Warisan was never against Tg Aru project, says Shafie

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal greeting guests at a Hari Raya open house hosted by Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Aidi Moktar (left) in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal denied Warisan was ever against the controversial Tanjung Aru Eco-Development (TAED), saying the plan was now to scale down the multi-billion ringgit project.

The Warisan president acknowledged there are strong objections to the mega-project, mostly from NGOs but pointed out “what is important is for us to look into the interests of all”.

“No, I didn’t say we want to stop the project. I said we have to look into it where it can benefit the people at large — that’s why we downsized it.

“If you look into the previous plan, we have adjusted it. Even the location of a school … we’re looking at relocating it.

“The existing First Beach (open to the public) will not be touched,” he told reporters after attending a Hari Raya open house hosted by state Law and Native Affairs Minister Aidi Moktar at Wisma Muis here today.

Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Peter Anthony had mentioned in his speech during an event here previously that the Papar Dam was needed to meet the high demand for water in future, including from the TAED project.

Anthony said the government acknowledged that the dam’s construction had met with resistance from the public but it was the only way to address Sabah’s future water needs.

The go-ahead for the two projects has met with a barrage of criticisms from NGOs and opposition parties. The Sabah Environmental Protection Association described the about-turn as a “betrayal” to Sabahans.

SAPP secretary-general Richard Yong We Kong slammed Warisan, saying they had broken their election pledge.

He also criticised Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew and state Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong, saying Liew and Wong had repeatedly promised that TAED would be scrapped if they took over the government.

Wong, the Tanjung Aru assemblyman, yesterday also denied he was ever against the TAED, telling local media that the government could not drop the project as the previous administration had spent RM90 million on feasibility and environmental assessments. Otherwise, all that money spent would be wasted.

He was quoted by local media in February 2017 as saying the project will be stopped if Warisan was given the mandate by the people to govern the state.

On the Papar Dam, Shafie said there was a necessity to go ahead with the project as it would supply water and generate electricity, not only for Papar and Penampang but also the state capital.

“So, I think we need to seriously look into where it can benefit the state as a whole and not just a particular area.”

He said it might be difficult for people to accept this for now.

“I think we have to condition the mind … to rationalise. I believe there were so many people objecting to the Bakun Dam at one stage, but now they are supplying electricity to Brunei and Sabah.

“Sarawak is bearing the fruits of what they have done before. It was a bold move because they knew that it will be beneficial in the long run,” Shafie said.

He added that he had collected feedback from Moyog state representative Jenifer Lasimbang and Kepayan assemblywoman Jannie Lasimbang, whose constituencies are located within the Penampang parliamentary area.

“There are considerations the YBs (elected representatives) wanted us to study but we can’t realise it for the interests of many,” he said.

The initial TAED project, which was expected to cost RM7.1 billion, was conceptualised by the previous government and is supposed to be owned wholly by the state.

It was aimed at raising Sabah’s eco-tourism profile, attracting investments and addressing the problems of pollution and erosion that the Tanjung Aru area has suffered for years.

TAED will sit on largely reclaimed land and will have 4,500 apartments, 150 villas, 475 terraced houses, six hotels and 60,000 square metres of retail space.