Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We say it again: Support for Porr project wrong

We say it again: Support for Porr project wrong
SM Mohamed Idris
Oct 12, 09

We refer to the letter Porr: Penang gov't still listening.

Cheong Yin Fan, press secretary to the Penang chief minister, protests too much when she chides CAP for criticising the CM Lim Guan Eng for his stance on the Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr) project and advises CAP to 'rely on facts and not hearsay, substantiated reports and not superficial conclusions'.

It is an incontrovertible fact that Lim has all along supported the Porr project. When the project was shelved in 2008 by the federal government, Lim protested strongly against this decision and mounted a campaign to revive the project.

When on March 3 this year, the then prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi replied in parliament in response to a question by Lim that, of the three projects in Penang shelved by the federal government (the monorail, Porr and the Mengkuang Dam), only the last was being revived, a disappointed Lim issued a press release stating that 'As chief minister, I feel the failure of the federal government to implement the ring road will bring difficulty to the people by letting traffic congestion become worse, especially as the Second Penang Bridge is to be built by mid-2012.'

When the project was recently revived by the federal government, he again expressed support for the project. According to a report in The Edge Financial Daily (Sept 9): 'Asked if the state government was in favour of the project, Lim said the state government welcomed any project which would help reduce traffic congestion and generate economic growth and revenue for the state'.

It is this same report which highlighted Lim's views on public consultation on this project. Asked whether the state government would consult the public on Porr, the report quotes Lim as saying that 'public consultation had already been held, and there were differing views. We do not want to have a closed mind on such projects. Let us have our discussion with the federal government first,' he added.

If after all this strong expression of commitment to this project and single-minded pursuit of it by Lim, Cheong is now trying to persuade us that the Penang state government has yet to decide whether to proceed with Porr and that Lim has reaffirmed that public consultation would still continue (notwithstanding the report to the contrary), she has a lot of persuading to do. Especially the claim that the state government does not 'have a closed mind on such projects.'

Let us be clear here of the real issue. The issue is not the terms imposed by the federal government for the project, but the project itself, which will result in more motorised traffic being brought on to the island.

We reiterate that Penang does not need the Porr or another road project that is going to compromise sustainable transport options. There must be a comprehensive and rational transport strategy for Penang. The thrust must be on reducing private vehicles on the island instead of encouraging the same.

We believe that our vision for a sustainable transport system can be realised if there is political will to do so.

The writer is president, Consumers Association of Penang

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