Protest outside Penang Assembly calls for highway project to be scrapped

Protesters outside the Penang State Assembly building in George Town August 6, 2018. — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin
Protesters outside the Penang State Assembly building in George Town August 6, 2018. — Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 6 — A group of residents’ associations and Penang Forum members held a peaceful protest outside the state legislative assembly today, calling for the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) to be scrapped and the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) to be reviewed.

Penang Forum member Khoo Salma Nasution said the PTMP is a risky RM46 billion project that could bankrupt the state.

“What if the state could not sustain it and it was left abandoned halfway through? The state might even be in debt because of it,” she asked.

Other than the financial costs, she said there are also environmental costs that could adversely affect the people’s health.

She said the PIL 1, which is a component of PTMP, involved the blasting of granite hills to create tunnels for the 19.5km highway.

“PIL 1 is environmentally destructive, we are talking about six-lane highways going through hills so we want the state to cancel it before they sign the contract,” she said.

Another protestor, Dalbinder Singh, said the PIL 1 highway will be going over Youth Park which is one of the last few green lungs in Penang.

“We can’t afford to lose Youth Park, having this highway there will only destroy the environment there,” he said.

He claimed the Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow was being “heckled and hijacked” by developers for the infrastructure project.

Dalbinder Singh speaks to reporters during a peaceful protest outside the Penang State Assembly building in George Town August 6, 2018.
Dalbinder Singh speaks to reporters during a peaceful protest outside the Penang State Assembly building in George Town August 6, 2018.

“They are surrounding and controlling him, these are developers who just want to build, build and build, they are not transport experts, the state should appoint transport experts for such a project,” he said.

The group held up banners and placards with the words “ Rakyat Pulau Pinang tak nak PIL Highway” (Penangites do not want PIL Highway) and “Say no to PIL” outside the gates of the legislative assembly.

They later shouted “No PIL” while holding up the banner and placards before dispersing after about 30 minutes.

Former state exco and Batu Uban assemblyman Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen and former Penang Heritage Trust president Dr Choong Sim Poay were also at the legislative assembly this morning.

Kee, a retired Gerakan leader, was also apprehensive about the PIL 1 project and voiced her concerns about it.

“I supported Pakatan Harapan in wanting to clean up kleptocracy, any decent Malaysian would have voted for change,” she said.

The 70-year-old said the people’s support for PH does not necessarily mean the PH state government can implement what it likes.

Kee, who is also a Jesselton Residents Association (RA) secretary, said the other RAs are conducting the project because they do not want to see the state’s beauty and environment destroyed.

She said there are alternative measures to resolve the traffic issues in the state such as introducing water taxis and improving public transportation instead of building six-lane highways.

The PTMP is the state government’s ambitious public transport plan that included highways and LRT lines to resolve the state’s worsening traffic woes.

The RM7.5 billion PIL 1 is a proposed highway to connect the north of the island to the south side of the island by cutting through hills including in Penang Hill and Paya Terubong while a cable-stayed bridge is proposed to cross over Youth Park, a popular recreational park on the island.

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