Will passengers in the proposed Northern Regional International Airport be arriving in Kedah and departing in Penang or the other way round?


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday):
Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, yesterday said that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has agreed to his proposal that the new Northern Regional International Airport (NRIA) in Kedah straddle the border between Penang and Kedah.

Tsu Koon produced a map at a press conference yesterday which described the new Northern Regional International Airport as the "Proposed Penang-Kedah International Airport".

I do not know whether there is such a similar map in the Federal Government or whether the Kedah State Government has such a similar map, and whether the latter calls it Penang-Kedah International Airport or Kedah-Penang International Airport.

The inescapable impression is that after the shock announcement by the Prime Minister two days ago that the Penang Bayan Lepas International Airport would have to close eventually, Tsu Koon has to hastily unveil the proposed "Penang-Kedah International Airport" to ward off criticisms from within his own party at the Gerakan Delegates Conference being held in Kuala Lumpur this weekend.

Otherwise, why didnít Tsu Koon make an earlier announcement of the "proposed Penang-Kedah International Airport" if it is such a boon for Penang and a great achievement, after the earlier disappointment of losing the regional airport to Kedah?

The Prime Ministerís announcement two days ago that the Bayan Lepas International Airport in Penang would have to close eventually has created explosive shockwaves in Penang because it would seriously affect Penangís tourist, industrial and economic growth, and it would be most sad and irresponsible if the "proposed Penang-Kedah International Airport" is merely an attempt to "draw biscuit to satisfy hunger".

Many questions called out for answers, the first of which must be why the Penang State Government has given up the fight for the siting of the Northern Regional International Airport in Penang - as the people of Penang are completely in the dark as to how Penang had lost this strategic infrastructure when the people of Penang had been given the impression all these years that it would be no problem whatsoever. In other words, why the "bird in hand" had suddenly flown away after the landslide Barisan Nasional victory in Penang in the April 1995 general elections.

Secondly, is the Penang-Kedah International Airport or Kedah-Penang International Airport the real answer for the new Northern Regional International Airport?

Will passengers in the proposed Northern Regional International Airport going to arrive in Kedah and depart in Penang or vice versa, with one runway on the man-made reclaimed island in the Penang border and another runway on the man-made reclaimed island in the Kedah border? This will undoubtedly make the Northern Regional International Airport a most unique airport of its kind in the world!

In the master plan submitted by Samudera Baru Darul Aman Sdn. Bhd., which will reclaim a string of islands off the Kedah coast, and which had been approved by the Kedah State Government, it would reclaim two islands with a total area of 6,300 hectares for the purpose of the new Northern Regional International Airport.

The first 2,800 ha island will incorporate world class infrastructural facilities such as the integrated multi-modal transportation hub which consists of an international airport, a deepwater seaport as well as an express rail link to the mainland.

The Northern Regional International Airport, expected to cost between RM6 billion to RM7 billion, will be built on a 1,200 ha plot on the 2,800ha reclaimed land and will have two runways.

It is quite unthinkable that with the proposed Penang-Kedah International Airport, the two runways will be apportioned to two reclaimed islands - one in the Penang border and the other in the Kedah border, separated by the Sungai Muda rivermouth.

Under the Samudera Baru Darul Aman master plan, a 3,500 ha island will be created simultaneously to complement the airport island to house sophisticated heavy engineering, petrochemical and shipyard related industries.

Will the Penang end now be getting this island project to complement the airport island?

One of Tsu Koonís selling points for his proposed "Penang-Kedah International Airport" is that it would be directly linked to Penang island by a new super coastal highway, complemented by either a bridge or an undersea tunnel.

He said it would take only about 26 km or 20 minutes drive from Georgetown and about 50 km or 40 minutes from the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone.

The Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik is even more optimistic He said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that if the proposed bridge between Kuala Muda and Penangís industrial area was built, Penang would be a "10-minute drive" from the NRIA. Probably, Liong Sik can be so upbeat because he knows he would not have to bear the consequences for any failure to deliver any of his undertakings - which would in anyway be after the next general elections.

It would be interesting for the Penang State Government to commission an opinion poll in Penang to find out how many per cent of the people believe that it would only take 10 to 20 minutes drive from Georgetown to the new Northern Regional International Airport at Kuala Muda.

The Penang State Government should continue to press for the siting of the Northern Regional International Airport in Penang and ask for a special Cabinet meeting for the Penang State Government to state its case.

(16/8/97)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong