The Star has declared open war with the Penang PR state government with another front-page story and four inside pages, including the editorial page on the “crying hills” today. This is a desperate attempt to whitewash the past sins of the previous BN government in approving hill projects above 250 feet.
By changing the previous headline title of the “dying hills” to the “crying hills”, this already an admission by the Star that the Star indulged in hyperbolic excesses not supported by facts.
The timing of this latest attack by the Star is suspicious. Coming at a time when The Star’s political masters, MCA, is facing public odium for conducting a cowardly smear campaign spreading lies about sexual misbehaviour and even assault by me and my wife. Clearly this is an attempt to distract attention from MCA’s failed smear campaign, MCA President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek’s past sexual escapades as well as excuse the previous government from blame so as to help BN win back Penang.
Whether the Star will succeed in its political agenda to tarnish the green credentials of the PR state government and clear the path of a return of the BN state government that caused the problems in the first place, will ulitmately depend on the voters.
Whilst PR is willing to admit to mistakes made, we refuse to bear the sins and pay the price for the policy decisions made by the previous government in approving hill projects above 250 feet. Instead of beating up the present PR state government for a crime it did not commit, why has the Star consistently failed to hound the previous state government for giving 37 such approvals before 2008?
The Star’s claims of impartiality and that it is not singling out PR for criticism is as laughable as PERKASA’s claims that they are not racists. If the Star is impartial in criticising the previous administration approvals of hill projects, why did the Star kept silent 37 times when the previous BN state government gave 37 approvals to hill projects above 250 feet before 2008. Did the Star print an editorial 37 times and gave a 5 page coverage including front-page before 2008 against these 37 approvals?
Neither did the Star apologise when their columnist Joceline Tan was caught lying that the Yang di Pertua Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP) Patahiyah binti Ismail had contradicted me, when Patahiyah had clearly said that the 19 approvals given after 2008 were special projects approved by the previous BN state government!
Further, why did the Star not highlight those hill projects in BN-controlled states and pick only on Penang. Unlike the Federal government’s EPU guidelines of defining a hill as exceeding 500 feet, the Penang guidelines have fixed the building line at 250 feet. Unfortunately the previous BN government violated these guidelines by not only approving 37 projects before 2008 but also gave approval for those above 250 feet as special projects.
Neither did the Star give front page treatment criticising the previous BN state government for approving special projects, where such hill projects above 250 feet so classified cannot be rejected solely because they are above 250 feet.
Patahiyah had explained that the 19 approvals by MPPP for heights above 250 feet after 2008 fell under the special projects category and had to be processed according to normal geo-technical guidelines. MPPP cannot reject them on the basis that they were above 250 feet.
As the PR state government cannot cancel these hill projects, to mitigate the situation, the state government has resorted to imposing the most stringent guidelines in the country which were drawn up by a hillslope geo-technical committee headed by Oxford-trained engineer Dr Gue See Saw. These geo-technical guidelines were imposed retrospectively much to the unhappiness of developers, some who threatened legal action.
Whilst the state government sympathised with the unhappiness of those hill projects and the problems of those residents affected by the ongoing development, there is nothing the state government can do unless the drastic step of cancelling the project is taken. To do so entails compensation of hundreds of millions or even billions of ringgit which would bankrupt the state.
The Penang PR state government will not lead Penang towards bankruptcy. Perhaps the BN Federal government should come forward and bear these compensation losses for cancelling the hill projects since BN were responsible for approving them in the first place. Would the Star be willing to play a front-page story pressing demand of compensation from the BN Federal government?
Or would the Star demand that the developers stop the hill projects? Isn’t this sheer hypocrisy of the Star to be so chummy with developers of these hill projects during their Star Property Fair in Penang and yet dare not criticise the developers in name for carrying hill projects.
Finally, it is not The Star but the voters of Penang who will decide whether the PR state government have done our part to protect the hills by not approving any hill projects above 250 feet. The PR state government is willing to be punished for not approving any hill projects above 250 feet and would respect the voters’ decision if they decide to trust BN again despite BN giving all these approvals.
We appreciate those Star reporters and chief editors who are from Penang and care about the state. Penang welcomes you back and we will work hard to make Penang a green state, an international heritage city with a vibrant art culture. But these so-called concerns sound hollow when the Star distorts the truth and practises double-standards.
The PR state government will continue to directly engage with NGOs and even Star’s Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai on the background, the status and any related issues. Since Wong is talking about the rape of our beloved hills, we would like to know who is doing the raping and what steps MPPP is taking.
As we have nothing to hide, I have asked Yang di Pertua MPPP Patahiyah binti Ismail to engage with NGOs and affected parties. That is why the state government had instructed MPPP to declassify all the minutes about approvals for hill projects above 250 feet. I am extending an open invitation to Wong Chun Wai to an open dialogue with me and my MPPP officials on this hill issue. I await his response.
* Lim Guan Eng is the Chief Minister of Penang. This letter was sent to The Star in response to their reports.