Two chambers of commerce and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers want the people of Penang to retain control of the port.
They plan to set up a consortium to make the bid to ensure that Penangites retain control of the port, the oldest harbour estabilised by the British.
It will be headed by the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC) and comprises Malay and Indian Chambers of Commerce, and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM).
“The consortium aims to keep the port with the people of Penang. The idea was mooted by local businessmen that want to develop and manage it.
“We want to privatise it while giving something back to Penangites,” PCCC president Tan Kok Ping told a press conference here today.
He said local businessmen were not pleased with the buy-over by Syed Mokhtar fearing it would lose its edge as a significant port in the region.
He added that the port was a cultural heritage with historical and economic benefits to the state.
Tan said that a letter would be sent to Finance Ministry to make known its intention and that their plan not only promised a bright future for Penangites but it would also bring back the glory the port lost over the decades.
Following a roundtable meeting on July 9 with the state government, the chambers and industrial players issued a joint statement to reject the privatisation of the port and want it returned to Penangites.
They rejected the downgrade of the port to a feeder port, asked that the RM350 million dredging to deepen the seabed be conducted immediately to enable larger vessels to ply the harbour, and revamp the ferry service seen as a heritage icon.
Both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional leaders have expressed the need to retain the port’s ownership with Penangites.
On June 18, state BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow said the Penang Port privatisation matter would be asked to be reviewed and deliberated under the National Economic Council (NEC).
He said since the deal between Syed Mokhtar’s Seaport Terminal (Johor) Sdn Bhd and the ministry was not inked yet, there was still a chance to keep the port within Penang.
On March 29, the ministry confirmed it was initiating due diligence on PPSB while in the final stages of completing the sale and purchase agreement, but there has been no word on it since.
This has spurred Pakatan Rakyat and BN to launch campaigns to return the port to Penangites with state DAP’s signature campaign “Return Penang Port To Penangites” garnering 1,000 signatures within two weeks of its launch on June 15.
BN’s “Return the Freeport Status” campaign launched on June 28 also aimed at getting the port back to Penangites.