Saturday, November 22, 2008

Heritage crisis and the dilemma in Penang

Well, there is yet another challenge which our Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng will have to undertake in face with the continuous attacks and slandering from Umno and its lackeys in Barisan Nasional on the issues regarding the proposed development of four high rise hotels in the middle of the Penang heritage sites.

According to the Unesco’s committee on heritage sites, Penang will set to loose the award jointly given to both Melaka if the construction of these hotels take place. Recently, we could hear Melaka Chief Minister Ali Rustam warning Guan Eng and his state government not to proceed with the said development for fear of losing the heritage status in his state (Melaka) too. Who was to be blamed in this ongoing crisis?

The situation is that the proposed four high rise hotels project was initially submitted to the previous Gerakan led BN state government and gained its approval soon before the 8 March general elections begin which lead to the defeat of the previous government. Then after the Pakatan Rakyat took control of the state government, Penang state was awarded the World Heritage Status jointly with Melaka by Unesco for its continuous preservation of historical sites in the state. Then Gerakan leaders and its Umno masters came out to claim their credit for the entire effort in ensuring the Unesco award came through.

The previous BN state government actually did not give a clear picture or understanding to the project developers on the guidelines and ways to preserve the heritage sites while allowing its development or constructions to continue, which is where the mistakes came from! The approval of the four high rise hotels by the previous BN state government as actually done in a hurry without any proper references and restrictions brief nor any precautions were taken to prevent the heritage status from being jeopardize by such a radical development.

So, why put the blame on Guan Eng and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition partners instead? Since the new state government was in transition at that time, do they have the choice to reverse or review every single projects that was approved by the defeated BN state government and cancel them immediately when it feels uncomfortable?

The correct answer is No! The Pakatan Rakyat state government cannot do that, as if the cancellation is made, the developers may suffer a very heavy loss and the new state government will have to pay the heavy price should the developers decided to sue the state government for their loss of income and business opportunities in the state. Because of the losses that the developers may suffer as the result of the cancellation, many people may end up losing their jobs and many families may suffer because of their unemployed parents, brothers and sisters.

Then, if unemployment as the result of such stopped projects or failed businesses, crime rate will definitely rise as those who lost their financial dependency may resort to things which are against the law in order to survive. Do we all want to see such thing happening to us, to our family, our children and our lives? Do we want to see the safety and security of our people being threatened because of all these?

Therefore, we would like to urge the Penang people and voters to go back to the roots cause of these problems and judge who were the actual wrong doers! Who gave the approval to this project at the first place and who approved the building plans to enable these developers to commence with their legal papers in order to secure their groundwork for the construction?

Remember what the previous BN-Umno administration had done, many of their approved projects are now being scrutinized for not being transparent with elements of corruption as well as power abuse were also found to have taken place. Because most of these projects involved millions of Ringgit in investments, the new government cannot simply cancel or withhold the approval just for the sake of doing it. Careful review and studies has to be made prior to any decision in order to safeguard the interest of all parties concerned.

We also would like to call upon the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and his coalition partners to get what is best for the people of Penang to ensure the well being and the household income of the people are looked into. If the heritage status is not going to help our people, then, to Hell with it! Do not hesitate and get things done as soon as possible even if we have to suffer from the condemnation of the BN-Umno, Unesco, the Melaka Chief Minister or even the Tourism Ministry. Remember, such condemnations are short term and it cannot go any further than that. Let it be as long as you ensure the well being of the people and our families are not jeopardized.

If the heritage status does not bring any good nor benefit to the people, why not do it away? In order to preserve the livelihood of our people, we must sacrifice the unimportant ones to achieve them.

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