Tsu Koon and Hilmi invited to the DAP dialogue on PORR on Sunday to honour their pledge of transparency and to  give assurance that the State Government will not surrender any land to Peninsular Metroworks until the State Assembly has formally approved the project

Media Statement
- after visiting squatters in Sungai Dua  in Penang affected by the PORR project 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Friday) Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon  had repeatedly said that the  RM1.02 billion 17.8 km Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project is not a “hush-hush thing”   which  cannot “see the light of day’”, but  the Penang State Government has still to deliver its pledge of transparency on  the PORR project and to bring it out from  its present  thick shroud of secrecy. 

The short, unsatisfactory and non-interactive 10-day  exhibition on the PORR alignment by the Malaysian Highway Authority is a far cry from the public undertaking given by Tsu Koon and other State Executive Councillors that the State Government would hear the views of the people of Penang on all aspects of the PORR project  and would organize forums, discussions and dialogues. 

For instance, the State Works, Public Amenities and Transport Committee Chairman Datuk Koay Kar Hoah said in March that the government  would soon make public details of the PORR project. 

He said: 

“We are still preparing answers to questions which may arise concerning the project. We want to be prepared to give a full and clear explanation to the people before releasing the details.  

“Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon had told me that most probably the full details will be made public in a month’s time.” (Star 11.3.02)  

It is therefore most shocking to read in today’s press the statement by the Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Dr. Hilmi Yahaya that  the Penang State Government was “preparing to surrender vacant possession” of six parcels of land totaling 31 ha to Peninsular Metroworks Sdn Bhd, the company which has been awarded the PORR concession (The Star), when the State government had not  honoured its pledge of transparency to give “full and clear explanation” by releasing the “full details” of the PORR project to the people of Penang. 

This is all wrong and totally against the principles of accountability and good governance, breaking faith with the people of Penang and  dishonouring the state government’s public pledge to be transparent to release the “full details”  of the PORR project as well as  to give serious consideration to public representations before a final decision is made on the PORR project! 

What has happened to all the months of preparation by the State Government  to answer the public about the various aspects of the PORR project as disclosed by Koay two months ago, or have all these precious government time gone to waste because Tsu Koon has decided to  back out from his pledge of full transparency on the PORR project? 

If the State Government starts surrendering the six parcels of prime state land to Peninsular Metroworks Sdn. Bhd even before the completion of the public consultation process, it makes  nonsense of government transparency and commitment to the  public consultation of the people of Penang on the PORR project. 

For this reason, the Penang Chief Minister must give an assurance that the State Government would not surrender any piece of government land to PORR concessionaire until and unless the Penang State Assembly has given formal approval to the project by way of a formal motion. 

It is wrong for anyone to claim that if there is support from ten Assemblymen, the State Assembly could be forced to hold an emergency debate on the PORR project or any other issue. 

The Penang State Assembly Standing Order 30 on motion of urgent definite public importance is similar to Standing Order 18 of the Dewan Rakyat on the same matter. 

Under the Penang State Assembly Standing Order 30 , an Assemblyman can move the adjournment of the House to debate a matter of urgent, definite public importance if the Speaker is satisfied that the three elements of “definite, urgent and of public importance”  have been complied with.  However,  such a debate can still be blocked at this stage, if there is any member of House objecting, in which case, at least ten Members must “rise in their places to support the request” to overcome the obstacle and for the emergency motion to be debated. 

Parliament has the same provision on “motion for adjournment to discuss urgent matter of public importance”, except that if there is any MP objecting to a debate despite the Speaker being satisfied that the motion satisfies the three elements of “definite, urgent and of public importance”, 15 MPs are required to remove the obstacle and for the emergency motion to be held. 

It would really be fantastic if all that is required is for 10 Assemblymen to agree to an emergency debate in the Penang State Assembly, for the DAP would have been able to have daily emergency debates in the Penang State Assembly after the 1990 general election when DAP had 13 to 14 members. 

Or in Parliament, there would be daily emergency debates by the Opposition, if all that is needed are 15 MPs to support it, as Parliament at present has a combined total of  42 Opposition  MPs. 

However, both the people of Penang as well as all Penang State Assemblymen should insist that in view of the importance and far-reaching consequences of the PORR project, the State Assembly must have the final say in the approval of the PORR project before any work is allowed to start on the project. 

As the Penang State Government has not yet fulfilled its undertaking to hold forums, discussions and dialogues on the PORR project, DAP invites Tsu Koon and Hilmi to the DAP dialogue on PORR at the Cheah Association, Pangkor Road on Sunday, 2nd June 2002 at 1 p.m., as the people of Penang, those directly affected whether homes, heritage buildings,  temples or  ancient shrines which have to make way for PORR as well as  all Penangites who would be affected as a result of a 30-year toll burden, are entitled to answers to the teeming questions about the PORR project. 

Let Tsu Koon and Hilmi come to the Sunday dialogue with all relevant studies about the Penang traffic nightmare and documentation related to PORR, including:

  1. The Halcrow Penang Urban Transport Study commissioned by the Penang State Government in 1997 which raises questions about PORR’s transparency, viability and compatibility with sustainable transport and whether the RM1.02 billion 17.8 km PORR would have an utility life-span of less than five years to create one or two Midas at the cost of imposing a 30-year toll burden on the people of Penang.
  2. The expired and outdated 1996 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for PORR.
  3. 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.

They should also come fully armed to answer questions, such as:

Finally, Tsu Koon and Helmi should give an assurance that the State Government would not surrender any  state land to Peninsular Metroworks unt`il the State Assembly has formally approved the project by way of a motion.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman