In a major blow to the federal government, key stakeholders rejected the proposed privatisation of the Penang Port.
GEORGE TOWN: The state government’s fight to stop the Penang port sale to tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary received a major boost when key industrial stakeholders rejected the ambitious federal project.
Chaired by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, a roundtable discussion held in Komtar yesterday between the state government and stakeholders unanimously passed five resolutions to reject the privatisation of Penang Port to the Seaport Terminal (Johor) Sdn Bhd owner.
The stakeholders were major industry players in the shipping, logistics and other related industries.
They were from the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM), Malaysian International Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), Frepenca, logistic providers, freight forwarders, importers and exporters, shipping companies and agents, stevedores and employees.
Several Pakatan Rakyat executive councillors, MPs, municipal councillors and other state leaders were also present.
The resolutions were:
1. Reject the privatisation of Penang Port to an outsider done without consultation with the people of Penang
2. Urge the immediate capital dredging costing RM353 million of the channel to deepen the depth for larger vessels
3. Reject the downgrade of Penang Port to a feeder port after privatisation and that Penang Port be retained as a commercial regional hub
4. The Penang Ferry service be revamped to be a heritage icon of Penang
5. Return Penang Port to the people of Penang run by Penang
A statement on the resolutions was released on Lim’s Facebook page.
Major blow for BN
The key industrial stakeholders’ stand would deal a major body blow to the Barisan Nasional federal government.
During his Sunday debate with Lim, MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek claimed that the controversial plan would boost the port’s incoming cargo and profits.
Chua, the Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman, criticised Lim for being ignorant about the benefits the plan would bring to the port.
He stressed that privatisation was the best way to boost business, competitive edge, productivity and profits.
Pointing out that all other privatised ports were doing well, he claimed that only Penang port had not been performing.
But Lim returned fire, claiming that the move was “not privatisation, but piratisation.”
Last month, it was reported that the current port operator, the Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), had netted a RM15 million profit last year, contradicting Chua’s claim that it only earned RM180,000.
Reacting to DAP’s criticism, Penang BN also asked the National Economic Council (NEC) to review the proposed port sale by considering the needs and demands of the shipping industry, other business communities and public sentiment.
Penang Port was the biggest port in the region until 1933, when Singapore outpaced it. Until the 1950s, it was still bigger than Port Klang. Johor did not have any port then.
But Syed Mokhtar wants to use Penang Port as a mere feeder port for his Port Tanjung Pelepas in Johor.
The state government argued that the sale would thwart Penang’s projected growth into a vibrant regional economic hub, adding that it would be a tragedy if the port degenerated into a private feeder port for another private port.