GEORGE TOWN: Several groups have voiced their opposition to the state government’s plans for hotels on Penang Hill despite a claim from the Chief Minister’s Office that there are no concrete proposals yet.
Malaysian Nature Society Penang branch adviser Kanda Kumar said when a developer had plans for Penang Hill in the 1980s, members had gotten a grant and camped there for a week to document its flora and fauna to counter the Environmental Impact Assessment report.
“We did it before and we can do it again,” he said here yesterday.
“How come those people who were with us when we struggled to protect our hill then are now out to destroy it?” he said in an obvious reference to Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow when he was an opposition member.
Also present at the press conference was Penang Forum steering committee member Khoo Salma Nasution who recalled another protest against a developer for Penang Hill in the early 1990s.
“Chow was fighting with us for the public interest. We are still fighting for the public interest.
“We haven’t changed and it is a sad day for Penang that the government considers NGOs as its opposition,” she said.
It was earlier reported that in his winding-up speech at the state assembly meeting last Friday, Chow had said that multi-room hotel plans on Penang Hill were only early-stage proposals made in 2016.
He also said the concept and design would be reviewed in detail in accordance with the Penang Hill Special Area Plan 2016 and Penang Hill Local Plan 1998.
He told the assembly that he had directed the Penang Hill Corporation (PHC) to restore old government buildings on the hill to give more lodging options to visitors.
On Sunday, in his speech at the Penang DAP convention, Chow said that NGOs had taken over the role from opposition parties in opposing the state’s plans.
Association for the Protection of Natural Heritage Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said it was not in the opposition but that it opposed destruction.
“Politicians love development. We are not against development but it must be sustainable and in line with the habitat agenda,” she said.
Penang Hills Watch co-founder Rexy Prakash Chacko said an online petition to save the hill launched just last Thursday had garnered over 21,000 signatures.
“This shows how strongly the public opposes any form of wanton development on the hill,” he said.
On PHC general manager Cheok Lay Leng’s clarification that the hotel proposal was strictly conceptual, Khoo Salma said:
“The Chief Minister himself announced the development and it is he who must clarify, and not the PHC general manager.”