Hill-clearing figures‘shocking’

Taxing to the hotels: Jahara showing the state constitution after her press conference at the state assembly building in George Town.

A BARISAN Nasional rep has urged the state government to explain its efforts to prevent illegal hill-clearing following its recent revelation on the issue.

Muhammad Farid Saad (BN-Pulau Betong) said the figures released were shocking as it involved a total of 125.75ha.

“This involves 28 locations on the island and four on the mainland.We have been informed that the companies involved are now facing legal action.

“We hope that the state can explain how to prevent this from happening again. If there is no control, the whole of Penang may be illegally cleared one day,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the state assembly sitting here yesterday.

State Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Padang Kota) had revealed that there were 32 locations in Penang where illegal hill-clearing works were carried out from 2013 up till now.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid (BN-Telok Air Tawar) said it was wrong for the state to implement levy collection from hotels as it did not have the authority to do so.

“Levy is a form of tax, so nobody has the authority to collect taxes without first getting the approval from the Finance Ministry and the Customs Department.

“It is stated in Part III of the state constitution that no taxation shall be collected by the state unless it is authorised by the law,” she said.

Jahara added that the state government should have tabled a proposal to the Federal Government before coming up with an enactment to implement the levy collection.

Jahara said the collection from hotels was announced as ‘levy’ in Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s budget speech last November but in a response to Datuk Mahmud Zakaria’s (BN-Sungai Acheh) question, the term was however, changed to ‘fee’.

“So which is which now? This contradicts the budget speech,” she added.

It is learnt that some RM5mil had been collected from hotels in the state.

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