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Penang tunnel project needs more than just ‘tunnel vision’

P Ramasamy  |  Published:  |  Modified:

ADUN SPEAKS | There is commonly accepted axiom, if a lie is repeated several times about something, then there is tendency for the lie to become the "truth."

This is precisely what is happening with opponents of the Penang undersea tunnel project.

It is not that they are opposed to the mega project, but rather they are opposed to the DAP-led Pakatan Harapan state government.

It is like a "dog in the manger" story. If at all there are major projects, these should be done by the BN-friendly parties and not others. In other words, if we cannot do it, then others should not do it also.

These opponents have no quarrel with projects in the BN-controlled states, even if there is solid evidence of corruption and abuse of power.

The imperative to "bring down" the popularly-elected government is so intense that these diehard critics would go to any length to discredit the government in the eyes of the public.

But yet these critics, mostly emanating from the BN and pro-BN parties, have never raised questions about the colossal corruption and abuse of power related to 1MDB, and many other scandals that have rocked the BN government in the recent past.

Where were the leaders of the MCA, Gerakan and Parti Cinta Malaysia when the 1MDB matter exploded just not in Malaysia, but in the international arena?

Explained several times

The Penang state government has explained several times in the past about the facts surrounding the mega project that consists of three-paired roads on the island, the undersea tunnel project connecting the island to the mainland.

To date, the Penang government has paid RM208 million for the completion of the three roads following the approval of the environmental impact assessment. However, no money has been paid for the feasibility and detailed design study of the tunnel project, although 92 percent of the study has been completed.

Both the road and tunnel projects were awarded to Consortium Zenith Construction (CZC) in 2013 on the basis of an open tender. The total project would cost around RM6.3 billion.

MACC, the principal anti-corruption agency in the country, is merely a busybody. It has failed Malaysians miserably by not tackling the mega corruption and abuse of power in the country. It has failed to investigate and bring to book those culprits behind the loss of public funds in the 1MDB.

The MACC has lately gained the impression of being very political, because it only seriously investigates those in opposition-controlled states, like in Penang and Selangor.

The first serious allegation against the Penang government was the fact that it allowed for the pre-selling of land rights worth RM3 billion for the tunnel project. Although this preposterous allegation has been dismissed as conjured up imagination, the MACC’s latest probe is on whether the Penang government adhered strictly to the guidelines in awarding the feasibility and detailed design study.

The allegation is that the Penang government accorded a higher monetary value to the study on two land swaps.

It is more than a week since the MACC began its probe on the undersea tunnel project. To date, it has arrested two company directors, raided a number of government agencies and three property development and construction firms in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

Brownie points?

There are allegations that the MACC, in its zeal to go after the Penang government, might have leaked confidential information.

The otherwise "dead" pro-BN Parti Cinta Malaysia might be "credited" for taking a lead in making reports to the MACC against the Penang government and CZC. Its latest report speaks about the availability of "new evidence" on the Penang mega project.

I am not sure what new evidence PCM has brought to fore. Is there new evidence, or is it merely a ruse to prolong the MACC investigation on the Penang state?

MCA, not to be left behind the crusade against the Penang government, lately jumped into the fray. Its deputy president Wee Ka Siong came out with another piece of "new evidence" to assist the MACC's probe. He asked the question: why should a listed fashion company Vertice Bhd buy 13.21 shares in CZC, the main and principal contractor of the mega road and tunnel project.

A listed company can buy into the shares of another company for business diversification purpose. It is perfectly alright for Vertice Bhd to buy shares of CZC, as long as this allowed by the Bursa. There is nothing wrong with it, and moreover what was purchased was not a significant portion.

The control of the mega project still lies in the hands of Zenith. So what is the problem?

Wee should not be barking up the wrong tree. The transaction between willing buyer and willing seller has nothing to do with the Penang government.

All these "dead" BN or pro-BN political parties want to be seen as active, as the general election is on the horizon. They have to please their masters in Umno by targeting the main enemy, especially the DAP-led Penang state government.

Surely allegations of corruption are something serious, but at least these opponents of the project must have vision on matters that goes beyond the narrow and selfish "tunnel vision."

P RAMASAMY is Penang Deputy Chief Minister II and Perai state assemblyperson.

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

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