(Penang, Saturday):In the Penang State Assembly this week, the Penang State Exco member for Public Infrastructure, Datuk Dr. Hilmi Yahya admitted that the Tanjong Subsidence Disaster affecting some 300 houses and some 4,000 to 5,000 people were a man-made disaster which could have been avoided if the Penang State Government and the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) had acted with responsibility and diligence.
Hilmi said that the MPPP officially received reports about the Tanjong subsidence disaster only on Dec. 4 last year. This is completely unacceptable and shows how remote both the Penang State Government and the MPPP have moved away from the people as a result of the unprecedented Barisan Nasional victory in the April 1995 general elections.
Penang island is not like African continent where there is no way for those in North Africa to know what is happening in South, East or West Africa.
In fact, it needs no stretch of imagination to say that that both the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon and the MPPP President, Dr. Teng Hock Nam both personally knew about the Tanjong subsidence disaster well before Dec. 4 and that it was the height of irresponsibility for them to officially pretend that they do not know anything until MPPP was officially informed on Dec. 4.
The offices of the Penang Chief Minister and the MPPP President were just a stoneís throw from the site of the Tanjong subsidence disaster and it is shocking that they are not prepared to admit their irresponsibility, negligence and liability in failing to check an avoidable man-made disaster to only a few houses
If the Penang State Government and the MPPP had not been so irresponsible, the Tanjong subsidence disaster caused by the Prangin Mall project would have been confined to 10 houses instead of some 300 houses.
In the affected Kampong Kolam area, for instance, cracks started appearing in seven houses by the end of September last year, which increased to ten by mid-October. The number of cracked houses increased to about 20 by mid-November, 30 by December 3, 35 by December 8, 49 by December 21 and eventually some 300 houses in February.
If the Penang State Government and the MPPP had responded to the complaints of the residents and commissioned geotechnical studies by mid-October last year, the Tanjong subsidence disaster would not have reached the magnitude as to affect some 300 houses and some 4,000 - 5,000 people including even the Pengkalan Kota area - as the damage could have been contained right from the beginning to some 10 houses.
There is no doubt that the Penang State Government and the MPPP would have adopted a completely different approach to the peopleís complaints if their problems had happened before the April 1995 general elections, when cracks appearing in one house would have brought out the Penang Chief Minister himself and the entire Penang State Government and MPPP machinery within 24 hours of the complaint.
The Penang Chief Minister is winding up the debate on the motion of thanks on the Yang di Pertua Negeriís address in the State Assembly next week. He should publicly apologise on behalf of the Penang State Government and the MPPP for their irresponsibility and negligence in not containing the Tanjong Subsidence disaster to 10 houses in October, and also explain how the State Government and the MPPP propose to compensate the 4,000 - 5,000 people whose safety, livelihood, peace of mind, homes, property and livelihood had been adversely affected by the avoidable man-made disaster.