Malaysiakini Letter

Umno burning their bridges in Penang

Captain  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Holy cow. Anwar says he will form government on Sept 16. I still say BN will evaporate within two months. More reasons are coming to play. The more promised projects are cancelled, the earlier Umno will get eliminated.

On Feb 9, Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop, after giving away Chinese New Year goodies at the St Nicholas Home in Penang, announced that the monorail project which cost RM1.2 billion and the PORR which cost RM1.02 billion would be implemented. ‘These projects will not be stopped or aborted as they are among the mega-projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP),’ he said. That was before the March 8 elections.

But last week, after chairing the state’s controversial Federal Action Council meeting in Penang, he took an about turn.‘I cannot give a commitment on the two projects as they have yet to reach the level where approval is being considered,’ he said. Meaning the monorail and Penang Outer Ring Road projects may not take off. That’s after the elections.

This development is just days after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced another disappointment for the Penang people. ‘The delay in the Penang second bridge project is due to problems in land acquisition, design and rising cost’ he claims. ‘First, we need to acquire the land needed to develop the project, then there are matters relating to the design. We want to ensure that it is the best design,’ he added.

Now the question looming large in our face seems to be, if the second bridge project hasn’t even passed the design and cost stage, why did the Abdullah award the contract two years earlier to a joint-venture comprising China Harbour Engineering Corp, a unit of the state-owned China Communications Construction Group (CCCG), and United Engineers Malaysia Bhd, a company controlled by Abdullah himself, the Finance Minister?.

Furthermore, when such crucial factors are not yet ascertained, why did the Malaysian government start the project? Who is going to pay for all this if it fails like the crooked bridge to Singapore? Hundreds of millions of ringgit has been paid out. What’s wrong with this BN government? They just never learn.

Who approved the dredging work on the sea area for the second link which has been going on since last year and other related works that were announced just before elections last January? They were ‘ongoing’ as said by an UEM official and concurred by Zaini Omar, a former Works Ministry senior appointed by Abdullah to the project.

Were all these lies orchestrated by the Abdullah government to cheat the people in order to garner election votes or did the prime minister again lie to the people? Even Nor Mohamed Yakcop on Feb 9, when asked on developments on the construction of the Second Penang Bridge, said ‘construction work had resumed on Feb 7’. Was it a lie?

If not, how come these works were ‘ongoing’ when nothing has been decided? The design, the land acquisations, the cost? Funny eh?

Recall that a week after the March 8 political tsunami , State Umno secretary Azhar Ibrahim said Penang Umno chaired by the deputy state Umno liaison committee chairman Abdul Rashid Abdullah has decided to recommend to the federal government to stop all proposed mega- projects in the state, including those planned under the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), the second Penang Bridge, the light monorail transit system, the Penang Outer Ring Road, the Penang Sentral and the RapidPenang bus service.

Now, within days, Abdullah and Nor Mohamed, both Penangites, both elected to power from Penang Umno, suddenly decide to delay or cancel all these mega-projects they themselves announced before the general elections. Is this revenge against the Penang people who voted Penang Umno out of state power? It cannot be a coincidence can it?

Generally, Penang people believe there are two real reasons for Penang Umno to oppose the mega- projects to be implemented during the tenure of Pakatan Rakyat state government. Firstly, they will not able to make money for themselves.

Who does not know that in the BN-led government, only 30% of the allocation would go to the real project. The remaining 70% fills BN leadership’s and their cronies pockets. It gets evaporated even before the project gets implemented.

The second is, of course, they would not want a Pakatan governments to get the credit for such projects. Realizing it now, Penangites feel ashamed to have been ruled for the last 50 years by these corrupt Umno leaders who are so selfish. If they don’t get kickbacks out of them, they would prefer nobody get anything. What type of legacy are these ‘leaders’ going to bequeath to the generations to come?

Tengku Razaleigh cannot be more right when he said Umno is a party which encourages money politics or is an entity which is ‘rich at the top and poor at the bottom’. It’s a ‘a party which is corrupt, infested with ‘ buaya darat ’ (crocodiles) and ‘ yu-yu laut ’ (sharks) who have no qualms about sweeping up and swallowing projects and government contracts as well as the rights of the poor of all races. This image, he added, is hated by all races, not only the Malays’.

The grapevine says that the prime minister is not telling the truth. He is hiding something. There is a serious problem brewing between United Engineers and China Harbour Engineering Company on the construction methods. Unfortunately, they have yet to find a common ground. China is providing a huge loan for the bridge, remember? So they want the final say.

Further mystifying the project is a legal challenge by DCX Technologies Sdn Bhd - a Malaysian engineering company - that alleges it was a victim of a conspiracy by CCCG and a well- connected Malaysian group who purportedly hijacked their original proposal and went on to win the project. The case is now in the courts and they are asking for RM105 million in damages.

Then there is another problem. That well-connected Malaysian company is said to be headed by a very close associate of Abdullah and is a major shareholder of an investment-holding firm linked to the country’s ruling Umno. So you see, old habits die hard.

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