KUALA LUMPUR: Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has been accused of turning a planned reclamation project in Penang into a general election weapon.
DAP leader P Ramasamy also accused him of being hypocritical.
Ramasamy, who is also Penang deputy chief minister II, said Wan Junaidi had said he personally disapproved of the reclamation project in the southern part of the island even before an environmental impact assessment had been completed.
He was commenting on Wan Junaidi’s remark that the reclamation would be “illegal for implementation now if the state government insists on pursuing it”, adding that reports had yet to be received from the developer and the state government on the project’s social and political impact as well as on marine life.
Wan Junaidi said he had received a protest note against the reclamation project from the Penang Fishermen’s Association and that he personally disagreed with the project as it would not only affect marine resources which would affect the fishermen’s income but might also cause a shift in the country’s continental shelf .
“Penang’s continental shelf will shift, and if the reclamation extends more than three nautical miles (the limit allowed under the law) from the shoreline, then the country’s continental shelf will shift and it will possibly encroach into international waters. I can’t agree to such a move,” Wan Junaidi had said.
Ramasamy retorted: “Junaidi should not have waited so long to come out with his biased remarks about Penang’s project. Not just a few months ahead of the next general election. I am sure that is an election gimmick to retain the parliamentary seat of Balik Pulau and other state seats in the area.”
Ramasany said while Wan Junaidi was “gung-ho” in his opposition to the project, he was rather reticent on the massive sand mining in the estuaries of Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan.
“In fact he defended the sand mining for export to a India on the grounds that sand mining of the estuaries would be able to mitigate flooding in the two states. So much for the man who is in charge of the environment in the country.
“Junaidi is not only mum about the implications of massive sand mining in the rivers, to date, he has not said anything about the massive reclamation projects in BN controlled states of Malacca, Johor and other states. He is yet to discuss the environmental impact of these projects.”
Ramasamy claimed hundreds of fishermen had been affected in these states and that in Johor massive reclamation had intruded into the waters of Singapore.
“What shame for an environment minister to take an embarrassing political perspective on the issue of reclamation in Penang. Some BN ministers like Junaidi are not prepared to see Penang succeed while other states have failed.
“The Penang government is prepared for the toughest scrutiny from federal agencies on environmental matters but not political comments from half-baked politicians who cannot see the environmental disasters in other states but magnify the problems that might be posed in Penang.”
He said if Singapore could grow by 60% in the decades after independence with the toughest laws, “I don’t see why a small island like Penang cannot embark on reclamation for the success of transport infrastructure”.
Ramasamy accused the federal government of failing to extend assistance to develop transport infrastructure in Penang but at the same time putting obstacles on the path of Penang’s initiative.