Call on Tsu Koon to show an example of good urban governance and  conduct a full PORR  briefing  to all Penang State Assemblymen and MPs before any final decision on PORR is made

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang Youth Park,   Saturday) The plaintive complaint by Barisan Nasional State Assemblymen, like the MCA Assemblyman for Air Itam (one of the two constituencies most hard hit by PORR), that they know very little about the RM1.02 billion 17.8 km Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project  and that the Opposition and Consumers Association of Penang get more information on PORR than Barisan Nasional elected representatives (Nanyang Northern 1.6.02) is proof that the government handling of PORR violates the principles of good urban governance such as public participation, transparency and accountability. 

In his over a decade as  Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon had performed the official opening of countless conferences, forums and meetings on  good urban  governance, some of which were organized under the auspices of regional and international organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the international best practices of good urban governance. 

But what is the use of the Penang Chief Minister declaring open so many  conferences and making very impressive speeches on urban planning and good urban governance if  the state government he leads refuses to uphold the basic principles of urban good governance when it comes  to mega projects like the PORR, which will affect more than 150,000 people on the island or over 20 per cent of the population, including some 200 dwellings – 76 private houses, 70 government quarters and some 100  squatter homes – temples, shrines and cemeteries  directly  affected; apart from the larger questions of the equity aspect of PORR in imposing 30 years of  toll on Penangites to create one or two Midas, its viability and compatibility with sustainable transport policy for Penang island. 

How can the Penang State Government talk about good urban governance when even Barisan Nasional elected representatives know so little about PORR to the extent of publicly complaining that Opposition MPs and NGOs know more than them? 

After opening so many conferences about urban planning, Tsu Koon should show an example of good urban governance and conduct a full briefing on PORR to all Penang State Assemblymen and MPs, whether government or opposition,  before any final decision is taken on PORR – and even more important, commit the Penang State Government to the important principle that the State Government would not surrender any  state land to Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd until the State Assembly has formally approved the project by way of a motion.  

Penang Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Dr. Hilmi Yahaya announced yesterday that the exhibition on  the PORR alignment has been extended by another month until June 27 at the Malaysian Highway Authority’s northern region office in Batu Uban and MHA officers would be there to answer queries. 

Although Hilmi  said that  “People can ask whatever they want to know” at the exhibition, the more important issue is whether people could get answers to “whatever they want to know”  at the exhibition.  It is no use just asking if no answers are forthcoming. 

For instance, can the MHA exhibition and the MHA officers in attendance  give answers to the following questions:

  1. Why PORR cannot be toll-free like the Jelutong Expressway (JEway) whose concessionaire was given  the right to reclaim 132 ha of land for property development, but was not allowed to impose toll or given any prime state land.  
  2. What is the utility life-span of PORR -  is it  eight years or less than five years before traffic volume would increase so fast that it would overwhelm capacities of existing roads, resulting in reduced vehicle speed and longer travel time as predicted by the Halcrow  Penang Urban Transport Study Report 1998.  If so, why must Penangites pay toll for PORR for 30 years when its utility life is so short?
  3. What were  the  detailed bid by the PORR concessionaire Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd and the various studies supporting the bid, including breakdown of costs of construction; projections of traffic volumes and toll collections for the 30-year PORR concession.
  4. What are the projected gross profits that will accrue to Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd from the 30-year PORR concession – both from toll collections as well as the 31 ha prime State land and 500 acres of reclaimed land off Gurney Drive.  
  5. What are the environmental and social impact assessments of PORR – including the expired and outdated 1996 Environment Impact Assessment?

I do not think  the extended PORR exhibition at the MHA can answer any of these questions and this is why the onus remains firmly and squarely  on the Penang Chief Minister and the State Government to set an example of  good urban governance by complying with  the international best practices of public participation,  transparency and accountability – starting by briefing all Penang State Assemblymen and Members of Parliament the full details and all implications of PORR.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman