Fears of empty Warisan promise to save Tanjung Aru beach

SM Muthu speaking to reporters on June 26, welcoming assurances that the Tanjung Aru project would be shelved.

KOTA KINABALU: The new state government led by Parti Warisan Sabah has been accused of betraying voters by holding out the possibility that the controversial Tanjung Aru Eco-Development (TAED) project might receive approval.

At the state assembly yesterday, Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said that the project may not be scrapped as it was “too important for the state”.

He said the state government would review the development plans, taking into account the people’s views and the interests of the government and investors before making a final decision.

However the conservation group Save Open Space Kota Kinabalu (SOS) said any decision to continue with the current plan would be considered a betrayal by the new government, as promises were made during the 14th General Election (GE14).

The group’s spokesman, SM Muthu, urged the government to scrap the project. “Keep any development to the land side and spare the foreshore reserve as a recreational area for locals and tourists – this beach is an icon to Sabahans,” he said.

Lanash Thanda says there should be no reclamation.

Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA) president Lanash Thanda said: “There should be no reclamation and it should be scaled down while a rehabilitation of the area is seriously needed. The plan which was approved included hotels, golf courses, reclamation of land, and limited public access to the beach – we don’t want any of that.”

The SOS group and SEPA are among many civil society groups which have sought since 2013 for the multi-billion project to be shelved.

Last week, SOS welcomed assurances from Tanjung Aru assemblyman Junz Wong, a state minister and Warisan vice-president, that the project would be shelved.

Before the general election, he had said that Warisan would put a stop to the project if it came to power.

Speaking to FMT, Wong said the state government had yet to make any decision on any project, whether TAED or upgrading of Tanjung Aru.

“I’m happy the chief minister made it very clear that he will ultimately listen to the people’s voices. I’m positive about the outcome. I understand (the people’s concerns) but I ask our voters to be patient and give the government more time to look into this matter. Please don’t jump the gun,” he said.

“The state Cabinet has not discussed about it so I’ll wait for the agenda to be set.”

Shafie had also said the project, expected to upgrade and change the face of 861 acres of land, including 253 acres of proposed reclaimed land, had received approval of the head of state on the recommendation of the previous state government in 2014.

TAED is a mixed development project at Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu. It entails the construction of hotels, residential units, marinas, entertainment outlets and other amenities.

Lanash said the project, if carried out, would be the first letdown by the new government of its promises to voters.

“We do understand the legality and constraints but the public do not want a repeat of failed promises as with the previous government,” she said.

Fake beach that needs sand

She said SEPA had submitted an alternative solution to Kota Kinabalu City Hall and the state Town and Regional Planning Department but were never invited to discuss the proposal.

Muthu said they opposed the destruction of the original beach. “The beach planned for the project is a fake beach and it’s not sustainable. One of the consultants for TAED told us that RM40-45 million is needed a year to maintain the beach.

“Where are you going to get the sand, because you need to replenish all the time? And there shouldn’t be any commercial buildings there. There is an abundance of land outside KK, like in Sipitang, Papar, Kota Belud and Kudat. You can build there and actively promote economic activities in rural areas,” Muthu said.

He said a plot of land behind Jalan Selangor (near Tanjung Aru beach) could also be developed into a city park.

“If the government is short of funds, some shops can be built. Spare the rugby and football fields too because they are of heritage value to Sabahans. Bear in mind, this is the last piece of government land and should be reserved for future government purposes.”

Netizens also aired their disapproval over social media through a Facebook page called “Save Tanjung Aru Beach”.

“…maybe we voted for false hope here in KK. Ex PM is getting charged in KL … what’s going on with KK lads,” said Khairul Effendi.

Firdaus Puniran said he was fine with minimal development there but that the whole of the beach should be open to public.

LeeRoy Abbie on the other hand lambasted the government. “Suda tau memang cakap kosong saja (I knew it was empty talk all along … before this cancel (but) then now (the project) may continue,” she said.

Some even tagged Wong in their comments while Tommy Chung Max echoed what Muthu and Thanda had mentioned earlier.

“What happened to the promises before the election? Wasted vote … disappointed with this new SG (Sabah government),” he said.

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