in accordance with its promise of a CAT administration. As is said, the test of the pudding is in the eating - and it fails the test very badly.

Where is the transparency and accountability when it is made impossible for the public to view the EIA report prepared by the developers and construction companies, let alone study it and comment on it?

A notice issued by the Penang government invites the public to study the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) EIA report displayed at Level 3, Komtar from April 29 to May 28, 2019, which can be viewed from 8am to 5pm on office days, and give feedback on it.

On Tuesday, May 21, I sacrificed lunch hour to go and see the EIA report. To my utter dismay, the EIA report was nowhere to be seen, the two desks were empty and there was nobody around at the EIA display area. The photograph above was taken by me at 1.17pm on that day, Tuesday, May 21.

So much for transparency and accountability! I wonder what Timothy Tye and Joshua Woo have to say about the transparency of the Penang government on the EIA public display?

The EIA, I understand, is a set of three large volumes. How on earth is anyone, let alone a man-in-the-street expected to "study" it in 19 hours (i.e. one hour during lunch every working day, for 19 working days)?

This "transparency" is an utter mockery. Why is the EIA not on display every day of the 30-day period, up to 10pm daily? Even this is not enough. The EIA should be open for public view and comments for at least six months, and not just during office hours when people cannot leave their work to see the EIA. What is the hurry and the agenda in this opaque "transparency"? To claim that there were no public objections?

Where is the accountability when politicians in power make rules that put insurmountable hurdles before the public? Obviously, the Penang government does not want the public to scrutinise the EIA and give any negative feedback. So, to put on the facade of "transparency", the EIA is put on display and on the other hand, to frustrate the public, it is made impossible for the same public to view it, let alone have sufficient time to scrutinise it and give feedback.

In other words, the Penang state government does not want any feedback that might be negative from the public. Do Timothy Tye and Joshua Woo feel this is fair play?

Hopefully, Timothy Tye, who is a property agent and Joshua Woo, can together impress on the PSG not to be hypocritical about "transparency and accountability" regarding this project. The NGOs that they attacked have experts in various fields with them and their comments are well founded and backed by other experts, such as those from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

If the objections of the Penang NGOs to the MRT, LRT and tunnels supposedly to move people and not cars are without merit, why has Johor Bahru rejected the same and gone for the BRT system? Is Johor Bahru going backward? Some 170 other congested cities around the world that have opted for the BRT cannot be wrong! It's Penang that's not modernising its public transport to help developers make money through unnecessary construction works.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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