Listen to the people, don’t turn deaf, Penang government told

 |Aug 17, 2016
The old Prangin canal-market site, which conservationists wanted to be preserved as heritage.
The old Prangin canal-market site, which conservationists wanted to be preserved as heritage.

A PKR division in Penang has called on the DAP-dominated Penang government to listen to the people instead of turning a deaf ear to public grassroots feedbacks and criticisms especially on historical findings and heritage.

Tanjung division chief Ng Chek Siang pointed out that the heritage zone and its surrounding areas including the buffer zones, and its borders, should be well-conserved to maintain its outstanding universal values (OUV) as stated in the Operation Guidelines (clause 172) of the World Heritage Convention.

Thus, he said the state-proposed transportation hub at the historical Prangin canal – wholesale market site, which Penang Chinese called as ‘Sia Boey’, was a major refurbishment project and had naturally met strong objections from the civil society and lay public.

“All archeological findings with historical value should be given due recognition.

“Rather than trying to downplay Prangin site historical importance, the state government should have been more receptive to public feedback.

“The state government should not insist on turning this historical site into another concrete and modern facility simply with a few measures of justification, which clearly does not benefit the majority of Penangites,” said Ng in a statement today.

“The state government should start listening to the people who voted for them instead of turning a deaf ear on all criticism and feedback.”

The rubble of Runnymede historical buildings torn down by a developer to make way for a high-rise high-density project.
The rubble of Runnymede historical buildings torn down by a developer to make way for a high-rise high-density project.

As it is, Chek Siang pointed out that Penangites had already lost historical Runnymede buildings and were now on the verge of losing the charm of Gurney Drive.

As a people-centric government, he said the state administration should put the people’s interest first to ensure it was well taken care of.

Demolishing memories and turning them into modern structures does not sit well with all Penangites, who were sentimental over heritage value of golden era during the rise of George Town.

“Please listen to the people instead of turning a deaf ear to them!” Chek Siang told the DAP-controlled state government.

The PKR Tanjung fully backs stance adopted by activist-councillor Lim Mah Hui and Penang Forum to protect Penang from overdevelopment at the cost of risking George Town’s Unesco World Heritage Site status.

Ng said he found it so immature that some people labelled Penang Forum and its steering committee as being backstabbers for writing to the Unesco on the threat of Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) as a preventive measure to save George Town from destruction.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng described Penang Forum letter to Unesco’s Paris Desk was an act of backstabbing.

But Penang Forum had defended its action, saying that it was necessary to stop encroachment and destruction of OUV in George Town heritage zone via PTMP.

Even Consumers Association of Penang has backed Penang Forum.

As Komtar’s phase 5 project, Chek Siang said the Prangin canal-market site should be a green lung and open space as Penangites wanted to maintain it that way to inspire world class creative and artistic expressions among local talents.

He said the Prangin site meant a lot to locally-born Penangites, especially to those who used to live around George Town, as the site was bursting with life as trade and commerce flourished along the canal during the olden days.

PKR Tanjung division chief Ng Chek Siang wants the Penang government to listen to the people, not to turn deaf.
PKR Tanjung division chief Ng Chek Siang wants the Penang government to listen to the people, not to turn deaf.

“Definitely, this counts as part of Penang’s soul and there cannot be another place in the world, which could equal the memories and historical value of George Town through the preservation of the Pranging canal site,” said the PKR man.

“Sia Boey’s heritage value counts as much as Fort Cornwallis.

“There could always be an alternative site for the transport hub.”

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Athi Shankar has been a journalist for past 30 years. He believes that democratic rights come with responsibility.