Kulim airport to punish Penang for its success, says deputy CM

Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy says Penang was the target of the previous BN administration for its achievements in urban development and commercialisation. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Penang state government has renewed its protest against a proposed international airport in neighbouring Kedah, saying the move is to undermine Penang’s economic success which the previous “Malay-dominated” Barisan Nasional government considered an “eyesore”.

“There have been numerous attempts in the past six decades or so by those in power to reduce the significance of Penang’s attraction in the northern region,” said Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, who said the Penang airport in Bayan Lepas was far ahead of airports in Kedah and Perak.

“There is no logical reason for a new airport in Kulim other than to punish Penang for its success,” he said, in comments reflecting the state government’s continued misgivings over the proposal for a new airport in Kulim.

Putrajaya recently told the state it should not feel threatened by the RM1.6 billion Kulim airport, saying its construction would be privately financed.

The state had earlier cited studies showing that Penang would stand to lose if the Kulim airport was built.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said last week that even a cargo-only facility in Kulim would have a negative impact on the Penang International Airport.

Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy.

Ramasamy said Penang had been targeted by the previous government due to its “odd” racial composition and achievements in urban development and commercialisation.

“The need for a major development project such as an airport in Kedah or in the northern region must be viewed in a broader historical context of race relations and the desire on the part of the Malay-dominated BN to steer development and growth away from Penang,” he said.

The idea for an airport in Kulim was promoted by Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir.

But Ramasamy asked if the present airports in Alor Setar and Langkawi have been utilised to the extent that a third airport would be required in Kedah.

He also questioned Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s support for the project.

“Even if the proposed airport is the preference of Mahathir, as with all projects there is need for a feasibility study that includes social impact assessment, traffic impact assessment and environmental impact assessment, among others,” he added.

“I believe that those in Putrajaya have failed to understand the sentiments of the people in Penang on the airport matter. They cannot assume that what is good for the federal government might necessarily be good for the Penang state government.”