A response on the Sia Boey Rejuvenation project

My post is a response to a Facebook post by Penang Forum dated July 28, 2019 and also an article titled “The Prangin Canal revitalisation that could have been” in relation to the Sia Boey Rejuvenation project where Khoo Salma said that the government was not transparent about the dirty water through the Sia Boey Canal Rejuvenation project.

I find Khoo’s views very irresponsible and misleading because of how involved Penang Forum was throughout the approval stage of the project. Penang Forum is not as powerless or voiceless as it seems as Penang Heritage Trust was onboard at various stages and capacities for Sia Boey Rejuvenation project. Penang Forum also has a councillor, Dr Chee Heng Leng, sitting in all MBPP executive meetings.

Penang Heritage Trust, which is a member of the Penang Forum coalition, was involved in the Technical Review Panel (TRP) that gave its approval to the project. The Sia Boey Rejuvenation project was tabled to the TRP for approval at least three times between 2015 and 2019. The fact that this is the first time we’re hearing these public objections coming from Penang Forum means only two things: either the Penang Heritage Trust representative didn’t care to raise any objections or vilify the project during those meetings, or they skipped all the TRP meetings even though they were granted an official position to participate by the state government.

Furthermore, a public display and engagement was done by the state government to collect public feedback in March and April 2018 and again, there was no controversy or public vilification.

Having read Khoo’s article, I find that she is trying very hard to mislead the people. First, she acknowledges that “a storm drain diversion had already been planned as a joint flood mitigation measure by MBPP and PDC” and that “this proposal included preserving Prangin Canal as a water feature”. These two sentences in the article show that she was already aware of this diversion back in 2015. So why have public vilifications now?

She also claims that “the project could have been a real river clean-up” and that “river rehabilitation was not part of the state’s vision from the beginning”. This is an absurd claim to mislead the public and the press because “Sungai Prangin” does not exist in modern-day George Town! A monsoon drain should be called a monsoon drain, just like how a spade should be called a spade. There is no “real river clean-up” because there is no river to clean!

She further tries to create a negative perception by asking whether the state government has abandoned plans to clean up the monsoon drain. This piece of information is very much available to her, if she only consults Penang Forum’s MBPP councillor, Chee, or the Penang Heritage Trust representatives in the TRP.

Khoo has tried to mislead the public into believing that the Sia Boey Rejuvenation project and the monsoon drain cleaning are part of the same project when they are two entirely separate projects.

The cleaning of the monsoon drain is being done in conjunction with the ongoing S10 flood mitigation project. MBPP has taken efforts to clean up all the sludge and waste in the storm drains that was not thoroughly cleaned for the past 20 years due to limited access to the storm drain.

Two access points to clean the monsoon drain have been created. This was done together with the diversion in Sia Boey so that the iconic place can be properly rejuvenated and MBPP has access to clean up the storm drain from hereon. The monsoon drain cleaning process has been ongoing and is scheduled to complete by August 2019. I have attached photos showing the sludge and waste before and also pictures taken during the cleaning process.

Penang Forum cannot claim that it does not have this information as I acquired it in my capacity as a councillor for MBPP, the same position that Chee currently occupies. It is a blatant attempt by Khoo to vilify what is a valiant effort by the state government to restore part of Penang’s iconic heritage.

I am truly appalled that with Khoo’s experience as an ex-MBPP councillor and her current capacity as PHT’s representative in the TRP, she can utter such outrageous and irresponsible statements. Her recent article does not even seek to address the points raised by PDC and GTWHI on Penang Heritage Trust’s involvement in the TRP.

One has to truly wonder whether Khoo still represents the views of all in Penang Forum or if she is acting in her own interest.

Nicholas Theng is a MBPP councillor.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.