KOTA KINABALU, Jan 19 — The Sabah government’s move to review the Tanjung Aru Development Project (TAED) before deciding on its future is being seen as an opportunity for civil society to engage more directly.
Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), a civil society organisation which has worked with other groups to highlight issues related to the controversial project announced by the previous administration, supports a fuller study and advocates greater involvement of civil society.
LEAP chief executive facilitator, Cynthia Ong, hopes that the Sabah government will engage with civil society in discussing the future of the project because the plans now would physically and culturally transform Sabah’s iconic Tanjung Aru beach and limit public access.
“We welcome the fuller study and would like to be at the table and once again share the outcomes of public forums that were organised in the past.
“We are also prepared to support the process by convening more public forums to hear from a wider segment of stakeholders,” she said in a statement today.
Ong was responding to Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Christina Liew’s, recent statement that the government is still studying the project and that any decision made would be a review and not a U-turn.
Prior to the May 2018 general elections, the then opposition had said it would scrap the project should it come into power, but to date, no announcement has been made.
Liew was quoted as saying that the pledge was made based on available plans at the time and that the government is now studying whether it can proceed with amendments that would work best for the people, government and community.
Ong reiterated her statements over the years that any redevelopment project at the beach must be carried out in a thoughtful manner, and that a revitalisation programme must take into account the people’s involvement.
“The planned development of this beloved public space will affect the entire community economically, culturally and environmentally. It will potentially worsen socio-economic gaps while indebting the state and surrendering sovereignty to external forces, take away a cultural site that has been part of the Sabahan identity for generations and further undermine an already fragile coastal ecosystem in peril.
“Development projects must avoid unnecessary and environmentally damaging large-scale reclamation and dredging as proposed under the original project plan to extend the beach further out into the sea, create a canal and redevelop the surrounding areas,” Ong said. — Bernama