GEORGE TOWN, Sept 17 — The Penang Forum today claimed an attempt had been made to cancel one of its public discussions on controversial RM8 billion Pan Island Link (PIL1) highway project.
The non-governmental group said it was forced to move up a public talk planned this Friday at a conference room of a private college in George Town after the venue suddenly became unavailable.
“There was an attempt to cancel this event, but fortunately we lobbied some higher-ups and then it was back on again,” Penang Forum member Khoo Salma said, adding that the Friday venue was deemed “not appropriate” without elaborating further.
The talk has been brought forward to tomorrow, and will be held at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies in the Universiti Sains Malaysia campus here instead.
Associate Prof Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk and soil science expert Kam Suan Pheng will provide their views on the project at the talk, to be moderated by Professor Datuk Ahmad Murad Merican.
Penang Forum has been holding regular public talks and dialogue sessions on PIL1 to disseminate information on the 19.5km highway that will cut through the island’s hills.
Khoo said they had hoped to continue holding such talks even after the deadline for submitting feedback on the project to the Department of Environment (DoE) but they have been facing issues in looking for venues.
The group is also collecting signatures in the form of objection letters from the public to stop the implementation of PIL1. Its online petition calling for the highway project to be cancelled has almost reached 11,000 signatures to date.
The petition, titled “CANCEL PIL1 HIGHWAY #SOS# Keep Penang beautiful without pollution & environmental impact”, is addressed to Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The petition launched in July claimed that PIL1 will adversely affect the lives of ordinary people and that the noise, vibration, congestion and inconvenience during the construction will pose serious issues to the people.
Penang Forum has raised several points over the negative effects of PIL1 as compared to implementing a more comprehensive public transport system involving trams and bus rapid transits.
They claimed that the highway will not only seriously affect residents, schools and places of worship along its alignment but also two popular recreational parks on the island, namely Penang City Park or Youth Park and the Sungai Ara Linear Park.
The group has also frequently questioned the effects of the project on the island’s natural hills especially Penang Hill when hills were blasted to create tunnels for the highway.
They demanded to know if the hill blasting and construction of the highway could lead to more landslides due to erosion and instability from the blasting and flooding.
The Penang government will also be holding a townhall session on PIL1 at the SPICE Convention Centre this Thursday.
PIL1 is part of the state government’s ambitious RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan aimed at resolving the state’s traffic congestion problems.
The Environmental Impact Assessment report of PIL1 was on public display last month and the public can submit their feedback or objections against the project to the DoE.
The public can still submit their feedback and objections against PIL1 to DoE until September 24.