KUALA LUMPUR: Criticism of the proposed reclamation on the southern coast of Penang island by a minister and others is based on a false assumption, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said.
The Penang government, he reiterated, would not proceed with the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project until and unless it received the green light from the federal approving authorities.
However, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and others, the latest being columnist Salleh Buang, were making statements on the assumption that Penang would go ahead regardless of whether it had such approval, he said.
Ramasamy said he failed to understand why Wan Junaidi was doing this, and that even “respected columnist” Salleh had bought into this false assumption.
As the environmental impact assessment for the project had yet to be approved, the question of the Penang government proceeding with the project did not arise, Ramasamy said.
Salleh, in his recent column (NST Jan 2, 2018) raised some matters regarding land reclamation, particularly the PSR project.
PSR is an ambitious project proposed by the Penang government to raise funds for its major transportation network to relieve massive traffic congestion on the island.
“Salleh Buang operates on the false assumption that the Penang state government is embarking on the project without getting EIA approval from the ministry of natural resources and environment. This seems to be the overriding theme of his entire article that gives the impression that the Penang state government is about to embark on this massive project illegally.”
Ramasamy said Salleh appeared to have been “guided” by some of the matters raised by Wan Junaidi.
From August 2017, Ramasamy said, Wan Junaidi had been making unwarranted remarks about the PSR project in Penang.
The minister had said that all reclamation works in the country, including in Penang, had to stop to enable his ministry to come up with new guidelines for both the EIA and detailed environmental assessment.
Once these guidelines were drafted, he was reported to have said, they had to go to the cabinet, the National Land Council and National Physical Development Council before the ministry could make a decision. Until then, Penang could not not proceed with the reclamation.
Wan Junaidi had also said that the director-general of the Department of Land and Mines could stop the project by not granting the land title.
Last month, Wan Junaidi, during a visit to Penang, said he was personally against the PSR as it would affect the livelihood of fishermen in the area and that the reclamation might protrude into international waters causing regional problems.
“Wan Junaidi, whether informed or misinformed, seems to think that Penang state would be embarking on the reclamation project early this year. Whether he is aware or unaware, the EIA for the project has not be approved and the question of Penang state proceeding with the project does not arise in the first place.”
Saying it was plain that Salleh had failed to do enough research on the PSR project, Ramasamy added: “Most importantly, he omitted to take an objective look at the situation but rather prematurely seems to have arrived at the conclusion that the Penang government might be embarking on an illegal project without the necessary approvals of the ministry.
“Salleh Buang, for all his expertise on reclamation matters, seems to operate on the premise that whatever is dished out by the federal agencies on projects in Penang must be the truth.”
He said the Penang state government was considered the most law abiding and that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had mentioned “so many times” that the project would not take off without the approval from the ministry.
“So, what is the problem? Why write on something in which the premise established at the outset is false in the first place? There is no illegal land reclamation in Penang! There will be no such thing as long as the present government is in power.”
Ramasamy suggested that Salleh should visit Penang to find out what was really happening, instead of relying on what the federal government said was happening.
“The project would not have been proposed had Penang state received funds from the federal government for the development of transport infrastructure,” Ramasamy added.