KOTA KINABALU, Sept 3 — A controversial RM7.1 billion high-end project in Sabah announced by the prime minister last year and led by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has been criticised by a local conservation group for being unfriendly to the public and lacking in transparency.
The project covers 775 acres of scenic Tanjung Aru, just outside Kota Kinabalu and when completed, will be replete with luxury condominiums and resorts, a marina, beach clubs, food and entertainment outlets and golf course. Some 400 acres of the area will be reclaimed from the sea.
The Tanjung Aru Action Group 2.0 want the Tanjung Aru beach and the adjacent Prince Philip Park to remain public spaces. They also want transparency in development plans and are against land reclamation from the sea.
“We want to ensure that Tanjung Aru beach is developed following the needs and requirements of the general public rather than big business as the public is the ultimate stakeholder of this jewel of Sabah,” Harjinder Kaur Kler, who chairs the coalition of non-governmental organisations, told Malay Mail Online recently.
“The group is unhappy that the current master plan was conceptualised without the involvement or views of the public who frequent the beach. This is extremely disappointing in the era of public consultations especially for such a well-known and loved jewel of Sabah,” she added.
A Facebook page that is aimed at “saving” Tanjung Aru has garnered support from thousands of people in just a few days.
Chief Minister Musa, who is also chairman of project developer Tanjung Aru Eco Development Sdn Bhd, said the wholly state-owned project would attract investments of RM5 billion and raise Sabah’s eco tourism profile.
He also said the project will address years of erosion and pollution that has affected the beach, double the size of Prince Philip Park and create a new public promenade.
The state government has engaged a UK-based designer Benoy, an award-winning firm in architecture, master planning, interior and graphic design.
The group of NGOs expressed scepticism at the plans, claiming that public access to the beach and park would become limited.
Environmentalists previously protested plans to build high-end hotels at Tanjung Aru beach in the mid 1990s.
The plans were delayed and eventually scuppered by the economic downturn at the time.
TAG 2.0 comprises WWF-Malaysia, Himpunan Hijau, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), PACOS Trust, Pusat Belia Youth-PREP Alamesra (YPC), Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA), Sabah Women’s Action-Resources Group (SAWO) and Save Open Spaces Kota Kinabalu.
A four-day public hearing, chaired by Kota Kinabalu City Hall mayor this month, will address some of the concerns raised by the public. However, the dates for the hearing are still unknown.